The start-up software Optyx was based on a simple idea: what if artificial intelligence could ease the burden of photo culling? The A.I. photo manager caught the attention of Zenfolio, who purchased the software and added it to its subscription options. Now, it’s called PhotoRefine. Because I had tried the original software, I was curious to see what changes Zenfolio made, so I signed up for the free trial and tested it out.
The software sees several improvements. For starters, it now considers facial expressions, and the user interface is much nicer. While those are great changes, my overall opinion remains the same: PhotoRefine is great for choosing the best shot in a series of bursts, but it’s less useful for photographers who have refined their technical skills and don’t capture a ton of repeats.
We’ve updated the full review under the PhotoRefine name, which you can read here. But, if you want the short version, take a look at my final conclusions below.
- PhotoRefine is great for quickly finding the sharpest photo in a group of similar shots.
- The app automatically groups similar shots together.
- It still includes manual culling tools, and since shots are already grouped, and previews load fast, it’s fairly quick to tweak the picks yourself.
- The app doesn’t consider lighting. or rather it might, but it doesn’t do a great job at it.
- Using a program like PhotoRefine means you’ll have to import twice.
- It’s no longer available as a stand-alone program.
PhotoRefine is imperfect, but it blends A.I. and actual human input. The app didn’t do the entire cull for me. But, by grouping similar shots and finding the sharpest one, PhotoRefine allowed me to speed up the culling process and still find the shots that speak to me.
Some of the app’s imperfections — the inability to pick the best light, for example — create an ideal, part A.I.-part human cull. But, I would love to see other flaws corrected in an updated version of the app. I would love to have the option of giving some images zero stars. And the ability to choose how many photos are five stars would also be helpful.
It’s also another program that you need to import your photos to. You’ll want to upload the photos, then walk away and come back later. It would be great if PhotoRefine could somehow make a plug-in for Capture One and Lightroom that worked without importing the photos a second time. If you don’t want to wait for photos to load, Photo Mechanic creates contact sheets quickly, though you do have to go through and choose the picks yourself.
PhotoRefine is a good option for photographers who regularly use burst mode and take a few variations of similar shots. If your photos are mostly technically fine to begin with, it’s going to be less useful. It’s a great tool for quickly finding the sharpest shots in a burst series. It’s a plus for Zenfolio users, though I’m not sure I would sign up just for the A.I. culling. It’s $7 a month added on to the $8 and $18 subscriptions, but it’s included in $36/month ProSuite. Photographers who only take one or two shots of the same subject won’t really save time with PhotoRefine. If you shoot a lot of bursts, try the 14-day free trial to see how PhotoRefine fits in your workflow.
I’m giving PhotoRefine four out of five stars.