Photo Enhancing with PSP
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Paintshop Pro has a mass of useful features for enhancing photos. The features I will be dealing with are available in Paintshop Pro X4, the current version at the time of writing this. However they have been available in earlier versions. One very effective tool is the "Local Tone Mapping" adjustment. This really peps up a photo. The automatic adjustment feature in PSP X4 are very effective, and most of the time are all one needs to use to get a good result from a rather sad looking photo.

Right let's get started...........

1. Load in your photo.

You can do this by clicking on a photo in Windows Explorer. If you have set PSP to open jpg, tif, bmp and other formats, then PSP will open automatically with the program in edit mode. Obviously you can open a photo file using the "Open" option in the file menu, or drag it into the editor window from the organiser tab. When PSP X3 or X4 are started from the start menu, they open in "Organiser" or "Manage" mode. Opening a photo in the organiser and then going to the "Edit" tab opens the photo in edit mode. There is an "Adjustment" mode, but we will skip over that, as it is more basic. The full editor is not scary !

Tip. Once you have opened your photo in the "Edit" mode, I recommend going to the "Adjust" menu and selecting "One step noise removal" This will make the photo very slightly blurry, but will remove any of those multi-coloured pixels that creat noise, which are especially noticeable in the sky areas. If these were left, they may not be noticeable at the start, but adding enhancements not only enhances the photo, but any noise as well. The digital noise removal feature can also be used, and can be adjusted to suit your particular photo.

2. Using Smart Photo Fix... From the "Adjust" menu.

Here's our sample photo. Winter is not a particularly good time to take photos, it's often gloomy and lacking in colour and drama. This particular photo came out very dark and although it has some contrast, blue sky and snow, it is still very plain "flat", and dare I say, boring !
Clicking on "Smart Photo Fix..." brings up this window. If it is smaller than this and missing some items, then click on "preview" at the top lefthand side of the window, this will show the 2 small preview panes, and also click on the Advanced options box to add a tick there. Tick off the preview on image box at the top righthand side too.

You will see that as soon as Smart Photo Fix opened, it automatically adjusted your photo, for lightness, contrast, colour and sharpness. This may be all you need. Our photo came out as shown below.
As can be seen, the photo is a lot brighter, the snow has changed in some areas where it has become slightly yellowish. In comparison this is quite acceptable, a great improvement on the original photo. I also used further adjustment, by putting a tick in the "Colour Balance" box. By moving my cursor over the left preview pane, the cursor changes to an "eyedrooper" and I then find a black area, thae blackest possile, and click. I do the same again, but this time finding a middle grey area, and finally do it again by defining a white area. Doing this often makes a slight difference to the final effact on the photo. Firther adjustments to the Shadows and Highlights can also be helpful, but I didn't bother with them in this case.
And now for my favourite feature !

3. The Local Tone Mapping Tool. ("Clarify" in PSP X2)

This tool can create some very dramatic effects. I have to try to stop myself going beserk and setting it high, because it can easily make things look just too good to be true ! To find the Local Tone Mapping tool, go to the "Adjust" menu, find "Brightness and Contrast" and in that menu, you will find it. There are only two settings, Strength of the effect, and something called block size. I usually keep the strength relatively low at approx 10 and the block size as small as possible at 8 or maybe 10. In PSP versions X2 and X3 it there was no block size option, and the strength only went up to 20. In PSP X4 the strength goes up to 100%. The photo on the right shows the previous photo after the addition of Local Tone Mapping to the Smart Fix. Note how more pronounced the clouds are, and how more defined the lumps of snow have become, even the panelling of the door on the building is more noticable ! A little bit more tone mapping effect and the clouds become quite dramatic.
4. Level Adjustment.

The levels tool is found by opening the "Adjust" menu, then the "Brightness and Contrast" menu it is a bit further down than Local Tone Mapping.
I finally treated this photo to a tour in the levels editor. This is a more advanced feature of a photo editor, and can be a bit daunting when first poking around in there. When the Levels window opens, it normally does an automatic adjustment, if one isn't satisfied with the result, one can then go in and manually adjust the different colours. The best way to learn all the different effects and adjsutments it can have on a photo is to experiment on a copy of a bad photo. It is possible to adjust red, green and blue tones individually or together. It is a brilliant tool to manually tweak a photo that is terribly red or very blue, as is often the case with old colour photos that have been taken on film. Anyway the result of putting my photo through the automatic level adjustment can be seen below, on the left. It can be seen that the trees now stand out more and have a slight tinge of colour. There is a little more contrast and brightness too !
What a difference when compared to the original photo on the right.
Below, is another example of the use of the Local Tone Mapping and the "Fill Light / Clarity"  adjustment filters. The original photo on the left was taken with a Minolta Dimage A2 camera. While it has captured the very dark stormy sky the sheets of rain falling and the rays of sunshine, the brightness of the sun has caused the foreground to turn dark. To correct this, I first used the "One Step Noise Removal", then I went to the "Brightness and Contrast" item in the Adjust menu, and found the Fill light and Clarity filter. Using this I managed to regain the foreground detail, after which I used the Local Tone Mapping filter to give an extra dimension to the photo. This lightened the very black clouds slightly, but has certainly added  more structure to them. Even the ripples and reflections on the water have been enhanced !