Artificial intelligence is part of our everyday lives and is becoming part of photography as well. I had a conversation recently with Alex Tsepko, the CEO of Skylum, to hear his thoughts on AI and how it works in photography.

The problem: Immense quantities of photos

Kevin Ames: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing people taking pictures today?

Alex Tsepko: So many different, cool people and all sorts of people around the world take photos, but then a very small percentage of these people actually edit photos and do something with them. And that was just I would say an eye-opening discovery because we always thought, “Hey, if you take a photo, you should edit it for sure.” But then editing those creative parts, those processing parts, only came to those who actually were not afraid of the photo software and they had time to spend and learn Photoshop and learn Lightroom and learn all the other pieces of the editing process.

And we thought that people want to get a great image quickly or they want to just be creative with their software. Ninety percent of the photo software out there is not about the purpose of photography, are not about helping a person to create a great image, but are more about, “Let’s make a cheaper Lightroom alternative. Let’s add new features.”

Skylum CEO Alex Tsepko
Skylum CEO Alex Tsepko

A new approach to photo finishing

KA: Adobe is adding artificial intelligence to some of their offerings.

AT: I really like what Adobe is doing in terms of user experience and how they innovate. And I was just on the stage with [Director of Product Management, Photoshop] Stephen Neilson talking about AI in photography. We are on the same page. We are on their page. They are on our page. But we look at it as a new type of approach to photo editing.

In our case, we have a clear understanding of what we want to use artificial intelligence for. And we want to — on one hand, we want to speed up and automate all the boring and manual processes as much as possible so a photographer can – and when I say photographer it can be experts like yourself, amateurs like myself or a memory keeper mom from your neighborhood who is not – who does not even associate herself with the photography.

Basically, anyone who loves photography and takes photos, they can focus on the creative process eliminating this manual boring part. And for making selections. Some people love it. I feel that this should be eliminated. [For example with our cars,] at some point we all moved to automatic transmissions from the manual transmissions.

AI in Luminar 4

KA: What is your goal for the AI Skylum is building into Luminar 4?

AT: So, for us, AI is just an opportunity to make Luminar more responsive and more creative and allow people a faster and more automated workflow so they can actually focus on achieving the result on purpose, not figuring out how the tool works. Sky Replacement, skin retouching, Structure, Sunrays, Accent AI. Basically, the tools that bring a new approach to help people edit photos themselves, now it’s a purpose-centric approach rather than a tool-centric approach.

Luminar 4 — a new way of finishing photos

There will be more of my conversation with Alex forthcoming. After our conversation, I opened my newly acquired beta copy of Luminar 4 to experience the “new approach to help people edit photos themselves” for myself.

I opened a folder of 50-megapixel RAW files in Luminar 4. The model had chosen way too many to go through the normal retouching workflow. I wanted to put the new AI Skin Enhancer to the test. I chose the photo I wanted to edit in the filmstrip. I clicked the portrait (it’s a face) icon in the sidebar, moved the slider — a very few seconds later I saw the results. I saved it and used it as the opener for this article. That was the only work on the photo. The AI was scary good. Not perfect but extraordinarily good. The workspace is clean, simple, intuitive and it does the job Alex talked about, making editing easy.

Does Luminar 4 live up to Skylum CEO Alex Tsepko's vision?
AI Skin Enhancer found and removed almost all of the blemishes and lines on this model’s face.

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