Photolemur fixes your snaps on autopilot [Review]


Photolemur analyzes the image by detecting faces, exposure and colors and brings just the right pop to a finished photo.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Some photographers spend hours tweaking an image, using powerful editing software to pull details out of shadows and wring out every ounce of color.

A new program called Photolemur for Mac and Windows understands you don’t have that kind of patience or expertise. If you can drag and drop, you’ve pretty much mastered the program.

Photolemur runs on artificial intelligence, analyzing photos to improve color, reduce noise and compensate for bad exposures. Drag an image into the Photolemur icon, and a screen appears with an animation of darting specks of light and lines appearing to form a 3-D model. It is exactly what you imagine an A.I. brain looks like as it thinks.

The program tells you what it’s doing, such as recovering color, detecting faces and looking for a sky to enhance. It ends with two words — “Doing Magic” — before your photo appears with a dissecting line you can slide across the image to view the before and after.

The only button to push, really, is to save the corrected image to your desktop or send it directly to your social media platform of choice.

Adobe is considered the gold standard for photo imaging, with programs like Lightroom and Photoshop. However, some software companies, like MacPhun and Picktorial, have designed powerful programs that work intuitively with slider bars for adjustments or a gallery of preset looks that get applied with a single click.

Photolemur is even easier, and some of the presets in other programs feel like nothing more than some heavy-handed layer or filter.

This photo was made with the camera set at ISO 6400. I purposely underexposed this scene to preserve a little extra shutter speed.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac
The slider bar reveals the A.I. enhancement.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Hands on with Photolemur

Photolemur’s automatic adjustment seems to give a photo only what it needs. Colors pop but not too much. A blue sky gets a little bluer while still remaining believable. The company says the adjustments become even more refined the more of your images it analyzes.
It processes RAW files and recognizes the file profiles of most cameras. It will even process a folder full of photos all at once.

In using a 14-day trial version of Photolemur provided to me by the company, I found the results to be a mixed bag that in all likelihood were because the A.I. may not have agreed with my choices for exposure or other camera settings. It also seemed to perform better with pictures made with a newer digital camera.

I recently transitioned from aging Canon DSLRs to Fuji mirrorless cameras. Some of the pictures used to test Photolemur were made with a first-generation Canon 5D that is more than 10 years old. Others originated from the Fuji XT-10, which has a more up-to-date sensor than the 5D and handles much better in low light.

I am certainly not an exacting technician when it comes to imaging software. I adjust a picture until it looks pleasing to me. I’m not likely to go into, say, the color channels, to desaturate the red by 3 percent.

If a picture produced with my old Canon was made in bright light and with a lower ISO, the setting to adjust your camera’s sensitivity to available light, Photolemur came up with a satisfactory finish.

But pictures made in lower light, where I exposed the image more for the highlights, Photolemur tended to want to lighten up the shadows to the point where there was more noise. Whether this is because of the older sensors on the Canon or if it was from using an already compressed JPEG is unclear. I will likely test this before my trial ends.

If you can push the export button, you’ve mastered Photolemur.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The sensors on the older Canon cameras, at least to my eye, bias toward the color red, and I thought Photolemur often brought out too much of that red in the skin tones.

But I was very impressed with how Photolemur handled a RAW file from the Fuji of an image made in a dark music venue where I had no choice but to pump the ISO up to 6400. There was virtually no noise in the finished photo. It adjusted the face of the musician but didn’t go overboard with shadowy areas of the frame.

Photolemur review: Better pictures in the blink of an eye

How a photographer adjusts the qualities of light and color in a photo is done according to personal taste. I tend to tone an image more conservatively than some of my peers. I admit, my post-production skills are, at best, adequate.

Photolemur is good if you just don’t want to mess with a picture but want it to look better in the blink of an eye.

The app was released in December for Mac users only and was downloaded more than 50,000 times. The developers took feedback from users, improved the app and made its newest version available for download Tuesday for both Mac and PC.

It will cost $5.99 a month, but Photolemur is available to a limited number of users right now for $2.99 per month.

A serious photographer is likely to resist, or even take offense at, the idea of turning creative choices over to algorithms. But if faced with a difficult image and prolonged computer time to make it look good, I might first run it through Photolemur to see what it accomplishes.