Lightroom: Auto settings pretty useless

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In the previous iteration of LR, Auto tone would lower the contrast on pretty much all of my images. In the present one, it does the same thing but also makes the image darker, even if it is dark already. It shows absolutely no discrimination from image to image. In its current incarnation it is pretty much useless.
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walterono

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Posted 6 months ago

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John R. Ellis, Champion

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Based on reports in these forums, many people find Auto very useful.  To help Adobe understand why it isn't working well for you, perhaps you could upload several diverse originals to Dropbox or similar, post the sharing link here, and post before/after screenshots here.
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Andy Hewitt

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I'm also finding this as well.

When I first starting using the Auto Tone feature in Lightroom Classic CC, I found it worked really well and was very near to what I wanted.

But recently I've found it tends to darken too much. It seems to bung the Highlights slider down well enough, but it doesn't move the Shadows slider up much at all.

I've had to use Jeffrey Friedl's 'Bag-O-Goodies' plugin to tame things down with the Exposure and Contrast adjusters too. If I leave those to default it's even worse - the Contrast only ever seems to go negative, and never into positive values.

It almost seems that the more the Sensei AI function is learning, the less able it's becoming. On that note, does anyone know if the Sensei Auto Tone use data based on your own image adjustments, or is this a global thing?

I've noticed a lot of anomalies with some of the updated processes though, the latest Colour Profiles and Process Version 5 are producing some very strange and undesirable results. Perhaps it's all linked.

In my case the files affected are varied, from 15 year old Olympus E-1 ORF images to slightly less old Nikon D5100 NEF images, as well as a fewFuji RAF ones too.

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Johan Elzenga, Champion

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As far as I know, there is no learning involved. The algorithms were created by using AI, but they are not self-learning.
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Andy Hewitt

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OK, perhaps I misunderstand the marketing blurb then, which makes mention of 'AI' and 'Machine Learning' technology in reference to the Sensei system within the description of the 'new' Auto Adjustment feature (back in December 2017).

If it's not a self-learning system, then surely it's not 'AI' or 'Machine Learning' then? It's just complex algorithms for making adjustments to your images using a vast amount of stored data.

But, anyway, thank you for clearing that up. I just hate ambiguous and misleading marketing tactics.
(Edited)
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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"If it's not a self-learning system, then surely it's not 'AI' or 'Machine Learning' then?"

The term "machine learning" has a reasonably precise technical meaning, and the Auto algorithm is fairly called "machine learned".  I read that Adobe built a "training set" of thousands of photos by having expert photographers manually adjust the photos in LR to produce pleasing results.  From that training set, Adobe used machine learning to build an algorithm that, given a new photograph, would Auto adjust it to closely approximate what the experts would have done. This is classic machine learning.

Machine-learned algorithms and AI algorithms don't necessarily continue to "learn" after they've been defined.  Traditionally, most are defined by the training set in the lab and then deployed into products and don't change after that (until the engineers re-train with a new training set in the lab).  

The term "AI" doesn't have as precise a technical meaning, often used by marketing to mean anything new and gee-whiz. But AI usually does include "machine learning", so it's not unreasonable for Adobe marketing to use "AI" to describe Auto.


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Andy Hewitt

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Understood.

However, I still cannot help feeling it is marketing tactics. It has to be to some extent, and is understandable I suppose, most businesses use all sorts of methods to sell products.

In this case, it is taking advantage of the average user that probably doesn't understand the definitions of such terminology.

I would say the general understanding of AI was that it did self learn - it's what the media has been scaring the general public with for many years.

However, an understanding of what happens in reality is very useful, so thank you for that.

On that point though, my feeling now is that it maybe isn't necessarily what every user would want. As many photographers and photos editors tend to have a personal style, perhaps it would be better to narrow the Auto AI/Machine Learn algorithms to include only the photos edited by that user (Luminar is supposed to be able to do this, although I own that, I haven't used it enough to tell if it does work or not).

Just a thought of course there. Maybe it should have an option to use either the traditional Auto adjustments, or the new Sensei powered Auto adjustments.

It's certainly clear that both methods have their fair share of likes and dislikes.

All the best
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Floris van Eck

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My results with auto in Lightroom are pretty satisfactory. It generally does a good job of brightening the image for me since my images are most likely to be slightly underexposed. I always think it removes a bit too much contrast for my liking, but that's easy to fix. 

Compared to the auto mode in Capture One it does a much better job, and for more challenging images it does a better job to then DxO PhotoLab 2. The thing I like about that software is that an Auto profile is applied by default, and it does a really good job in general (except for the more challenging images).
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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"The thing I like about that software is that an Auto profile is applied by default,"

Just in case, did you know that LR can also do that?  You can define a preset that does Auto, and then have that preset applied automatically on import.
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Floris van Eck

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I know Lightroom Classic can do it, but Lightroom CC for desktop as well? It is one of those features that I miss.
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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I think it would help Adobe (and others) if those dissatisifed with Auto posted examples here (before and after, including the full-resolution originals via Dropbox or similar).  Without the examples, Adobe can hear the dissatisfaction but not have any actionable data.
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shreddie

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I'm having problems with images that have been taken on days where the light is flat, and not much contrast in the skies. When applying Auto Settings (cmd+U) to these images, I get huge blocks and stepping around things like columns, poles, spires, branches, etc.

Here's a link to a Dropbox share with the originals and after Auto Settings have been applied:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/xiawqbh3pi8hbm3/LR%20Auto%20problem%20pics.zip?dl=0

I have to apply Auto Settings, then go into Develop mode and spend time adjusting, which basically defeats the purpose and value of Auto Settings. 


(Edited)
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John R. Ellis, Champion

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I forked this off to a separate bug report, since the rectangular artifacts are a much different problem from the issue that Auto isn't adjusting the sliders according to one's preferences: Lightroom: Auto adds rectangular artifacts to images
(Edited)
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shreddie

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Thanks John
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Alberto Bedin

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Yes, I agree! The new (CC2019) "Auto" tone adjustment is useless. In the previous verions it was really useful. Now it's just too flat and too dark. It creates a sort of HDR image. You should fix it!
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As suggested by John R. Ellis above in this thread"

"To help Adobe understand why it isn't working well for you, perhaps you could upload several diverse originals to Dropbox or similar, post the sharing link here, and post before/after screenshots here."

Lacking that Adobe and other forum members have absolutely no idea what you're seeing. In many cases specific image files don't work well due to overexposure or heavily clipped highlights, unusual lighting, or unusual subjects. By providing sample image files Adobe can add these types of images to the Ai database and improve the Auto results. Thank you!
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Alberto Bedin

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Here an example: the auto is too much flat (no contrast!)
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Todd Shaner, Champion

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Alberto, please upload an actual raw file copy to a file sharing site. It can be ANY raw file that you are comfortable sharing as long as it exhibits incorrect Auto Tone settings. The best way to do this is apply your own settings to the image file, Export to DNG file format, upload to file sharing site, and copy the share link in a reply here. The DNG file will have your settings applied and we can create a virtual copy with 'Auto' settings for comparison (C key). This will be very helpful!
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Alberto Bedin

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Here two raw as an examples. You can see how the "auto" creates a too much FLAT image. It looks like HDR.  No one would use/print it. Older versions of LR were a lot better. Please note that the problem is not specific to "a few images" but with 90% of images (people, landscape, products and so on...)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/h56m30gsj9oddwi/examples-bad-auto-tone-LR-CC2019.zip?dl=0

What do you think?
(Edited)
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Todd Shaner, Champion

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On my 100cd/m2 Luminace 6500 K calibrated NEC PA 272w monitor both images appear dark with high contrast. Raising the Exposure in your settings by about +0.5 EV looks pretty close to the Auto Tone rendering. Both Auto Tone images have lower contrast then both you and I prefer, but simply resetting Contrast to 0 looks good. I've noticed this with most of my own image files when using Auto Tone. I very rarely need to use the Contrast control!
Thinking about this there may be a logical explanation as to what's happening. The Adobe Auto Tone Ai settings are be based on a specific monitor viewing Luminance value. I'm guessing its about 120 cd/m2 because most of my images files need an exposure boost when using Auto Tone as viewed with my monitor's 100cd/m2 Luminance calibration. So that begs the question–What Luminance value is your monitor calibrated to?

(Edited)
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Alberto Bedin

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I'm using exactly the same monitor you are using! :-D Nec spectraview PA272w at 100 cd/m2 (on sRGB emulation).

You said: "Both Auto Tone images have lower contrast then both you and I prefer"
That's the point! Auto tone have LOWER contrast but I don't prefer.
Auto tone + resetting contrast to 0 + resetting vibrance (because contrast increases it) gives me a nice result. 

I wonder why the previous "auto" algorithm gave me a good "out of the box" result while now I have to modify other parameters. The starting point is too flat (too HDR, without contrast).

Research on visual imaging said that we prefer images with high contrast. In addition, consider that the Auto function is often used by amatorial users who o photographer on the rush, where you have no time for fine adjustments or when you want a good starting point. I'm sure no one will never print a photo with a so low contrast.
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There is one other influence that affects the "visual" display brightness and that's ambient lighting. Try measuring it using the NEC color sensor with the diffuser and placed on the middle of your screen facing out. My ambient lighting measures 32 Lux, which is the maximum NEC recommends for print matching. I lowered the room lighting to 15 Lux reading and the two sample DNG files with your settings still look too dark with almost no deep shadow detail. See below screenshots with settings.

It may be just a difference of preference, but I almost always apply equal and opposite Highlights and Shadows settings. This reveals more highlight and shadow detail AND adds micro-contrast similar to the Clarity control, but without muddying the image detail. More here along with a test image file for demonstrating Auto Tone at work.

https://forums.adobe.com/message/4602370#4602370

http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/downloadable_2/test-ramp_2.zip

If the image appears low in contrast after adjusting Whites and Blacks clipping points with -Highlights and +Shadows I add a small amount (+15) of Contrast, Clarity, or Dehaze using one or more of these three controls. Auto Tone applies -Highlights and +Shadows to most images, but not Clarity, or Dehaze. Instead it applies a Contrast setting that is rarely helpful in my opinion. I created a LR Basic panel adjustment workflow document with more details that may be helpful for both users and Adobe Engineering for refining the Auto Tone Ai algorithms.

https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/help/tone-control-adjustment.html




(Edited)
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Alberto Bedin

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Thanks for you reply! A few considerations:

- I prefer my version compared to "Auto Tone" or your version because often it's not important to see the all the details in the shadows. If they are underexposed by the photographer there is a reason. When I want to recover them, I can, but there should always be a deep dark black point. Think about a poster of a movie. Search on google "movie poster" and check the details in the shadows. Try to process those images in LR and you will see how LR will destroy the "mood" giving them a "flat" tone. Also for panoramas.

- Old version of Auto Tone didn't suffer of this problem

- I have the problem with different illuminances of my room, during day or night, it doesn't matter. The point is that the "flat underexposed with no contrast look" is so present that we can see it on all monitors (calibrated and uncalibrated).

- Just give a RAW to post-produce to 10 photographers and no one will give you a flat look like auto tone, I'm sure about this! :-) 
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Todd Shaner, Champion

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There will always be different preferences for Auto Tone such as higher contrast rendering with no concern about highlight and shadow detail. This may be for ALL images or on a specific subject and treatment basis.

The below mentioned Jeffrey Freidl plugin will get you closer to your "preferred" rendering, but I think a better solution is for Adobe to offer multiple Auto Tone rendering selections. This could be implemented using an Auto Tone pull-down selector that lets you preview multiple renderings similar to the camera profile rollover preview. You could then Sync that selected Auto Tone selection to a group of similar images and/or choose to leave it as the "default" setting.

Integrating a rollover preview using BOTH different camera profiles AND different Auto Tone algorithms (Vivid, Natural, Flat, etc.) for specific renderings would be a plus!


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No matter what you do with AUTO only some will be happy as everyone’s tastes are different for what they want in the final photo. Whatever Adobe chooses is fine with me as it’s a starting point.
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Andy Hewitt

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That's true of course, although I think this problem with the contrast reduction is pretty widespread, it's talked about a fair bit on the Lightroom Queen forums too.

I never used the Friedl plugin for this purpose until the updated Auto Tone came along.
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Alberto Bedin

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Andy is right. Robert I don't agree with you. Starting point should be as close as possible to average required final point. 

Multiple AUto Tone rendering selections would be great! Just a "low-mid-high" contrast and saturation should be enough.
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Robert Somrak, Champion

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Multiple AUto Tone rendering selections would be great! Just a "low-mid-high" contrast and saturation should be enough

Alberto,  

This is a great idea and would satisfy the wider range of peoples preferences.   For manual AUTO (not preset) Lr could also show three thumbnails of the rendering of the most selected photo and let the user choose which one they want to use.   
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Todd Shaner, Champion

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As I suggested Adobe could add an 'Auto Tone Browser' similar to the 'Profile Browser' and 'Develop Preset' that lets you see a preview of the selection using the mouse pointer (i.e. mouse-over).
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Andy Hewitt

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I'm with the OP on this. The new Sensei based Auto Tone is way off on most of my photos too (on a standard iMac screen).

When I use the Auto Tone function, Contrast is consistently set to a negative value, never does it go positive.

I use Jeffrey Freidl's Personalised Auto Tone in the Bag-o-goodies plugin:
http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/bag-o-goodies

I set the contrast in that to be zero, and you can set others parts of the tone settings too. I also find the shadows adjuster doesn't go high enough, so set that to 130%.

Some have reported that it does work better with the Adobe Color profile too, which I find it does, so I use that as a default setting, and then reset to a camera profile later in the process.

That's another thing I find too, the Adobe Color profile oversaturated some colours, and kills shadow details too.

It's consistent with older ORF raw images as well as slightly newer NEF raw images.

Of course Auto Tone should only be considered a starting point, so some adjustments should be expected. However, I would hope it could get nearer than it does.

Regards

Andy
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Alberto Bedin

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Wow, didn't know about this plugin! It's nice!! Thank you :-) however I hope that Adobe will understand that Auto Tone is too flat right now.