Sunday, March 2, 2008

iPhoto 08 Makes Color Correction Easier

Improvements to iPhoto in the iLife 08 suite make it the only photo management and editor you'll need as a non-professional photo enthusiast.

In the past, in order to use iPhoto on a day-to-day basis a photographer still needed to have Photoshop installed and iPhoto configured to launch Photoshop to edited color, contrast, and midtone brightness that turns your standard awful looking snapshots onto bright colorful photos suitable for printing, the web, or animated slideshows. But not anymore -- iPhoto will get you there all by itself.

Most of the critical improvements have been made to the Adjust Panel to make the overpriced Photoshop no longer necessary for baseline color and image enhancement.

The most significant feature added to the Adjust Panel are the ability to edit the midtones, shadows and highlights separately. When you first open the Adjust Panel, you'll see the Histogram graph at the top of the panel. Under the curves, you'll see three chevrons that can be clicked on and dragged -- one for the dark tones, one for the light tones and a third for the middle tones. The critical addition of the middle tone is an feature added to iPhoto 08. This is just the adjustment tool needed to improve the large percentage of all amatuer photos as it is the place in the photo editing spectrum where skin tones reside and our eye seeks brightness and clarity.

Further down the Adjust Panel you will see slider bars for shadow and highlight values. This enhancement also gives you greater control of the values in areas of your photo image that shapshots with consumer cameras so often get wrong. As a photo editor for amateurs and quality-minded non-professionals, Apple's implementation of the cropping tool but adding a thirds grid and their insightful addition of the straighten tool goes to the heart of what most poor photo images suffer from and how to fix them. The Straighten tool has now been removed from the adjust panel to make room for more color correction fine tunning and has its own icon in the iPhoto icon bar.

Another great feature of the Adjust Panel is that once you open the panel and make all the adjustments to make your photo image look great, you can then click on the COPY button in the bottom right. This action copies all the adjustments you made since you first opened the panel. You can then close this window, go the the next photo you took during the event or in that same color space and click on PASTE and all the adjustments made to the previous image will be applied to this one also. This adds considerable ease to correcting a group of photos you took in a similar color space or location and it is so easy. All applications should be this smart!

And what few people realize when they start to color correct is most color correction is necessary to compensate for the bias of a camera or the particular color temperature or balance of the lights the photographer is shooting under. Once you have corrected one photo, you can easily apply the same settings to others you've shot. Color matching between images is the key to making a decent slideshow, presenting a group of pictures on the web or printing a series of photos, whether it be a journalistic essay or wedding photos. In iPhoto 08, Apple has made this simple. All applications should be this intuitive in watching your actions and recalling them with just one push of a button.

Friends I know who could no longer afford to buy Adobe's expensive applications had resorted to buy shareware programs that emulated and sometimes bettered Photoshop with a limited pallet of standard features. More power to them and certainly Adobe needs to learn the lesson that if they gauge their users they will loose them to competitors.

But the problem remained, using a different software application for editing and enhancing your images can be clumsey and slow. Having one application with all the tools and features to get you to your final destination is the BEST strategy.

Now that iPhoto has arrived I think you'll find yourself relying less on interapplication switching and that you can get all your desired results in iPhoto.

I can hear the critics complaining already that you do not have layers, masks, blur or lighting filters, etc. But I venture to say 90% of the users don't need these tools. If you asked yourself, "When was the last time I used layers or masks?" and cannot remember that time than iPhoto 08 is the tool for you.

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