Photo enhancement is one of the most important part of photo editing. Most of us have used a photo editing program at one point or another to try and fix up a photo. Sometimes the lighting turns out badly and it looks washed out or the exposure was too high or low. In any case, most of us go straight to the auto photo enhancement features.
Different programs have different options, but they all do basically the same thing. In Photoshop it is a simple matter of opening your picture and then clicking on “Photo” in your main bar. There are three options here: “Auto Tone,” “Auto Contrast” and “Auto Color.” In Aperture, you only have one “Auto Enhancement” button which can be found in “Inspector” under “Adjustments” that attempts to correct everything.
Depending on your situation and how extensively your photos need retouching, these options can be a boon. Auto-enhancement of photos works by allowing this program for mapping the pixels in your photos. Then, it crunches that information and it tries finding the best balance. If you are using Photoshop and you choose “Auto Tone,” it focuses on redistributing the lightest and darkest pixels without affecting color or contrast. For a slightly more advanced technique, you can use your pen tool to select one area of the picture and apply the auto photo enhancement only to that area. Often times these functions do a fair to a good job at getting the job done, but hardly ever are they perfect.
If you are a perfectionist or you need very precise editing done, you will probably find the automatic tools lacking. They sometimes have the side effect of discoloration and making things too dark or bright. In all of these cases, you will want to do your photo enhancement manually. This involves bringing up your histogram and sliders for contrast, brightness, and saturation and moving them around to get the right settings. You will also want to play around with your curves settings to change the colors to your liking. You can also find all of these settings under “Adjustments” in the “Photo” menu.
An even better method for your manual enhancements is to access them through your layers panel. By creating adjustment layers, you can experiment with your settings without making direct changes to your pictures. They simply act like masks that cover your picture. If you want to remove or change them all you have to do is toggle them off. You can also make selections, like with auto enhancement, by using the black paintbrush to cover areas you do not want to affect. You have much more freedom with these manual techniques, but they also take a lot more time.
Basically, it is down to the case. If you have a large group of pictures that you want to edit quickly, auto photo enhancement can be a lifesaver. But if you are dealing with photos that need delicate care, the manual is always the way to go. Perhaps the middle path is the better option. Go over all your pictures with the auto-enhancements and then manually re-edit the ones that did not turn out to your liking.
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