Away from the studio? Alfred A.I. fixes bad lighting on phone photos

While smartphone cameras are pocketable, professional lighting equipment is not — so one company is looking to artificial intelligence to mimic photographic lighting with just an app. Relonch Alfred is an iOS app that uses machine learning to correct badly lit photos, adjusting each area of the image separately to correct dark, imbalanced snapshots. By creating exposure and color maps, Alfred can correct the lighting using a single slider instead of multiple controls and localized edits, all without requiring a dual lens camera. The app, currently in a demo stage, was officially announced May 15.

Alfred comes from Relonch, the company that created the A.I.-powered camera that edits photos for you. With Alfred, the company’s A.I. editing moves beyond the Relonch camera to smartphones.

Instead of the depth maps created from dual-lens cameras, Alfred creates a color and exposure map of the photo, noting where the lightest and darkest areas of the image are located. That data allows the software to apply localized edits with a single slider adjustment, brightening up the darkest portions of the image while leaving the properly exposed areas of the image untouched.

Alfred, named after photographer Alfred Stieglitz, is based on some of the same A.I. behind the Relonch camera. A 25-member editing team took nearly two years to manually edit 100,000 photos. Those manual adjustments were fed to the machine learning software to teach the program how to create localized adjustments (or edits that are made only to a specific portion of the photo instead of the entire image). Once the program was created, the team also went back and re-edited photos in order to improve the A.I..

The exposure and color maps are the key to how Alfred compares to other photo editing apps. Co-founder and COO Yuriy Motin said that counter to most other apps, Alfred looks at light, rather than using filters, to edit the image. That’s an important difference, he says, because light works to create the mood of the story within a photo.

Editing bad lighting is just the start for the app that’s now only in demo stages. While the light editing feature works off a cloud-based A.I., the team is working on moving the A.I. to the device so photos can be processed locally. The team is also working on a beta version of the software that works on video while it’s being recorded, bringing the same automatic exposure corrections used in still photos to video.

While the app doesn’t require any special kind of camera, Relonch is developing a version that will make use of depth maps on dual-lens smartphones. By mixing the exposure mapping with depth mapping, the software can recreate cinematic lighting effects, such as backlighting or stage lighting. Unlike the Portrait Mode on the iPhone X, Relonch’s A.I. allows the feature to work with any subject, not just people, and applies the lighting effect to the entire scene.

“The key part of our technology is the intelligence of our A.I. that adds drama into each story, filling it with an atmosphere the user originally intended, while keeping the image natural looking,” said Sergey Korzhenevich, Relonch co-founder and CEO. “Imagine a professional photo or video crew where the gaffer holds up light sources to remove shadows and harshness — our technology does all of that behind the scenes.”

Relonch Alfred is currently available on the App Store as a demo version with the ability to edit light on existing photographs. The team plans to add video compatibility over the next few weeks, while the ability to recreate light using depth maps is slated for a fall arrival. The team also plans to release an Android app in the future.

Alfred is currently free, but as the app expands, additional features — such as an option to edit multiple images at once — will roll out as an in-app purchases.

Photography

The Panasonic FZ1000 gets a much-needed update alongside the smaller ZS80 zoom

Panasonic's 2014 superzoom camera with a larger sensor has finally seen an update. The new Panasonic FZ1000 II has a sensor that's better for low light, more physical controls, and new 4K Photo Mode features.
Photography

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.
Cars

Audi is advancing the tech that teaches cars to talk to traffic lights

Audi is teaching its cars the language of traffic lights. The company developed technology that tells motorists what speed they should drive at in order to catch as many green lights as possible.
Photography

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Photography

Fujifilm’s X-T30 is a semi-pro, feature-rich camera that’s affordable to boot

Fujifilm's newest mirrorless camera delivers the premium features of the X-T3 without the premium price, giving aspiring enthusiasts a lower-cost option that can still match the image quality of Fuji's flagship.
Photography

Fujifilm XP140 squeezes more durability, low-light ability into a waterproof cam

Fujifilm's waterproof compact can now head even further underwater. The Fujifilm XP140 features several upgrades, including a more durable body, a wider ISO range for low light, and expanded auto modes.
Mobile

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.
Photography

From f/1.2 primes to the mysterious DS, here are Canon’s upcoming RF lenses

Canon's EOS R mirrorless series will gain six new lenses this year. Canon just shared a list of six lenses under development, including four zooms and two prime lenses. One has a mysterious new feature called Defocus Smoothing.
Photography

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…
Photography

Photography news: Wacom’s slimmer pen, Leica’s cinema special edition

In this week's photography news, Wacom launches a new slimmer pen for pro users. Leica's upcoming M10-P is designed for cinema, inside and out, with built-in cinema modes in the updated software.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Be careful who you bokeh, jokes Apple’s latest iPhone ad

With iPhone sales under pressure, you'd think there wouldn't be much to laugh about at Apple HQ. But the company has seen fit to inject some humor into its latest handset ad, which highlights the camera's Depth Control feature.
Photography

Luminar’s libraries gain speed, drop need for you to manually import images

Luminar 3 just got a performance boost. Skylum Luminar 3.0.2 has improved speed over December's update, which added the long-promised libraries feature giving editors a Lightroom alternative.
Photography

Mirrorless cameras were built to be compact, so why have they gotten so heavy?

Mirrorless cameras launched as portable alternatives to bulky and complex DSLRs -- so why are they getting bigger and heavier? Cameras are trending towards heavier models, but that change comes with more advanced features.