When I return from a photo-shooting I usually find myself with a giant pile of digital pictures to populate the harddisk. So the first step will obviously be to view the pictures and throw away the odds. If you want nothing but the best you’ll use Photoshop to fine-tune the data next. But I can hear them customers ask „Can we have them all to make our selection… we need them by tomorrow morning…“ Don’t want to spend the whole night on that? Well, me neither, so there must be solutions out there in the software-universe for automatic picture optimization, even if it’s just „quick & dirty“.
I found a few and gave them a try. But again, for those who always reads the last page first: It is indeed almost impossible to beat the manual optimization process as long as quality is concerned. But yes, those automatic tools work faster, though not lightning fast. The difference amongst them is very hard to spot.
The following applications have been tested with several different pictures:
- Image Editor by Colour Science (PC only; 55–600 €)
- FixFoto by Joachim Koopmann Software (PC only; 30–208 €)
- PhotoPerfect by Binusoft (Mac & PC; 35 €)
- Intellihance Pro by onOne Software (Mac & PC; 160 $)
- Xe847 ProPlus Plug-in by Digital Arts GmbH (Mac & PC; 39–120 €)
- DxO Optics Pro by DxO Labs (Mac & PC; 64–250 €)
As mentioned above, I used different images to test the software-candidates. To get a good overview I chose typical scenes & lighting situations as sunlight, dawn or available light, indoor with fill-in-flash and studio. These also represent the separate posts I will split my test into. First, let’s take a look at what the applications provide us with (and I don’t mean automatic image optimization – that’s for granted). Some are stand-alone-applications, some work as plug-ins within Photoshop but what really interested me at first was the ability to batch-optimize my pictures.
Additionally I was curious about wether I can manually change the optimization parameters and if there are more add-on-features like resizing the images or adding watermarks. I have to admit that I didn’t read all those manuals and tutorials but simply installed and tested with the default settings. Probably I missed some features by doing so, but, well… Let me start with the Image Editor. It presents itself in that typical Windows-style that somehow looks a bit old-fashioned & „technical“ (That’s one reason why I don’t like Windows – nothing really has changed since 1995 and no-one gives a damn on cool, modern, user-friendly GUIs).
Image Editor comes with a batch feature and also sports a wide range of manual settings that can be changed easily. It also has a feature for converting images to black&white. It is said this software somehow marks the industry standard for automatic optimization. It seems like newspapers, publishers and even photo-agencies use this software.
FixFoto is another Windows-only-application on which I could repeat my appraisal about the Interface. It looks quite confusing and irritating with all those buttons. It was hard to find the one for the automatic optimizing routines and then – what a surprise! FixFoto comes with 3 different plug-ins you can choose from: The „Perfectly Clear“ plug-in from Athentech Technology, the „i2e“ routine from Colour science which also powers Image Editor and last, not least „Xe847“, a plug-in I tested separatly. You have to purchase those plug-ins additionally to the FotoFix-software. As „i2e“ and Xe847″ were tested with other applications, I only ran the „Perfectly Clear“ plug-in with FixFoto.
The application is capable of batch-prozessing, manual override is reduced to what the plug-in offers, but there are a lot of other things you can do to your photos with FixFoto. The first native Mac-app I used in this test was PhotoPerfect. It is a stand-alone application with a simple interface and some basic settings.
Batch prozessing is easy and you can resize or convert the photos to black&white as well, but I haven’t found any hints of manual correction. With this software it is in fact a bit nagging that it always outputs pictures in sRGB colors. That is useful for the web, but nothing more.
Intellihance Pro is quite a monstrous Photoshop plugin with almost too many settings to choose from. Lucky, who finds the „quick enhance“ button. It comes with a split-screen-view, manual correction possibilities and a lot more features, but it lacks the ability to batch-optimize.
Another plug-in for Photoshop is Xe847. Later I found out it is also available as a stand-alone-app. The interface looks quite tiny and isn’t resizable nor can you „press“ the OK-button by hitting the enter-key on your keyboard. It only optimizes photos, nothing else. The plug-in isn’t batch-aware, but I don’t know if the stand-alone-version sports this feature. You can, however, manually adjust the corrections.
The last in this row is DxO Optics Pro. It can save you from a lot of work as it optimizes not only colors and contrast, but also takes care of noise and distortions caused by the lens. It can do batch-optimizations, ships with a lot of other features and you can manually override the settings. By default it converts all pictures into sRGB which I find a bit uncomfortable. But let me warn you: It takes a lot of time and telephony to set this software up and running as DxO Labs protect this piece of code like hell. You’ll need serial numbers, activation codes, you computer’s id and eventually your certificate of birth. And still you can’t be sure the software runs after installing the next update.
Let me conclude this first chapter of the challange of automatic image optimization. I found it handy to have the application batch-optimize pictures for me. As well, having the opportunity to manually override the automatic process and finding additional features is quite appreciable. Giving one point for each of this, the first – rough – hitlist for the tested software looks like this:
- Image Editor: 3
- FixFoto: 3
- PhotoPerfect: 2
- Intellihance Pro: 2
- Xe847 ProPlus Plug-in: 1
- DxO Optics Pro: 3