Using Imagen/AI to process concert photos
As a photographer, we are spending a big part of our time behind a computer to select, edit, and export… our photos. This is time we do not spend taking pictures. What if an AI could do the editing process for you with your style of editing? This is the promise from Imagen and I tried using Imagen/AI to process concert photos from my last show, Powerwolf. Let’s see how it went.
What is Imagen?
Imagen is an AI/machine learning service that will learn your editing style and retouch for you the images you want as it was you doing it. The goal is to save you some time in the process.
I may be wrong but based on the workflow, it seems that we are more on a machine learning tool, than an AI. You need to feed the systems with a big number of images (3000 minimum right now). The system will try to identify patterns in your editing style in order to reproduce it. In the end, you will be able to correct the changes to refine the system to give you better results. So everything is pointing to a machine learning tool.
This is not a tool to generate images or so. But the system is not a giant preset either. When you check different scenarios, Imagen really adapts its changes based on the base picture and the final result it is looking for.
The service is very well integrated with Lightroom Classic. I may be wrong here as most of my retouching is done using the basic tab, but the systems should use all the different tabs (curve, detail, color grading, etc…) to do the editing. But it will not be able to use/generate masks to retouch specific stuff (like find the subject and brighten him), at least not for now.
In case you do not have enough images or would like to use another photographer’s style, you could use some editing profile validated by Imagen and available to download for your own photos.
Finally, Imagen says that the images you are feeding to the system are only used to generate your profile and are not used in any other way. Good to know.
How does Imagen works?
The first step with imagen is to teach him your style of editing.
To do that the service will let you create a profile for editing (you can create different ones if needed). Once it is done, you will need to feed the profile with at least 3000 photos that you edited in the style you want to reproduce.
It is pretty easy to do that, the system you ask you for your lightroom catalog and you can directly choose which albums or collections you want to upload.
Once you are done with the upload of your photo, you just need to start the training. Imagen will process your images to generate the editing profile. It could take some time, so be sure to do all of that before starting your project.
When your profile is generated, you will just need to upload the photo you want, by creating a new project/folder, and Imagen will retouch them based on the profile generated.
When it is done, you can download the edited photo with the edits directly in lightroom to review them.
During your review process, you can adjust and finalize your editing as the system may have not done exactly what you wanted.
The best part is that you can re-upload those changes so the system adjusts itself for the next time and improve its retouching to fit your style.
The pricing is based on the number of images you will need to retouch. It will cost you 0.05$/photos (About 25$ for 500 photos).
If you want to add crop and straightening, it will cost you 0.01 per operation per photo (0.07/photo). Making it about 35$ for 500 photos.
To subscribe to the system you will need to pay at least 7$ per month, if you are not using those 7$, it will just add up to your pool of credit to use for future photos.
If you just want to test Imagen, you can register for free. It will give you credit to edit 1000 photos and you can create one profile with as many images as you want.
How I tested imagen to process my concert photos
I took time to train the system and create a profile dedicated to my concert photography.
To do that I used my concert lightroom catalog and upload about 5000 photos from 2020 to 2023. It took about 5h to upload and about 2 more hours to have the profile ready to use.
Everything was set for my shooting the next day.
When I came back from Powerwolf I started by sorting all the images I took (1300 images) using photomechanic. For all my keepers (206 images ), I imported them into my concert catalog in lightroom classic. Then I opened Imagen and upload those images from the catalog to the system so he can do the retouching for me.
It took around 30 min to be done (About 15 min to upload the images and 15 to do the edit), I then downloaded the edited images to review in my catalog.
While it was processing I also did a temp catalog in which I did my retouching manually as I always do it.
In the end, there are some results of the retouching I manually did (on the left) versus the AI retouched, before my final adjustments.
The manual process took me about 4 hours.
The result was pretty impressive but not perfect. I would sort the results into three categories, the time that the results were pretty similar, the one where I find that Imagen is a bit off, and the one where I think that Imagen did a better result than me.
Keep in mind that those results are based on my taste and you could not agree with them. The goal is to show some differences of editing that you could encounter with this tool.
I beat Imagen
Imagen beat me
The importance of your triage
Triage or sorting/selecting your images is always a complicated step. It may be hard to choose between two very similar poses, some pictures are not good but remind us of a good moment of the show etc…
But using a system like imagen is making this step crucial as every image that you will select to go through the machine, will cost you.
I sometimes keep some images during my first pass of selection to just see if those images could be saved in post-production. I may still keep those images but in a specific folder or collection so I manually try to do magic in post-production to save them, instead of letting the AI have a hard time with them.
For now, the tool is still limited.
I did my tests without the “crop” or “straighten” option, so It may be fixing this issue for example For this shot, I used the Transformation -> Upright tool in Lightroom, and I find that the result is pretty nice. When Imagen did not do it.
The profiles that you create must be for color or black and white. You can not have a profile for both at the same time. This is kind of annoying as I often switch some of my images in black and white in concert photography. So I will need to review the images and switch the one I want from color to black and white.
For now there is no masking and advanced options that you could use to enhance a subject change the sky or stuff like that.
Still, those are small limitations and I am pretty sure that there will be some improvements in the future and some of those features could be integrated
Will I use Imagen/AI to process my concert photos in the future?
I am most of the time not in a hurry to deliver pictures in concert photography,
I am sometimes in a rush for corporate or event photography, and the use of AI to save me some time could be really useful.
Remember that the AI is not perfect and will require you to review the results. Sometimes the system is just way off what you would like to do. But in my opinion, for 90% of the cases, this will save you a lot of time.
I am not sure that I will use that for my concert photography, except during festivals when I have a massive amount of photos to go through or if I have a really hard deadline.
For my corporate or event work where the budget is most of the time a bit larger, I think I could definitely use some of the budgets to use this AI and save time to do something else.
In the end, will it be worth it to use Imagen to process concert photos? I am convinced that this is a great tool that will help me and save me time. But it will not be worth using for all my projects.
I will try to keep using it and try to refine the model and see if, with time, my review and final adjustments became less needed.
As a final word, I would say that I am pretty impressed by the tool. But it is still a tool that will save me time but will not replace me, at least for now.
ps: I am not paid or sponsored in any way to do this review
If you want to try imagen, feel free to use my affiliated link.