Fstoppers Reviews Remini: The A.I. Photo-Enhancing App That Can Resurrect Images Where You Missed Focus

I have seen a lot of uses of artificial intelligence in the editing of photos, particularly in the last couple of years. This app, however, might be the most impressive yet, albeit walking a questionable line of "editing gone too far."

I saw tools using A.I. for post-production of images as a time-saver for photographers who aren't particularly bothered about bleeding every last iota of quality out of their edits or true-to-life accuracy. I had and have absolutely no issue with that, but I didn't feel these tools were aimed at me. Then, in the last year, I've gradually seen the improvement and value of these tools. In 2020, I have spent a fair amount of time with Luminar products in particular as I've developed a relationship with them, and what they're doing is pretty singular.

However, this week, I've seen a quite different function of A.I.; rather than changing major elements of images, it's restoring them. But not like most apps that purport to restore images where they apply some sharpening and noise reduction, this app generates detail that isn't there. Remini's blurb gives a vague sense of what it can do: "Remini engages state-of-art AI generative technology to bring professional film production level image enhancing and restoration technologies to our daily life." For a free app, that sounds like a load of old tosh, but I thought I'd put it through its paces.

Vintage Photographs

The most testing environment I could imagine would be using it on images from the early 1900s, where there is a distinct lack of quality, sharpness, useful contrast, dynamic range, and a boatload of imperfections. The test images I found were on the Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr and used under Creative Commons. (This account made the news some years back as they have uploaded over five million historic photographs under Creative Commons; it's a goldmine!)

There are a few issues, like to the right of the subject's face where there is blurring, but other than that, it's impressive. The details of the face are looking much more defined and clear, and overall, I was impressed. But, my phone screen wasn't the right platform, so I exported it to my computer and zoomed in.

A Member of a Prominent New England Family (1916)

Ok, that's incredible. The wispy hairs on the chin, the clarity in the eyes, the skin texture; this app might just be a gem. Yes, there are errors; for example, it didn't know what to do with the glasses and the eyes look a little over-sharpened, but it is unbelievable nonetheless. Let's try again with a different image.

I am truly speechless at the level Remini is able to deliver. The detail it adds to the face as a whole is incredibly detailed, not only in areas you might expect like the eyes, but the hairline and mustache have gone from a blurry mass to believable and intricate hairs. I have never seen anything like this, and I didn't know realism of this caliber was possible.

Man and Robot

Now, I want to take this app in a slightly different direction. It is primarily aimed at your average user, and I'm attempting to apply it to a different, more demanding context, but what if I teamed up with the A.I? Some years ago, I used to make money by restoring old photographs, but it wasn't as cost-effective as other work so now I only do it on a request basis. I've had some tremendously difficult images sent to me by people who only have one photograph of a family member, for example. So, I had the idea to find a very difficult image that is low resolution, underexposed, and lacking any detail. Then, I'll let Remini generate the detail, and I'll manually try to fix the rest.

I cannot quite believe the results here. I must have compared the before and after a hundred times in disbelief. There's no way to verify just how accurate an image of the woman this is, but from all the tests I've run (and I have found myself a bit addicted to seeing what Remini can do,) it's pretty close. On out-of-focus images of people I know, it was between a close approximation and indistinguishable. The changes I made after the A.I. waved its wand were simply an exposure correction, some cloning and tidying, and then a few creative tweaks. The results are reminiscent of tintype photography and I'm stunned with how much of a photograph we now have.

Missed Focus

Ok, well, it is staggeringly impressive at restoring old photographs in a way that I wasn't sure was possible, and that has significant application and value, both historic and otherwise. However, the question for us photographers is whether it can save images where you missed focus. If you'd asked me a few years ago — nay, a few days ago — whether it would be worth keeping images where you missed focus, I'd have said no. I mean, there isn't enough data to do anything substantial with, after all. I hadn't considered A.I. might just be the solution, and I'm a tad embarrassed by that. So, let's take a look at a shot of mine that I wished was sharper.

A few years ago, I did a shoot with a ballet dancer, Hanna Lyn Hughes, and it went well. As I was prone to doing then (and still am), once I had several banked shots, I liked to up the ante and take some risks. One of the ways I would do that was by using my Zenit 85mm f/1.5 manual focus lens wide open. Though f/1.5 is wide, it isn't unprecedented, nor are manual focus lenses. The amount of support cameras give us these days with focusing, even in manual, means you're unlikely to miss much. That said, there were two problems with this lens when shooting at f/1.5: it was slightly soft and it was strangely difficult to hit the sharpest results. 

The shoot was on a very bright morning, and when I took this shot, I instantly loved it. I zoomed in using the LCD screen (without much contrast and stupidly, without using the EVF instead) and thought it was sharp. When I got home and I put it on the big screen, I realized I was an inch or two out. The Zenit mimicked the film look in many ways though, so I loved the final image all the same. That wasn't to say I wouldn't have preferred it to be perfectly sharp — I would have — I just didn't consider it a write-off. Well, it seems like a prime candidate for this app, so let's see how it does.

Ok, that is better, though it mainly looks like some well-executed, localized sharpening. That's great, it has "enhanced" the final image which is what I wanted, but it doesn't look earth-shattering. I exported the file to my computer and loaded it up in Photoshop so I could compare a 200% crop of Hanna's face, just to see exactly what it had done. And, well, I was wrong: it is earth-shattering. 

I honestly can't ever remember using a piece of software that has coaxed a more full, enthusiastic, and genuine reaction from me. It has generated detail that patently wasn't there and so accurately that there's no way even I could tell A.I. did it, and I took the shot! If you put the before and after slider right down the middle of Hanna's face, you can see just how incredible the application is.

What I Liked

  • A singular and staggeringly impressive way of enhancing images below the grade
  • The only method I've ever seen that can accurately save a shot where the focus was missed
  • The premium version of this app is just a few dollars per month subscription, which most people wouldn't need to keep running
  • Images that are smaller than 2,080 x 2,080 pixels will be upscaled in size as well as quality
  • The process is quick and couldn't be simpler
  • There are a number of other tools within the app; I didn't care to try them as they aren't new, but there's more to the app than what I've done in this review
  • The app also purports to enhance video, though I've not tested that yet

What I Didn't Like

  • No Windows desktop client that I could find
  • Free version makes you watch adverts, which is fair enough, but I'd rather it was a paid-only app without ads
  • Maximum export file size is 2080 x 2080 pixels, which makes this the biggest barrier between this app and serious photographers

Conclusion

If Remini would let me import an image at its native resolution and keep it at it after the wizardry, this app would be borderline perfect. Regardless, it is the most impressive software I have tried in years and, as far as I've seen, the only player in the game at this level. I have no doubts there are other photo-enhancing applications that can do a good job, but I have seen nothing that comes remotely close to the level of detail generated by the A.I. Remini boasts. I have never spoken to Remini, I am in no way endorsed by them, nor has anyone prompted me to write this review. I implore you to try it out yourself.

Log in or register to post comments

29 Comments

J. W.'s picture

I've used this software on family archive photos and unlike Skylum AI, this actually works as advertised. I am sure it's not AI, but whatever it is, it does an amazing job. I too wish there was a plugin for PS and I would gladly pay them some good money. I haven't tried the "Pro" license but on the free one it only works on faces, so it can look a little funny when the face is nice and sharp and the rest of the body is obviously out of focus.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Take a look at Topaz Sharpen AI. It does pretty much the same: https://topazlabs.com/sharpen-ai/

Hunter Chan's picture

Topaz Sharpen AI DOES NOT work as advertised!

Craig Fouche's picture

Actually, it works REALLY WELL - I have had brilliant results. They update the processing and learnings quite often I remember using the demo a year or so back, when I saw the results of the latest version I was very impressed.

Apiwat Treelerdmala's picture

I have tried both. I agree with Hunter Chan. Topaz AI doesn't work well. But Remini does.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

You registered here just to tell us that Remini works?

Craig Fouche's picture

Skylum's AI does not add pixels to improve focus. The Skylum AI in Luminar works to improve the image mood, lighting, etc. Focus AI is a very different AI to image processing AI.

Jaap Venhovens's picture

It looks like the woman turned into a man in the 3rd example :-)

Deleted Account's picture

I imagine the only thing the s/w could find in it's database that vaguely represented the original image. ummmm this will do.

Spy Black's picture

A hint of Mr. Bean too...

Josef Hofer's picture

It seems, this software does a remarkable job, by sharpening defocused portraits.
This may be eligible, when a photo journalist has to provide photos of an event, and wants to sharpen one or more accidentally defocused shots of a person.
Or, if I want to restore my great-grandmother’s blurred photo, to show it to my children.
But, for me, it’s a problem, when it comes to artwork. This software changes the content of the original file by adding or modifying pixels, which can cause legal problems in some special cases.

Spy Black's picture

This would not fly with photo journalism work. There's a more in-depth look at the mechanics of this process by Unmesh Dinda at PixImperfect, and it literally replaces data with other data. That's a big no-no in photo journalism. I'm also curious if anyone's looked at copyright issues loading up to a site like this. Sometimes such operations take free license to use your images any way they like.

The process can really go overboard sometimes too, check it out:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8HFN4y1WVw

Paul Asselin's picture

Looked into it and the only Apple App is for iOS. With most people editing photos either on a Windows desk top or a Mac you would think the developers would have made versions for these first.

Paul Asselin's picture

Ok, cool. I'll check it out.

Paul Trantow's picture

Cost is monthly. Ugh. No thanks.

Dan Donovan's picture

The modern day portrait of the female has some motion blur in it. So, it fixes that too!

Michael Lambert's picture

You can do single or batch upload to Remini via a web interface here - https://ft.caldron.tech/

I've been using Remini for a few days now and I'm constantly amazed by what it can do. It gets it right 90%+ of the time. When it doesn't get it right it can look a little Frankensteinian. But - Warning! - its quite addictive and you will be digging out all those old/soft images from your archive to see what it can do!

Ryan Cooper's picture

I feel like their business model is problematic. $1/photo is going to drive away a lot of potential users. Especially since you have to experiment to figure out how to use the thing and its various settings. Each test costs.

Michael Lambert's picture

I agree, I think they are testing the market. If the product was mature, I think it would be worth it to a lot of people.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Yeah, tbh I'm surprised someone like Adobe or Blackmagic doesn't just acquire them. This would be a huge asset to Adobe. Prob worth the investment unless Adobe is already close to developing the same feature in house.

Michael Lambert's picture

They have their own AI thing going on with "Sensei" and "Neural Filters", but I don't think I've seen anything from Adobe that could do anything like this.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Oh I know, I meant buy this company to integrate this tech into that brand.

Rodney Johnson's picture

2080 x 2080? Why on earth would I bother? To post to facebook?

Ryan Cooper's picture

Consider that you "could" just crop out the out-of-focus face, send it to the app, then composite it back into the much larger source photo. Wouldn't work for a close headshot but would be fine for any other. Also Mr Lambert posted links above to a browser-based pro version of it that I presume can handle higher resolution.

Catherine Bowlene's picture

I don't really trust AI tools in "automatic photo editing software", even the ones Fstoppers itself wrote about (like this article by David Fulde- https://fstoppers.com/originals/automatic-photo-editor-photoworks-refres... or many others). I don't say it's not worth giving it a shot, the sharpening is quite good, but I just think that no AI can edit the picture exactly like you feel it should be edited. Plus the monthly cost... That alone is a no.

Timothy Roper's picture

Isn't there a Zoom filter that already does this for video? Because I keep see people with smooth, fake, mushy skin just like in these photos. If mush is what you're after, go for it I guess!

Mark Harris's picture

Wow ! I don't normally do old photo restoration, but I got a request soon after reading this, and gave it a go. It's really quite extraordinary. I bough $5 worth of coupons to do 'pro enhance', and chopped the image up into smaller blocks so I could get more than 2000 px. I've printed it at A3, and the client is going to accuse me of witchcraft.

Jenny Rich's picture

I usually work with Photoglory and Inpaint for restoring old photos, but I'll certainly try Remini, the examples of its work are impressive.