If there’s one thing that became the IT thing near the end of 2022 and throughout 2023, it was AI, short for artificial intelligence. In this Imagen AI review, I’m going to share my impressions of this software, a bit about my workflow, and how Imagen AI has impacted my editing process in general in Lightroom and my business.
(Both of the images above were edited using Imagen AI – an artificial intelligence powered editing software for photographers)
Imagen AI is an artificial intellegence software that uses deep learning that is cloud-based (meaning, you need access to the internet for it to work) but runs in an app on your computer to edit your photos using AI. Imagen works through a process of learning your editing style – that is why it is called AI. Imagen also has a variety of editing styles already available (known as Talent Profiles) that you can choose from if you want to get started immediately without going through the process of training Imagen AI in your editing style. Currently, Imagen AI is available at a variety of subscription levels with a pay-per-photo plan as well as an annual subscription at different tiers corresponding to the quantity of photos you plan to edit. I’ll get more into the pricing and options for that later in this post
How Imagen AI Works & Features
Imagen AI is a native desktop app that you download directly from Imagen’s website and then install on your computer. The app does make use of the cloud and internet in order to keep performance speedy and quick. The app itself is very well laid out, easy to use, and there are direct links to the help center and support if you need assistance.
Before I jump into explaining how to set up your own custom trained editing profile for Imagen AI, I want to mention one of the best ways for new users to get started, and that is making use of their Talent Profiles.
This is an incredible feature that is unique to Imagen AI. A talent profile is an editing profile that has already been created by other users that you can use for free within Imagen AI! There are a variety of styles and some are created by very well-known and experienced photographers from around the world.
I’ve tried out an editing profile created by Susan Stripling and Sara Edmunds – they are both fantastic! The really wonderful part about these talent profiles is that they are based off of HUGE sets of photos, literally thousands of images from different cameras and lighting situations. As a general rule, AI and machine learning tends to work better and more consistently when it has a large set of data to learn from. I won’t delve any further into explaining exactly how this works, but being married to a computer scientist who specializes in AI and machine learning, I’ve seen first hand through his research that this is true.
Creating Your Own Imagen AI Profile
The real magic for photographers and advantage for using Imagen AI is in creating your own custom editing profile for Imagen AI to use. I cannot even begin to tell you how powerful of a tool this is! No, it is not just auto-editing your photos or even applying the same preset across the board. We can already do that in Lightroom anyways, and most photographers know that lighting conditions and photographic style mean you never edit every single image with the exact same settings.
Instead, what Imagen AI is doing is taking information from your already edited photos, learning your editing, then it applies your custom profile to future photographs you select and upload in the app. All of this is done using the Imagen AI app, though it is necessary to also have access to Adobe Lightroom Classic.
In order to create your own custom AI profile, you will need to upload a Lightroom catalogue that contains already edited photos of your own. An important note is that you should be using the same Adobe profile in all of these photos (that’s the little section at the top of the Basic editing panel in Lightroom Classic).
You can either upload multiple separate catalogues, or one big one, and you can use filters when uploading to designate which photos you would like Imagen to learn from. The more photos you give Imagen AI to learn from, the better your custom profile will be. You want a variety of lighting conditions and circumstances that represent the work you will have Imagen edit for you in the future. For me personally as a wedding photographer, I also include a variety of cameras since I have second shooters that work for me and use other brands than myself. I believe at this time, you need at least 1,500 images in your catalogue for Imagen to learn your profile.
The Imagen AI app has very clear step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process of creating your own custom profile based on your Lightroom catalogue.
Once your catalogues start uploading, Imagen works its magic in the background (this is where the actual AI is happening). The length of time it takes to learn a profile depends on how many photos you’ve submitted, but I’ve found it to be pretty quick.
After you have created your custom profile, you can start uploading Lightroom Catalogues to Imagen to edit and it will use your AI profile for you. It’s amazing, let me tell you! Most of my editing I use presets that are either my own custom presets, or heavily adjusted from presets I’ve purchased, so being able to have Imagen AI learn my editing and do all the heavy lifting for me has saved me an incredible amount of time.
Additionally, you can continue to train your profile in the future after you view your edits – Imagen calls this fine-tuning. Basically, once you download your edits from Imagen and review them in Lightroom, if you decide to make any additional changes to those images, you can submit those back to Imagen for continued AI training. Also, you can keep training your profile by adding other catalogues to your Imagen AI profile in the future. I had a few photo sessions that I did not have Imagen edit and submitted those after the fact to Imagen to help improve my profile. In this way, you are creating your own massive data set of how you edit for Imagen AI to use in the future on your own photos. Pretty amazing, right?
Creating a Lite Profile
If you want to get started quickly with Imagen AI, the option to create a Lite Profile may work best. Imagen AI allows you to upload a Lightroom preset of your choosing, and then answer a few basic questions about exposure and white balance to get a sense for your desired editing style.
I’ve used this on occasion and have found it to do a really good job overall, though in my opinion the white balance settings skewed a bit warm and green for my taste, so I’m still working on utilizing this one part of Imagen.
Imagen has a few handy bonus tools I want to mention real quick:
Straightening & Cropping
For an additional $0.01 each, you can have Imagen straighten or crop your photos as well. You cannot send photos through Imagen just to straighten or crop though, as handy as that might be.
I’ve only used the straightening tool, and find it totally worth the time saved in Lightroom getting finicky with horizon lines. I have not made use of cropping, as I find that much more of a personal preference.
If you do a lot of AI subject masking while editing in Lightroom, this Imagen AI feature may save you a LOT of time in your editing. The processing and waiting time when using subject masking in Lightroom can lag quite a bit, so I would imagine that this could be well worth it for some photographers. My style does not rely heavily upon subject masking, so I have not used this feature personally.
This is a more recent addition to Imagen AI and I haven’t had a chance to make use of it yet, but I could see this being very useful for some photographers, especially those that travel. Imagen will store optimized photos in the cloud for you at a pretty low price point.
Currently as I write this towards the end of 2023, Imagen AI offers culling in Beta only, so you will not be charged for this. I have not tried their culling feature yet. My experience with AI culling using other software has been mediocre at best, so I’ve chosen not to explore this option, but I may test it out in the future.
Editing a wedding is a huge undertaking. With hundreds of photos in different lighting conditions, it is not usually something that is straightforward and quick. However, using Imagen AI has sped up my workflow and saved me time in Lightroom tremendously.
Here’s what my current workflow looks like:
- Transfer images from memory cards to my solid state external hard drive and backup images immediately.
- Cull images using photomechanic.
- Import only culled images into Lightroom
- Usually I select about 20 images to edit immediately for sneak peeks or share with the couple, and I do this editing manually in Lightroom myself.
- I upload my catalogue to Imagen AI to edit, select my custom AI profile that I have trained with 40K images, and select straightening for all images, but do not select cropping or subject masking. I think start the upload process.
- Once images are done being edited by Imagen (for a wedding, I edited today with 1300+ images, this was less than 15 minutes) I’ll open the catalogue in Lightroom and do a quick review of images to doublecheck editing. Usually, my images are honestly 98% there. I almost never have to adjust straightening, and only rarely am I adjusting exposure or white balance. Occasionally there will be some tricky lighting situations that I might need to do a subject mask or further editing, but it’s usually not very many. These are also similar images that I would spend more time on in Lightroom anyways, so Imagen has saved me the initial editing at the very least. Usually, my time reviewing images is less than 15 minutes, and additional manual edits can vary anywhere from 10-45 minutes.
- If I’ve made any changes, I will submit the catalogue back to Imagen for fine tuning using the “Upload Final Edits” button.
That’s it! Once I’ve done all of those steps, my photos are ready for the next steps, which is delivery to my clients and creation of products.
Compared to my process before using Imagen AI, this software has saved me an immense amount of time in my editing workflow. I will confess, though, that my nit-picky nature still has me making further little tweaks in Lightroom. But to be honest, I really think the majority of those changes that I am making manually my clients would never notice – I’m just ultra picky!
Imagen AI Profile Adjusting
One vital quick tip and trick if you do decide to use Imagen AI, and this applies to ALL profile options: you can fine tune AI profiles to your liking, which opens up a whole world of possibilities! For example, if you decide to use a Talent AI profile, but you like your images to be a bit warmer or have a bit more depth in the shadows than what you see in the talent AI profile, you can make this adjustment and fine tune to your liking and preferences.
In many cases, these adjustments can be relative, meaning that if you always find yourself increasing exposure on your edits beyond what an AI profile does automatically, you can have Imagen do this for you right in the settings for the profile itself, which will save you time in the future. Other fine tuning options are fixed, meaning you set a specific number or setting, and it will be exactly that setting in Lightroom once edited, and this will be the same for every photo edited with that profile. This is nice for things like sharpening or lens profile correction.
Imagen AI has a few options for pricing, with the simplest being their pay-as-you-go plan. You are charged a minimum of $7 a month, and this operates as a credit towards your account. This means if you don’t edit anything that month, you’ll pay $7 to maintain your Imagen account. Each edit with Imagen is $.05 with pay-as-you-go, with bonus tools such as straightening, culling, or subject mask being an extra $0.01 each. This means if you take advantage of all their bonus tools, you will be charged $0.08 per image
Imagen also offers annual plans at a discount, sold at different tiers according to the quantity of photos you will edit. The savings is between 10-20% per edit depending on how many images you select. For full-time professionals, this is a great option if you have a good sense for what your average number of photos is per year.
By comparison, I have used several other options for editing in the past, including a private editor and different Lightroom editing outsourcing companies. I’ve seen private editors charge anywhere from $.38-.45 per image, and I’ve seen editing companies charge anywhere from $.24-$.30 per image. In the catalogue I edited for this blog post, there were roughly 1,300 images, so that amounts to $312 for the outsourcing company on the low end, or $585 for a more expensive private editor. By comparison, with Imagen AI, I’d be paying $78 for editing and straightening.
Cost aside, I have had FAR fewer issues with consistency and style since switching to Imagen vs when I was using an outsourcing company. I had to tweak a lot of photos and give feedback to the point that it was not worth the hassle, and I was never 100% satisfied. That has not been the case with Imagen AI – the results have been spot on for me close to 98% of the time and any tweaks I’ve made have been quite small.
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
At first, I will admit I was hesitant to give things like Imagen AI a try. Learning new technology in the midst of running a business can stunt productivity while you figure out how things work and implement them into your business. However, after trying out Imagen AI for the last year, I can say that it is been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my business. I wish I had this sooner! The amount of time it has saved me with editing is substantial. I’ve also found that it creates greater consistency in each of my final galleries of images.
I think for full-time professional photographers, using Imagen AI is a no-brainer. Less time spent editing is more time spent serving my clients in tangible and meaningful ways, which will contribute to the longevity of my business. For photographers with a high volume of photos or clients, this will truly impact their business and their life. In particular for photographers who photograph in consistent environments like a studio, Imagen AI could revolutionize their post-production workflow. I often hear many photographers lamenting their ever-increasing backlog of editing each fall, and this would be a wonderful addition to the workflow to ease some of that burden.
The final thing I’ll mention has nothing to do with money, editing, or even productivity, but the company and customer service itself. I’ve been a photographer long enough to work with quite a few different companies in various capacities for software that I use for my business, and the team at Imagen AI has impressed me every step of the way. They have a private Facebook community that is vibrant and helpful. And when the owners and creators respond personally with videos and explanations to literally any and every question, you know they are invested not just in their product, but also in the success of others. Imagen AI is a company that truly wants to make things better for photographers and their customers.
If you haven’t had a chance to try Imagen AI, I highly recommend it! If you have questions, please feel free to reach out and I would love to help in any way I can!