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Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

My photos look fine to me. So why would I need something like ColorWasher?

Many people usually think that their photos look very good, even if they could look much better. When you let them compare the original photo with the same photo corrected by an expert or with ColorWasher, they are often amazed by the improvement in the corrected photo. So don't miss the opportunity to test ColorWasher on your photos. Don't you want to make your photos look their best?

 

I'm using the contrast/brightness and gamma correction tools in my graphics tool to correct photos, so why would I need to I use ColorWasher's Contrast and Exposure features?

Unfortunately many people use ordinary Brightness and Contrast sliders to correct their photos. Overdoing brightness adjustment results in a faded look, while too much contrast can cause a loss of detail and "burning" of the photo. Correcting photos with a brightness and contrast slider only makes sense if you have an interactive histogram view that helps to avoid a faded effect or lost details. But even with such an interactive histogram it means a lot of fiddling with the sliders or calculating the optimal brightness and contrast values.

Gamma correction, which is used in some applications (e.g. the middle slider of the Levels dialog in Photoshop) to correct the brightness of a photo, has some severe side effects, too. Especially or stronger adjustments it cuts off details in the shadows and lowers contrast dramatically. Additionally if their monitor isn't calibrated properly, people tend to overdo it with brightness and contrast.

ColorWasher saves you time and reduces the strain on our brain by automatically calculating the optimal contrast and brightness values. It also keeps you from fading, cutting off details or burning the image unintentionally. And even if your monitor isn't calibrated, you can achieve an optimal brightness and contrast if you keep Auto Contrast and Exposure Fix set to Normal in ColorWasher.

Last, but not least, ColorWasher's specially optimized Sensitivity, Highlight and Shadows features let you give your photos a professional touch by emphasizing dark or bright areas in the photo.

 

I use the ... software for correcting my photos and I'm quite satisfied with it. Does ColorWasher have advantages over similar tools?

When developing ColorWasher we compared it with a few dozens of other correction tools and found that no other tool matched ColorWasher's color correction accuracy. In fact, we developed ColorWasher because we hadn't been able to find a tool that would quickly and effectively correct the thousands of photos we have taken.

No other tool that we know of uses more than one algorithm for correcting the color of photos. ColorWasher on the other hand offers seven methods of color correction and automatically switches between three of them in Autodetect mode. ColorWasher is also the only tool that displays cast intensity values and interactive correction tips, so you always now how effective your current correction is and can try to make it better.

A few tools may have good contrast and brightness features, but they lack good color correction features, or vice versa. A lot of photo correction tools aren't really easy and intuitive to use, demand expert knowledge from the user or even seduce the user to worsen some photos. Last, but not least, tools that may be more or less comparable to ColorWasher are not available at such a low price as ColorWasher.

If you think you know of a tool that is better for correcting color casts, contrast and exposure, we'd like to hear about it.

 

Why does ColorWasher ask me to select a part of the scene that is supposed to be gray or white? From a photographer's perspective, I'm assuming this is to set the white point, or neutral point, of the color temperature of the image's light source or reflected light.

ColorWasher doesn't use the sample area to set the white point, neutral point or the color temperature. ColorWasher calculates the color cast that is present in an image by evaluating the gray variations. If the grays are slightly blue, it means that the image has a blue cast. If they are slightly green, it means that there is a green color cast.

So ColorWasher uses a gray reference color for doing the correction. It could theoretically offer different reference colors, e.g., some kind of blue for the sky, some kind of green for grass or some kind of brown/pink for skin. However, there are so many different green, blue or skin tones, e.g., some have more red in it, some more yellow, some are more saturated and so on. So ColorWasher would have to offer hundreds of reference colors for the user to choose. The side effect of this approach would be that the user would need a lot of time to select a certain reference color and may get confused with the different color tones. There are some tools that use this approach, but if you examine them closely, you will notice that they don't achieve quick and effective color correction results.

Of course, you can always choose a different reference color in ColorWasher. For example create a sample area over a piece of grass, select the Target color box and adjust it to a preferable green tone. You will notice that other colors in the image will almost always misbehave. For example, the skin tones often become unnatural if you don't tweak the green color perfectly. As you see again, this takes a lot of time and would demand much expertise from the user.

The advantage of a gray reference color is that there are no variations of gray. Gray is always gray, because gray has no saturation and no hue. Creating a sample area over a part of the photo that was white or neutral gray in the original scene is relatively easy, quickly done and produces great results with ColorWasher.

 

But what if the original image contained neither white or gray?

Then you have to use Color Washer's Auto buttons or the manual controls. ColorWasher's Auto features manage to correct at least 95% of all imaginable color casts. Of course, if a photo has more than one color cast in it, because different strong light sources were present in the original scene, the Auto buttons would probably not work in some cases. However, such tricky photos are uncommon. In such cases you will have to create different selections and process these image areas independantly in ColorWasher.

Another trick is to take a neutral gray card, a white paper or grab a friend with a white T-shirt and make it a part of the scene when shooting the photo. Then you will be able to use ColorWasher to remove a color cast with 100% perfection.

 

Can I avoid adding color casts to my photos in the first place?

Avoiding color casts on analog film is very difficult and requires a lot of skill. Analog Film is usually optimized for a special color temperature range which means that a certain film only produces nice colors with certain light sources or conditions. So you would need different film types and use the correct one for a certain light condition. Nevertheless it is less likely that you get color casts on film than when shooting digital.

For digital cameras it is easier to avoid color casts. If your digital camera has a manual white balance feature, please use it as often as possible, especially when the light conditions change. Unfortunately many cheaper models only have an automatic white balance which often produces color casts. But even using the manual white balance feature of more expensive digital cameras doesn't produce perfect results in several cases. Additionally users often forget to use the manual white balance, don't apply it correctly, don't have a white or gray item for performing the manual white balance or simply never heard of it. In addition to that, most digital photos are poorly exposed or have a low contrast. So there's often no way around post-processing photos with a tool like ColorWasher.

 

Why are there no presets for selecting the type of film being used - tungsten balanced or daylight balanced, brand name, etc.. ?

First of all, presets often contain only averaged or rough values. You can create such presets easily yourself by taking a photo that was taken with a certain film type and using a sample area to measure the color. Then you just need to save the preset with the Save Preset button.

However, I'm sure that you won't always achieve perfect results with this preset if you apply it to all photos that were taken with this film type. Nevertheless it will achieve good results for the photos taken under the same light conditions with the same film type.

ColorWasher doesn't work with color temperature internally. Converting between color temperature and RGB takes a lot of processor time. Moreover, the color temperature spectrum is quite restricted. It only contains a limited amount of colors and possesses only limited saturation and lightness values. So you can't do very accurate color corrections with it. That's probably a reason why some other color correction tools or the white balance features of digital cameras, which internally use color temperature, don't achieve perfect results.

ColorWasher offers the RGB, HSL, Lab and YCbCr color models which are more suitable for accurate color corrections. ColorWasher also includes an advanced Color Temperature feature that contains a saturation and brightness dimension.


Can I set the color temperature of the photo in ColorWasher?

ColorWasher allows you to set the Color Model combo box to Color Temperature. This displays a Color Temperature slider. The slider's edit box lets you enter color temperature values from 1000 to 9000 Kelvin. When you move the slider, you can see some descriptions of the selected color temperature. I tried to avoid tech terms, so e.g. "Bulb" and "Halogen" is the same as "Incandescent".

But please note that manually setting the color temperature doesn't always produce accurate results. ColorWasher's automatic and semi-automatic features usually create better and faster results and are easier to use.

 

Has there been any thought about ColorWasher reading the exposure information contained in a digital image?

We thought about it, but as the Photoshop SDK doesn't deliver the EXIF data to the plugins, we would have to create a standalone application for Color Washer to be able to use such information. Besides, I don't know if the exposure information would be of any real use. The same exposure data can mean that a photo is underexposed, correctly exposed or overexposed. Digital camera don't stores the color temperature in the EXIF header, so I don't see any real use for it in ColorWasher at the moment.

 

Do I need to calibrate my monitor for photo correction or to use ColorWasher?

If you don't want to use ColorWasher more flexibly and avoid using the default Auto Contrast and Exposure Fix settings all the time, you should calibrate the gamma of your system. If you want to flexibly adjust the colors with ColorWasher, you should also calibrate your monitor to display gray values in a color-neutral fashion. For more information about monitor calibration, please read the Monitor Calibration page in the ColorWasher manual.

If you don't want to mess with monitor calibration, you could also rely on the automatic and semi-automatic features of ColorWasher which work perfectly even if your monitor's gamma or colors are messed up. You just have to trust ColorWasher a bit more in this case.

 

Should I use the Plugin or Standalone version of ColorWasher?

If you mainly edit your images in an application, e.g. Photoshop, Elements or Paint Shop Pro, you should choose the Plugin version. For quick image processing without extensive editing, you could additionally use the Standalone version. If you do not have or use a plugin-compatible application, you should go for the Standalone version.

Here are some points that should help you find a decision:

Advantages of the ColorWasher standalone:
1. The standalone runs on its own. The plugin requires that you have a host application, e.g. Photoshop, installed.
2. The standalone starts up faster. Launching Photoshop (or another host applications) and running the plugin takes much longer.
3. The standalone lets you edit multiple images non-destructively and save the results in one pass with the Batch command. In Photoshop (or other host applications) you usually only work on a single image and need to exit and rerun the plugin for every new image. If you batch process images in Photoshop, you cannot go back and edit the effect of a previous image.
4. The standalone consumes less memory than Photoshop (or another host applications).

Advantages of the ColorWasher plugin:
1. You can open and save all image files that Photoshop (or another host application) supports.
2. You can use other features of the host application, e.g. layers and brushes, that the standalone does not offer.
3. The 64-bit plugin lets you use more than 3 GB of RAM. The standalone does not allow that at the moment.
4. The ColorWasher plugin is able to process images in Photoshop, even if the image size exceeds the RAM size. That is not possible with the standalone.

 

What is the difference between the Standalone and Lightroom version?

Essentially, the Standalone version is more flexible, but does not cooperate seamlessly with Adobe Lightroom. The Lightroom version is more convenient to use in connection with Adobe Lightroom. So the main point is whether you are using Lightroom or not.

If you use the Lightroom version, you need to select images in Adobe Lightroom before you run the ColorWasher Lightroom version. You also cannot change the image format or location where the images are saved. That is handled by Lightroom. The Standalone version on the other hand lets you open and save images from/to any location as you please. You can also close and open images any time without exiting.

It may take more time for the Lightroom version to start up, because Adobe Lightroom always converts RAW files to TIFF before it runs external editors like the ColorWasher Lightroom version. If you are editing TIFF or JPEG images in Lightroom, there is no start up delay. The Standalone version lets you open RAW files directly without any delay.

 

 

Still got questions ?