After a long day on location photographing a wedding, concert, or event, the last thing most shooters want to do when they get home is sit in front of the computer and spend the next few hours sorting the images to narrow down their selections. Wand by PostPro AI is designed to help creatives save time by doing that tedious process for them.
Arguably, culling images is the most disliked and dreaded portion of any photographer’s workflow, so the ability to skip that step and save time on top of it is a tantalizing offer.
According to the company, the $12 per month ($145 annually) Wand plug-in for Adobe Lightroom Classic enables automatic culling of photos for event and wedding photographs and is aimed to reduce frustration, shorten turnaround times, and free up more time for the photographer to enjoy their work. The plug-in was made specifically with these types of photographers in mind and is designed to be run at the first stage of import before any manual culling or editing has been applied.
In the simplest terms, the Wand plugin will create a quick collection for your files with Accepted and Rejected images from the set, with the rejected images being flagged and rated “Purple” for easy identification.
How It Works
While the developers state it is meant to be run at the very first step of the import process, users can still run the plug-in at any time they choose during their workflow on a small selection of photos or the entire catalog. While it can be run on nearly any image file including JPEG, the plug-in works its best when applied to RAW unedited files, and like most current “AI” applications, this plugin also requires a stable internet connection for it to work.
The plug-in uses the internet connection to “export and upload” a small version of the images to the PostPro sever where the actual culling process takes place, which keeps your own system from being bogged down during the process. Once the system finishes, the final results are sent back to the local machine where the color labels and Collections are created and the remote files are deleted from the PostPro servers. The plugin will go through all the images in your catalog and analyze the metadata and image content to look for similar images within a sequence, find closed eyes, and further analyze the facial expressions to identify the “bad” images to be flagged as rejected from the set. It also looks for low-quality images that have blown highlights or shadows with excessive clipping.
Login And Installation
The first step is to try out the plugin is to create a free account on the PostPro website and then download the Wand plugin from the newly created user profile page. Once the plugin has been downloaded, open Adobe Lightroom Classic and go to plugin manager and click “Add” at the bottom left of the panel and then select the Wand plugin. Next click login to enter the details used on signup and click login again.
Now, the plugin is ready to be used. The plugin “options” are located under the “plug-in extras” menu item where users can choose to run the plugin on import, selection, or entire catalog.
Using Wand And Understanding The Results
The plug-in, regardless of the method chosen to run (Import, Selection, Catalog), can potentially take a while to complete depending on the number of files in the selection. Once the plugin has finished doing the process though, a popup will notify you of the job completion and you can then view the accepted and rejected files in the catalog from the Collections section of the Library tab or by looking for the purple ranked images.
From here you can browse through the selections to confirm or change any of the approved and rejected images Wand has created. Keep in mind, the plugin does not delete anything — it simply flags images it feels are repetitive or “bad” based on the series of similar images in the set. So if you intentionally shot something blurry or extra bright or dark, it may be rejected by the algorithm. Keep that in mind when browsing through the results and just adjust or change the rankings as needed.
Since event work was pretty much non-existent over the last year, I was given access to a full wedding catalog to test the plugin. For the most part, I was impressed with the results the culling tool returned.
It was very good at identifying closed eyes or less-than-ideal facial expressions in images with people in them. There were still a few images I would have personally added to the reject list and conversely some I would have removed from the rejects, but since the culling system is still new and with most “AI” tools like this, it should improve the more it gets used and more feedback is provided to the algorithm.
If there are any “creative” images in the set, the culling app is very likely going mislabel and reject them as they stray too far outside the norm of what the AI deems as “good.” While that may not be perfect, the system is meant to help you save time, not do everything for you from start to finish. Artistic and creative choices with out-of-focus shots, odd framing, skewed perspectives, and other unique style choices will likely have to be found and added back to a set manually from the rejections category.
I ran the plugin against one of my older fashion and portrait sessions and the results just further stressed that point. Since the set had already been rated and sorted, I wanted to see how the system would do, and it was surprisingly consistent. At first, I was surprised to see some of my 5-Star selections in the rejected folder, but once I opened them up I realized those files had missed focus (eyes/face), some not-ideal facial expressions, or odd highlight and shadows. There were only two to three shots in the rejects section that I had actually edited previously and those were more specialized creative shots that, in most cases, would have been skipped.
After several catalogs and image sets, I found myself trusting the accepted folder more and would quickly going through the “rejects” section to double-check its work.
Great for Some, Less So For Others
As useful as this plugin is, there is still room for improvement though, since the application doesn’t do a great job with creative or artistic photos and will register images with an unusual framing composition, an excessive amount of out of focus space, or those with blown highlights or deep shadows as rejects even if those were conscious choices by the photographer. Those image types are frequently flagged, so users will have to filter through the rejects to find their creative shots to re-approve before editing. Because these are often also major characteristics of “bad” photos, it will probably prove extremely difficult for an AI to differentiate when such images were done on purpose and when they are an actual mistake — it might not be something that can be trained at all with current AI technology.
Another issue is the requirement for a stable internet connection. This dependence on cloud computing may be an occasional frustration point for some and an impassable barrier for others. It would be interesting to see how much on-device processing power is actually needed if the image analysis was done locally. If it isn’t so intense as to brick a typical editing rid, I would have preferred this be a toggleable option for users.
A Solid Culling Assistant for High-Volume Photographers
The Wand Plugin from PostPro AI is a useful and affordable tool for anyone who shoots large quantities of images in the event, wedding, product, and nightlife spaces. Arguably, it is actually useful for any photographer that shoots hundreds or thousands of images per set regularly. The AI tool can recognize “bad” facial expressions and closed eyes pretty accurately and will filter out an excessive number of identical images and will do so all from within Lightroom Classic. The Accepted and Rejected images are also easily viewed separately in the smart collections or together in the library folder, whichever is easier and preferred for your workflow.
Its issues aside, I still believe PostPro AI’s automated culling is at least worth using trying (there is a free trial option) for most in the event and wedding space since it does have some serious usefulness. Additionally, the more people use it, the smarter it will become over time.
Are There Alternatives?
There are a growing number of plugins, services, and stand-alone applications that provide automated culling for photographers. Apps like CullAi, Canon’s Photo Culling, and Optyx all provide culling on different levels and platforms, and services like shootdotedit provide similar services but with a human element attached (as well as a higher price).
Should You Buy It?
Maybe. The $145 per year plugin is definitely useful for wedding and event photographers but could be beneficial for anyone who captures hundreds of images (or more) per session. The main objective is to allow photographers to spend less time behind the computer and more time creating those photographs, and from that perspective, The Wand achieves that goal.