There are lots of valid reasons to raise concerns over the capabilities of AI-powered image editing tools, but if you’re a professional pixel pusher, there are just as many reasons to be excited about them too, as Skylum Software demonstrates with its new image editing software, Luminar AI that does automated sky replacements so thorough they even modify reflections.
Ahead of the (virtual) Adobe MAX Creativity Conference that happens this week, the company teased an upcoming feature update for Photoshop. Leveraging Adobe’s machine learning Sensei platform, a new Sky Replacement tool promises to streamline at least one task professional photo editors occasionally have to deal with: replacing a boring sky in an image with one that adds more drama or better matches the intended mood of a shot.
As demonstrated in a brief three-minute video by Photoshop Product manager Meredith Stotzner, Photoshop’s new Sky Replacement tool produces results as impressive as the feature is easy to use, automatically adjusting the colours of a photo to match the complexities and shading of the sky being swapped in. However, one area of concern in the demonstration was the new tool’s ability to ensure that areas of a photo reflecting the sky, such as windows or the surface of a lake, are also accurately updated so that new additions to the sky, like added clouds, are accurately reflected.
We’ll be curious to see how well the new Adobe Sensei-powered feature performs once it’s officially introduced to the Photoshop toolset, but Skylum Software appears to have an automated sky replacement tool that already outperforms what Adobe has teased.
A year ago Skylum Software first introduced an AI-powered sky replacement tool that streamlined the editing process to a nearly one-click one that swapped out the heavens and colour-corrected the image appropriately, but it too lacked the ability to take into account highly-reflective areas in a photo. For 2021, alongside its new photo editor called Luminar AI, Skylum Software is introducing a new tool called Sky AI that takes automated sky replacements to the next level.
Doing a proper sky replacement manually is a time-consuming process, particularly when picturesque reflections are involved, as the new sky has to essentially be swapped in twice, with a second version mirrored and distorted on the water’s surface. Sky AI not only figures out where reflections need to be, but does it automatically, while preserving details like sunken objects in the water, or things floating on top, like a family of ducks, on top of all the colour corrections needed to match everything else in the image to the tones of the recently upgraded sky.
Every automated image editing tool works perfectly in demonstrations; it remains to be seen how well Sky AI and Luminar AI perform on everyday photos. But on a nearly weekly basis we’re seeing these kinds of AI-powered image editing tools get better and better, and the nature of how they’re created means that the more images they process, the better they actually get at their specific task. Some professionals might argue that automating these tasks minimizes the art and craft of photography, but the digital colour grading and image editing tools at their disposal now, even without the assistance of artificial intelligence, eclipse what photographers had access to even a decade ago. There’s certainly an argument to be made about creativity, or the lack thereof when an AI-powered tool does all the work for you, but until that’s the norm it’s hard to complain about tools like these simply streamlining an arduous workflow.