Auto Adjustments; Always, Never, Occasionally?

by Ellen Anon

Every software program that I’m familiar with includes some automatic adjustments, and without fail, until recently, I’ve been opposed to using them. The reason is that any auto adjustment is a software engineer’s best guess of what adjustments usually work for most images with similar characteristics. I prefer to make adjustments that are image specific. I do use batch processing via the Lift and Stamp tool when images have been shot under similar lighting conditions. But even when taking advantage of the Lift and Stamp tools, I often tweak the adjustments for individual images. So until recently I could accurately claim to never use auto adjustments. But you’ve heard the old adage, “Never say never!”

Not long ago I was experimenting with some underwater photography. I’m new to this type photography and left my camera set on Auto White balance. (OK, some of you are saying, “See, you do use auto adjustments,” and perhaps you’re right. But that’s an in camera setting not a software setting.) As is often the case with underwater shots, there was a strong cyan/blue cast to the images. I tried adjusting the Temperature slider in Aperture but that wasn’t enough and there isn’t a red/cyan white balance slider. I also tried increasing the red saturation and decreasing the cyan saturation, which improved the image somewhat, but the cyan cast was still present. Out of curiosity ( I clicked the Auto Levels buttons that are under the histogram in the Adjustment HUD. And to my surprise the colorcast was gone!


Mihalis Tsoukalos
2007-12-12 03:29:40
I do not use auto adjustments. I usually process my RAW photos using DxO Optics Pro and then import them to Aperture and make other corrections.
2007-12-12 05:03:37
At the begining, I used them a lot ! But for 1 year now, I do all the adjustments manually.
Now, when I come back to my old photos, it is very clear that the auto adjustments are not very good or that I am getting better ;-)

2007-12-12 07:36:21
I use them all the time, I've found the auto-luminosity (not auto levels which tweaks colors) quite useful. It usually gets the levels right or close and then I can tweak as needed. They don't work on every image, though, but if you have a fairly full histogram they tend to work well, at least as a quick way to get you in the ballpark.

I'm always skeptical of people who won't use auto adjustments just because they're automatic, as if the workings of the tool are somehow magic.

random bob, a.r.c.
2007-12-12 09:02:44
I NEVER use the RGB auto levels, because as you point out it introduces too much clipping. Going back through each channel individually is a real b!tch, and then you're not sure if you are where you want to be as you're adjusting each channel individually, as it really affects the overall image....

the luminosity one? Occasionally. But more rare anymore.

2007-12-13 12:22:51
Check out the Apple video entitled "Aperture 1.5: A Typical Adjustment Workflow" on the new Aperture support page:
Ben Rosengart
2007-12-13 21:54:56
Frequently. I don't see why the computer in my camera should be trusted over the computer on my desk. I figure the one in the camera is more likely to make compromises for lack of memory and processing power.

I often compare what came out of the camera to the automatic-everything version, and then decide on something in between, in brightness or white balance or both.

2007-12-14 08:59:48
I've found that auto exposure doesn't work for me at all. it basically acts as the auto over-exposure button.

I've also found that auto-levels do a pretty good job. They usually get me heading in the right direction and from there I can just tweak adjustments manually to get a finished product.

2007-12-14 09:56:52
The clipping is user selectable. It will clip as much or as little as you want it to.