Using automatic photo tools to get a better picture


Normal operating procedure
in the correct order:

Unlike corrections in other software, the PSP photo enhancement filters are designed to to be used to adjust one thing at a time as far as possible - color, contrast, saturation and so on. However, modifying the red, green and blue (RGB) values making up an image tends to change several things at once. Picking the correct order of steps allows you to successively isolate different aspects of the image to adjust. The order is based on the principles upon which human vision works.

The first adjustment is Automatic Color Balance. In order to balance color you must change R, G and B channel values relative to each other. This has an inevitable impact on contrast, since we see contrast as a particular combination of R, G and B. Because saturation measures how different a color is from grey of the same lightness, saturation is altered too, simply because balancing color changes what is considered to be grey. For this reason, color should be adjusted before contrast and saturation. Often, the result of color balancing makes the image look flat because contrast and/or saturation change during color balancing, particularly for large color corrections. This is not a problem because subsequent steps will remedy this.

There is an exception to color balancing first. This applies when your image is either extremely light or extremely dark - both situations where there can be no strongly saturated colors. As a result, the color information in the image is unreliable and contrast should be adjusted first to compensate for this.

The second adjustment is Automatic Contrast Enhancement. It will affect the contrast in the image, which is that component of an image that corresponds to the equivalent black and white photo. It is the main way we see detail. However, because the maximum possible saturation of a color depends on how light or dark it is, the saturation can also be changed in this step when the lightness is altered. This is the reason for applying contrast enhancement before saturation adjustment.

The third adjustment is Clarify. While Automatic Contrast Enhancement adjusts the overall contrast of the image, Clarify is a unique filter that modifies local image contrast. The effect is to make detail stand out in a natural way, without artifacts associated with sharpening edges. Since this filter also modifies the lightness or darkness of the image, it can have an effect on saturation too (typically causing a decrease). Consequently, it should be applied before saturation adjustment.

The fourth adjustment is Automatic Saturation Enhancement. This filter accurately matches the human perception of saturation. It leaves the color balance and the contrast completely unaffected. As a result, it should be applied after color and contrast have been successfully adjusted.

The fifth adjustment is sharpening the image. Using Unsharp Mask provides the most control but Sharpen or Sharpen More are alternatives. These filters all sharpen the contrast at edges in an image, which are distinct transitions in color or lightness. Because of this, sharpening makes little sense until color (balance, saturation) and lightness (global and local contrast) have been properly adjusted. In Unsharp Mask the Radius setting defines which regions of the image will be considered to be edges. Large values cause more of the image to be "edge". Strength determines the amount of sharpening. Clipping allows "weak" edges to be ignored. The larger the setting the more the effect is restricted to strong edges. This allows you to avoid sharpening image noise or JPEG artifacts. Prior to applying sharpening, it is worth testing Edge Preserving Smooth at a low setting (1 or 2). This can eliminate minor noise or film grain, preventing it becoming more visible later when the image is sharpened.

An understanding of all this stuff is not really necessary for doing image correction if you just follow the steps. However, appreciating why you see what you see can make you a more effective and efficient user of the tools. --


For optimum result:  First remove all solid borders from your images

After an image has been corrected,
replace the borders
Menu Image Add Borders

1. Effects Enhance Photo Automatic Color Balance

Press Reset to get the default settings. Normally this is enough. In some cases you may like the result better if you set an Illuminant Temperature of 5500 K.

2. Effects Enhance Photo Automatic Contrast Enhancement

Press Reset to get the default settings. Normally this is enough.  If the image is changed too much select Mild rather than Normal for Strength. If it's not light enough, set Bias to Lighter.

3. Effects Enhance Photo Clarify

A setting of 3 is probably good but try more or less (e.g. 2 or 5) to see what you like. Something like Clarify can make texture in the grass really stand out.

4. Effects Enhance Photo Automatic Saturation Enhancement

Press Reset to get the default settings.  Normally this is enough. If you have someone's face in the picture, checkmark Skintones Present.


5. Effects Sharpen Unsharp Mask
Set Radius to 2.00, Strength to 50 and Clipping to 15
It's a recipe that you can keep following. Maybe some skilled person can get better results by hand but I think you will find the recipe very satisfactory in general. -Kris

For ease of use, install custom buttons on your toolbar
walk your image down through your bank of buttons using the defaults from 1 through 5.
"A through E" buttons offer additional opportunity for specific corrections.