Shortly after you press the shutter release button, that very moment is stored as a picture on the camera. However, the subsequent optimization process on the PC is very time consuming. With the provision of the one-click1 auto-correct feature in most imaging programs, it takes just a few seconds to get optimal results. Professionals ignore the auto-correct button because it doesn’t deliver results that are perfect on all counts. They swear by manual optimization which offers fine grain control over various image parameters. No doubt it’s very time consuming but the results are to their heart’s content. But how do single-click optimizations actually look? CHIP put 17 imaging programs through a battery of test to evaluate the trustworthiness of the auto mode. The tests included classic problems such as color cast, overexposure and noise. To be on the safe side while selecting your imaging program, you must make sure that it offers manual optimization in addition to the automatic mode. Thus you can use the auto-correct feature as reference.

1. Increase contrast
If pictures appear pale and lifeless, it is because shades of grey dominate the subjects instead of natural skin tones and vibrant colors. The trick is to set the accurate contrast and colorrange without losing details while doing so. After correcting the contrast, the test image looked almost perfect in Zoner Photo Studio. We were impressed by the slightly increased dynamic range due to which the image appeared well-balanced. Picasa also performed well, the picture looked good but overall it was a bit too dark. On the other hand, the results of PhotoLine and PhotoFiltre Portable weren’t up to the mark. The black levels were very high and as a result the lighter shades were suppressed.

2. Overexposure correction
Digital cameras perform best in good lighting conditions or bright sunlight. However, if the aperture is larger than what’s required for optimal exposure, you will get overexposed images that lack depth and contrast. Here, the auto-correct function in Adobe Photoshop Elements worked best. The program emphasized the colors and optimized the skin tones very well. Even Corel’s PhotoImpact impressed us with similar result, but the colors were excessively loud which spoiled the overall picture. Windows Live Photo Gallery failed completely; Instead of correcting the overexposure, the colors became lighter than before. Those who use this native tool of Windows for optimizing images should be very careful because by default it overwrites the original fi le without any warning.