Behind Facetune 2: Lightricks’ New Portrait Editing App
We sat down with Daniel Berkovitz, Product Manager of Facetune…
Meet Zeev Farbman – Enlight project manager, CEO, and co-founder of Lightricks Ltd. He sat down to share his insightful, behind-the-scenes take on the present state of photography and why he abandoned academia to play a leading role in mobiography’s exciting future.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background in photography. How did you get into it?
Although I received my first camera at age 11 and can still recall a few some darkroom techniques, and these days I play around with one or two fancy cameras (Fujifilm X100T and Sony Alpha a7), I am personally more drawn to the algorithmic side of things, rather than the artistic side. My PhD in Computer Science was mostly spent studying problems on the border between computer graphics and image processing, which today, is sometimes called computational photography.
2. So you don’t necessarily consider yourself a photographer?
Honestly, I barely consider myself an amateur photographer. I sometimes use this music analogy to explain my relationship with photography: there are grand pianos by a company called Steinway — really beautiful pieces, the highest-quality pianos available — and the musicians playing these pianos create the most beautiful music. I can’t play piano like they can, but I can build a Steinway.
3. What caused you & your team to want to create a photo app?
Towards the end of my PhD, while writing my thesis, we (I & other co-founders of Lightricks) couldn’t ignore any longer the wide gap that exists between research prototypes we saw in academia that produce immensely cool stuff and what currently is available for the consumer on the mobile market.
To us, it felt like an incredible opportunity: mobile devices became more powerful with each new iteration and people were looking for new solutions other than expensive, complicated desktop software. So incredible, in fact, that I (and the other founders) put our degrees on hold to concentrate on how existing algorithms could be made more efficient to run on mobile devices. We started with a smaller project, Facetune, and with that experience (and a bigger team), we were ready to work on Enlight.
4. Do you consider photography an art or a science?
Absolutely a combination of both. Take something like HDR: photographers were doing exposure blending way before the term HDR was dubbed, by manually aligning and stitching images with different exposures. With time, camera manufacturers added bracketed exposures to facilitate the process, automatic alignment tools started to appear, we saw a wide variety of different tonemapping techniques – but all this started with photographers pushing their tools to the limit.
In both photography and videography we see this constant interplay between artists pushing limits, abusing and using their tools and scientists and engineers creating new generations of tools to technically satisfy their needs. It’s really an exciting field to be involved in.
5. How do you think the role of photography has been influenced by smartphone cameras?
Mobile platforms are playing a significant role in democratization of all productivity tools. Photography is just a part of it. For example, educators for years came up with different “computer for every child” initiatives, and with the shift towards mobile, that’s finally happening! I can’t image why the art of photography would become less prominent due to the rise of mobile; it’s actually bringing more people to the club, due to the lower barrier of entry: all you need is a smartphone.
6. Now that “everyone is a photographer” with a camera in their pocket, do you foresee the average person using more in-depth editing apps or still sticking to simple filtering of images?
Most will be happy with built-in cameras or simple filters, but aspiring photographers will demand more and more sophisticated tools. The amount of aspiring photographers is what’s getting bigger each day. Before Instagram, nobody would believe that “an average person” could be interested in using filters or post-processing his images in any way. Instagram introduced photography to a lot of new people, while simultaneously rekindling the passion for this art in many existing photographers — and a significant part of both groups are looking for more powerful tools.
7. In what new ways do you think the smartphone can change the way we create imagery in the future?
These days, we are carrying a powerful device with us, 24/7, that goes beyond just a camera and microphone. It can sense the world, and with each new iteration of devices we have more and more sensors attached that give us valuable information about our world: gyro, accelerometer, magnetometer, heart rate and pulse monitoring. I think there’s an opportunity to create tools that will sense the mood of the users and will act accordingly. For example, if you are shooting in the middle of Penn Station – a chaotic, noisy environment – the device will sense this, and filter the image in a way that will capture the mood of the scene.
8. What other innovations in smartphone technology do you expect to see in the future?
Storage will become less and less of an issue. I think our mobile devices may migrate to glasses or even lenses in our eyes and will be able to capture everything and photograph anything. The problem will then become how to organize and work with this endless stream of visual input, to filter the more interesting from the less interesting.