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Hands on With AirMagic, a One-Click Fix for Your Drone Photos

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Skylum, formerly MacPhun, has been making waves recently with its Aurora HDR and Luminar image processing products. While those are still the company’s flagships, it has added an intriguing new product to its portfolio. AirMagic has the single purpose of helping drone photographers make quick work of enhancing their images. Using AI technology (like just about every tool these days) it rolls up lens correction, white balance adjustment, haze removal, tone mapping, and color enhancement into a single click.

We took a pre-release version of the software for a test drive, using it on a variety of images from DJI’s Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 Pro drones.

Using AirMagic

AirMagic can be run either as a standalone application, or a plug-in to Photoshop or Lightroom. Standalone you can drop your image file on the application, or open your image via a menu command. It keeps a graphical view of the last few images you have worked on, so you can re-open any of them simply by clicking on their thumbnail. You can open RAW, JPEG, TIFF, or PNG files.

So far, I’ve found the default preset the best for my images, like this one of a smokey day over the SF bay area.

Different Presets for Different Looks

AirMagic comes with six presets: Default, Chinook, Cinematic, Emotional, Sandstorm, and Zephyr. Personally, I don’t find the fancy names for the presets very helpful, but increasingly that seems to be the way they’re marketed. If you’re looking to create moody photos, then the presets may be perfect for you. In my case, where I’m usually looking to create a photo that looks close to the real scene, I found the Default preset my preference for around 90 percent of the images I tried, and Cinematic the one that I liked for most of the rest.

For this image of Richmond, Virginia, I preferred the Chinook preset as it gave more muted and realistic colors.

Intelligent Sky and Foliage Processing

One key to success in automated image enhancement is knowing something about the original image. By limiting its scope to drone photos, AirMagic has a big head start. Drone photos are almost always taken in landscape orientation, usually with a horizon line somewhere in the scene. Many, if not most, have sky in the top half, and of course, it is always captured from an aerial perspective. Foliage is also quite common.

Atmospherics are by definition an issue, as the drone is shooting down from someplace in the sky. No need to sort out portraits, birthday party photos, and so on. Sure, in theory, you can capture those with a drone, but they’re uncommon enough that an application like AirMagic can ignore them in training its AI.

Sky and clouds are an important part of many drone shots and AirMagic does a good job here of adding interest to them without making them look unnatural.

Natural Light Correction Based on Time of Day

Drone photos typically also offer GPS and time of day data as input to an image processing application. Skylum says that AirMagic makes use of the sunlight conditions at the time of day when an image was captured as another tool in its arsenal. Certainly, it should help determine the likely white balance (cooler mid-day or at twilight, and warmer at sunrise and sunset, for example). Without a lot of dedicated experimentation, it’d be hard to see exactly how well this capability works, but AirMagic certainly did a good job of dealing with the lighting available in the images I used with it.

Comparing AirMagic With Photoshop and PhotoLab

Using AirMagic on a range of drone images, it definitely does a better job “out of the box” than my generic Photoshop Camera Raw defaults — which of course isn’t at all surprising. However, my travel photo preset for DxO’s PhotoLab came out quite close to AirMagic’s results in many cases. But it isn’t as adept at dealing with some of the fancier customizations available to AirMagic, like time-of-day lighting, and specialized processing of sky and foliage. Here you can see a Mavic 2 Pro image rendered using each approach:

The default preset in AirMagic is an excellent and easy way to get that ‘postcard’ look in your aerial cityscapes.

For comparison, here is the same image opened with my baseline default preset in Photoshop Camera Raw.

This version was rendered using my default travel photo preset in DxO PhotoLab and is very similar to the AirMagic default rendering.

AirMagic Pricing And Availability

Skylum is taking pre-orders for AirMagic now, and planning to release it on March 21. It runs on Mac and Windows and is priced at $39 for use on two machines. Right now it represents a nice timesaver for drone photographers, and it should continue to improve as the company and third parties add additional presets for purchase or download from the Skylum Marketplace. For orders placed between now and March 20th, Skylum is also including a video course and eBook on drone photography, as well as an additional Premium Style preset for AirMagic.

Now read:

  • DJI Mavic 2 Pro Field Tested: A Winning Upgrade
  • Drone Safety After Gatwick: More Regulations May Not Work
  • How to Create Amazing Videos With Your Drone

[Image Credit: David Cardinal]

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