• Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

This A.I. Culls Photos For You — And It’s Not Half Bad: Optyx Review

ByCandice Hansen

Jun 7, 2021
This A.I. Culls Photos For You — And It’s Not Half Bad: Optyx Review

Optyx A.I. Photo Manager can help speed up culls for big shoots — but don’t fall for the idea that you can be done in mere seconds.

Culling photos from a big shoot such as a wedding is a process that typically takes hours. For me, the photo cull is a boring task that’s best tackled with Netflix and some snacks. But, can artificial intelligence turn that hours-long process into a few minutes? Optyx A.I. Photo Manager is an app that uses artificial intelligence to ease the bore of the cull. Using A.I., the app groups photos together, then searches for the sharpest one. But, mixing artificial intelligence with art is a precarious teeter-totter. Can A.I. really find your best shots?

When I first downloaded Optyx. I didn’t expect to really like the app. I was worried that, by integrating A.I., I would be losing the ability to pick a photograph based on emotional impact alone. But, Optyx works best with some manual input — and doesn’t really judge a photo beyond anything but sharpness. Optyx may have just found the perfect balance between speed and overlooking too many great shots.

Too Long, Didn’t Read.

Optyx does a good job of selecting the sharpest shot in a group of similar photos. It doesn’t select the best lighting or expressions, but the manual culling tools allow a good blend between the speed of A.I. and the eye of an actual human. It’s a good app for burst shooters, but photographers who only take a shot or two of the same subject won’t save time.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Finds your sharpest photos

  • Groups similar shots automatically

  • Allows for quick manual culling

Cons

  • Group view applies changes to every image

  • Doesn’t consider lighting or facial expression

  • Another app to import to. Sigh.

Gear Used

I used the Optyx app on my 2015 MacBook Pro. I tested culling both on the local disk and on on a LaCie external hard drive. A pop-up warns that Optyx works best with images that are stored locally.

Main Features

Optyx is based on several A.I. features. Here’s how Optyx says the software works:

  • Focus detection: The app looks at each face to evaluate for sharpness, choosing shots with the sharpest focus on faces.

  • A.I. Autocull: This feature groups similar images together, so you can easily pick the best of the bunch.

  • Fast previews: Optyx says that previews are fast so that you can also manually cull faster than Lightroom’s previews load.

Ease of Use

Optyx starts out much like any RAW file manager — you need to import your photos. The process starts by creating a new shoot, then adding your photos. This process is similar to Lightroom and Capture One. 150 photos took about 5-10 minutes, but 650 took about half an hour.

Optyx, however, analyzes photos as it imports. In the import screen, the app gives you options to customize this analysis. You can turn face detection and advanced analysis off for landscapes, for example, to speed up the process.

If you’re unsure what an option does, hovering over the little “i” icon either offers a quick explanation or brings up a webpage with more details. That makes the program easy to jump into. I didn’t need to search the web for help. What wasn’t self-explanatory was explained in those little hoover over icons or the one web page that popped up.

“This process is similar to Lightroom and Capture One. 150 photos took about 5-10 minutes, but 650 took about half an hour.”

After the import and analysis, the app groups and auto culls. On this next screen, you can start by customizing your workflow settings. You can choose how conservative or aggressive to group shots. You can also tell it to cull using star ratings, flags, or colors. These workflow profiles allow you to save your settings and get started with the cull faster.

You can further adjust the workflow settings using a trio of sliders. A similarity slider chooses how loosely to apply the groups, where photos can be a little similar or a lot similar. A time slider lets you to consider when the photo was taken when creating those groups. A third slider toggles grouping photos shot with exposure bracketing together.

Once the photos have finished importing and you’ve selected your settings, tap the “Run Workflow” button at the top. The program will group your photos and apply stars, flags, or colors depending on your selected settings. This takes only seconds, or if you have a lot of photos, a minute or two.

Real-Life Applications

So how well did Optyx work? The app did a great job at finding the sharpest shot in a group of photos. I generally take a few shots of the same pose to ensure a sharp image or use burst to get the best expression. Optyx did a great job finding the sharpest photo among those shots. It does this by marking them with four stars. If none of the photos are tack sharp, then the app will select a photo that’s, well, not sharp. While testing, there were only one or two times where I thought a human could do a better job.

The app groups everything and selects something from each group. I had a few random photos of a reflector because I bumped my camera’s touchscreen. Optyx still chooses one of those photos. While it may be annoying to unstar bad photos, that makes it less likely that you miss a happy accident or a photo that’s technically bad but artistically good.

Optyx doesn’t consider the lighting in the photo — which means it’ll still find silhouettes for you, intentionally or not. When working with a flash that didn’t quite keep up with bursts, it sometimes selected darker photos rather than the flash-fired images. I also don’t think it did too great with facial expressions since I got a few “picks” where the subject’s mouth was open awkwardly, or the eyes were closed.

While the perfect cull would include facial expression and lighting, finding the sharpest shot allowed for a blend of automatic and manual culling. Optyx is good for finding the sharpest shot of a similar pose. But it’s great when then mixed with a little human oversight for the best moment. Once the program culls the photos, you can easily go through each group and check the picks to see if there’s a better expression or a shot with better lighting.

The thumbnails load nearly instantly, though you’ll have to wait for a 1:1 look. In the details tab, the program automatically finds faces and points of interest in the shot. Clicking on them will show you a close-up of that spot. You’ll need to click to generate a 1:1 preview for the best view, but generating previews one photo at a time saves you from waiting for the program to build previews for all the photos. There’s an option to generate 1:1 previews for all the photos, but I wish it also had an option to generate a 1:1 for only the selected or starred photos. It’s currently one photo or all the photos.

You can manually adjust the photo’s rating, and those photos will be marked with an M so you can quickly see which photos you flagged yourself.

There are a few ways that the user interface could be improved during manual culls, however. When displaying groups, the preview box shows a 1:1 of the first image in the group. I’d rather see a 1:1 of the highest-ranked photo in the group. In the group view, changing the rating of a photo applies that rating to the entire group — I had to go to the single photo view to adjust the rating. It’s annoying to flip back and forth between the view modes just to change a rating. You’ll also need to scroll back to where your photo was since the app doesn’t always go to the same spot in the library view. These quirks could both be easily improved with an update to the app.

Once you are finished manually checking the cull, you can click to cull the picks. That assigns the star, flag, or color ratings to the photo’s metadata. When you import them to a program that uses those same rating systems, the photos are automatically marked. Working with the metadata means Optyx is compatible with several different editing programs.

Despite a few flaws, I culled a 650 photo micro wedding with Optyx in about half an hour. That’s a good improvement from my usual pace. Of course, it requires a second import, but I don’t mind too much because I can walk away from the computer and do something else during the import process.

Photographers who shoot lots of bursts are going to see the most benefits from using Optyx. It’s a great app for finding the sharpest shots in a group. It’s not trying to find the best lighting or facial expression — and honestly, that’s probably best left to actual humans anyways.

Conclusions

Likes

  • Optyx is great for quickly finding the sharpest photo in a group of similar shots.

  • The app automatically groups similar shots together.

  • Optyx still includes manual culling tools, and since shots are already grouped, and previews load fast, it’s fairly quick to tweak the picks yourself.

Dislikes

  • You have to switch to the single view when changing a photo’s rating, or the rating will be applied to the whole group. Hopefully, this is remedied in an app update.

  • The app doesn’t consider lighting or facial expression — or rather, it might, but it doesn’t do a great job at it.

  • Using a program like Optyx means you’ll have to import twice.

Optyx is imperfect — but it’s that imperfection that allows for an excellent blend between the speed of A.I. and the emotion of, well, an actual human. The app didn’t do the entire cull for me. But, by grouping similar shots and finding the sharpest one, Optyx 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 facial expressions or the best light, for example — create an ideal part A.I., part human cull. But, other flaws I would love to see corrected in an updated version of the app. In the group view, changing the rating of a photo changes the whole group instead of just the single selected photo. Using the single photo view takes out the advantage of grouping similar shots. I also wish you could generate a 1:1 preview of only the starred photos, instead of all of them or one at a time.

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 Optyx 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 of course, you have to go through and choose the picks yourself.

Optyx is a good option for photographers that regularly use burst mode and take a few variations of similar shots. It’s a great, though not quite perfect, tool for quickly finding your sharpest shots. Photographers that only take one or two shots of the same subject won’t really save time with Optyx. The app costs $100 for the full version, or you can use the free version if you don’t mind being limited to 100 photos per shoot. If you shoot a lot of bursts, try the 14-day free trial to see how Optyx fits in your workflow.

I’m giving Optyx four out of five stars.

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