Updated “Auto” Adjustments

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Today’s Question: I saw some information that suggested a recent update to Lightroom provided a big improvement to the “Auto” adjustment option. With this update, do you now recommend using the Auto adjustment?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While I’m generally not a big fan of “automatic” adjustments, I do have to admit that the recent update to Lightroom did greatly improve the utility of this feature. I actually think it may now be worthwhile to apply as a standard adjustment during import, for example.

More Detail: One of the problems I’ve always had with “automatic” adjustments for photographic images is that these adjustments are based on specific algorithms, which aren’t really able to take into account the specific nature of the photo or your specific intent for the interpretation of the photo.

That said, the new Auto adjustment feature in Lightroom (and Adobe Camera Raw) is quite impressive. This new update makes use of the Adobe Sensei technology, employing a neural network with artificial intelligence and machine learning, to make the most of these adjustments. What that really means is that Adobe is able to analyze a huge number of images, along with the adjustments that had been applied to them, to better calculate the optimal adjustment settings for a given image.

Perhaps most importantly, the automatic adjustments simply involve changing the existing settings for the slider controls found in the Basic section of adjustments on the right panel in the Develop module. In other words, you can always refine those adjustment settings later, with no penalty in terms of image quality.

Because of these latest updates to the “auto” adjustment, I actually feel that for many photographers it may be worthwhile to include this automatic adjustment for all images upon import. The result will generally be an image with a bit more “pop”, with the flexibility to refine those adjustments later in your workflow.