The newly released Lightroom Classic CC 7.1 has a new approach to its Auto Tone function.
Auto tone has always been there, but it's been a fairly blunt instrument. So the Lightroom team have given it a major overhaul.
This is how Adobe describes it:
Auto has been completely reworked to create better results, every time. Using an advanced neural network powered by Adobe Sensei, our artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning platform, the new Auto Settings creates a better photo by analyzing your photo and comparing to tens of thousands of professionally edited photos to create a beautiful, pleasing image.
Adobe has drawn on its Sensei network for a few other interesting imaging applications. For example, it powers Photoshop's face-aware liquify that aims to change expressions without distortion. And it powers a deeper and more fine-tuned image search for Adobe Stock. The Auto function is now plugged into that same network.
The function adjusts these individual tools:
It doesn't adjust white balance settings (Temp or Tint) or Clarity.
Another improvement is that if you've cropped the image first, it calculates the Auto settings based on the cropped version, not on the entire image area. It also factors in the White Balance and Camera Profile information that you've set.
To give some real-world examples of what it does, I've run several images through it. You can see the original non-edited images side-by-side with versions with the new Auto function applied.
Original vs New Auto
As intriguing as the technology sounds, I can't say I'm sold on how to works in practice. And to be clear, there are some images where it works nicely. But it's the ones where it goes too far that give me pause.
I don't always use the Auto function, but when I do I treat it as a starting point. After it's done its thing, I usually tweak things a little. But, for me, rather than getting closer to the finished image, the new Auto tone function actually gets further away and requires more tweaking. Specifically, I find its adjustment of shadows, highlights, vibrance, and saturation all to be a bit heavy handed--certainly more aggressive than my usual preference. For starters, I would prefer it to leave the vibrance and saturation sliders alone--those are ones I tend to use very sparingly.
Of course, that is entirely a subjective judgement, and no doubt there are many, many users who find it a big improvement. And the great thing about a non-destructive workflow like Lightroom uses, of course, is that there's a simple way to undo it!