Tourists in the shade of the Colosseum, Rome, Italy, 2007.

Filter: custom with Split Tone.

Snapshot Enhancement

Although CameraBag 2 isn't a full-fledged photo editor, it does provide a number of tools for enhancing snapshots, and some of them are a bit unusual.

Since image enhancement isn't CB2's strong suit, I was surprised to find that some of my old and seriously-faded color images from 1960 perked right up with the simple application of CB2's Lolo style. I had fought to resurrect the colors in those images using more serious applications, but with CB2 I just needed to click that one style button. This is probably a case of "even a blind cat occasionally catches a mouse," but I couldn't help being impressed.

Added one month later: Maybe it's not just a "blind cat" that got lucky. For photos that have major problems that are in CB2's area of expertise — brightness, contrast, and color — I'm finding that CB2 can fix them up quickly and with great results. Check out these photo fixes and compare the simplicity and quality of the offered CB2 fixes to the offered Photoshop results: 1-serious underexposure 2-serious color problems. It seems that CB2's adjustment controls are unusually well-designed and well-implemented.

Notable Styles: Color

  • Wedding — the premier choice for relatively serious editing of color images. Wedding primarily pumps up the contrast and increases the saturation a bit, with the precise effect being controlled with the Remix slider.
  • Lolo — "pop in a box." Lolo significantly pumps up the contrast and saturation, and somewhat increases brightness. For color images that are dull or faded, Lolo often works magic. Lolo can cause some color shifts, especially toward the warm side at some Remix settings, but these aren't drastic and often are pleasing.

Both Wedding and Lolo will tend to blow out highlights. It's often worthwhile to stick a Brightness Adjust tool ahead of the Wedding or Lolo style, so that you can control the highlights by reducing the brightness. A Luminance Contrast tool probably would be superior to a Brightness tool, although a tiny bit more work. See the discussion about Luminance Curve and Luminance Contrast below.

There aren't any Favorites filters that stand out as being particularly valuable for serious enhancement of color photos. Pretty much all the color filters are trying to give some particular "look." The Toolkit filter is a convenience, letting you add Exposure, Contrast, Color Corrector, and Saturation tools with a single click.

Notable Styles: Monochrome

  • Mono — an obvious choice.
  • 1962 — high-contrast monochrome.
  • Italiano — heavily sepia-toned.

Monochrome conversions can also be done using Adjust tools:

  • Saturation tool set to 0.
  • Multi Tool with saturation set to 0.
  • RGB Swap tool with R=G=B for each input channel.
  • Split Tone tool with amount set to 100.
  • Dye tool with amount set to 100 and color set to white (255/255/255) or light gray.

It's often very useful to stick a Colorcross style ahead of the monochrome conversion. Adjusting the Colorcross gives effects similar to using color filters, and can help bring out contrasts in the monochrome image.

One reason that Colorcross is so effective is that all of CB2's normal monochrome conversions give little weight to the blue channel. The exception is the RGB Swap Adjust tool, which can be used as a conventional channel-mixer to give you precise control over the contributions from the three image channels. Details on RGB Swap are on page 6 of this review.

There are about twenty of the Favorites filters that provide monochrome conversions with different looks. There's little point in listing them all here.

Adjust Tools: Basics

CB2 separates its Adjust tools into five categories, and the first category is appropriately named Basics. It includes the following tools:

  • Crop/Straighten — straightening is limited to fifteen degrees (there are 90° rotations under the Edit menu). The crop tool user interface is quirky and takes some getting used to.
  • Exposure — a very useful tool. This is a gamma adjustment like the center-point slider in a conventional Levels tool. Blacks are left black, whites are left white, but levels in between are raised or lowered.
  • Contrast — what you'd expect, but with some extra control. CB2 pointedly doesn't restrict the range, so that a setting of 0 results in a blank gray image while a setting of 100 results in each channel (red, green, or blue) of each pixel being either 0 or maximum. CB2 also gives you a slider to select what the center value of the contrast expansion (or reduction) will be.
  • Saturation — what you'd expect, except that once again CB2 doesn't restrict the range, so that a setting of 100 results in a posterized image containing only red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta, black, and white at full brightness.
  • Multi Tool — combines exposure, contrast, and saturation into a single tool. The contrast adjustment has a fixed center value.

Don't overlook the Brightness Origin slider on the Contrast tool. It helps you deal with one of the fundamental restrictions of digital photos: there are maximum and minimum levels which can't be exceeded. When increasing contrast, if your highlights are being blown out but your shadows are still gray, go for a higher center point; if your shadows are being blocked to black but your highlights are still gray, go for a lower center point. Or if you go the opposite direction, you can use this slider to achieve a high-key or low-key effect.

You can create a Threshold effect by first converting the image to monochrome, then applying a Contrast tool with the Amount set to 100. Adjust the threshold level with the Brightness Origin slider.

Adjust Tools: Light

The Light category of Adjust tools includes:

  • RGB Curve — the classic Curve tool for brightness and contrast adjustment.
  • Luminance Curve — luminance-based alternative to the RGB Curve tool. See discussion below.
  • Luminance Contrast — luminance-based alternative to the Contrast tool. See discussion below.
  • Brightness — pushes the entire image toward black or white. Here again, CB2 pointedly doesn't restrict the range of the control, and setting it to 0 results in pure black while setting it to 100 results in pure white.
  • Shadows — darkens or lightens the shadow areas of the image. Doesn't affect pure black. No surprises here.
  • Highlights — darkens or lightens the highlight areas of the image. Doesn't affect pure white. The potency of this control is surprisingly restricted, given CB2's "no limits" philosophy on some of its other controls.

 ... about the Luminance Curve and Luminance Contrast tools ...

The everyday RGB Curve, Contrast, and Brightness tools aren't necessarily the best choice for color images. Those tools treat each channel (red, green, and blue) separately, which can result in changes in saturation and hue. Areas of increased contrast tend to have increased saturation, with some shift in hue toward the primary and secondary colors. Areas of reduced contrast tend to have reduced saturation, with some shift away from the primary and secondary colors, and perhaps some posterization.

The luminance-based tools treat each pixel as a whole, giving colors that are more true to the original. For everyday use, they're not likely to be your first choice. The resulting colors tend to be less spectacular because increased contrast doesn't give increased saturation. In other words, these tools don't give the same "pop." In particular: since white and black are necessarily desaturated, any pixels that are adjusted close to those extremes will not show much saturation. Some people might see a bit of bleach-bypass look in the result.

On the other hand, areas of reduced contrast tend to have much better and smoother coloration with the luminance-based tools. If you're reducing contrast, do give some consideration to using a luminance-based tool. For the same reason, if you're reducing brightness, you might want to try a Luminance Contrast tool with the Brightness Origin set to zero.

For untinted monochrome, these tools offer no advantage.

Adjust Tools: Photographic and Utility

The Photographic category mainly has tools for reducing the fidelity of the image:

  • Vignette — allows adding or correcting vignetting. The vignette can be light or dark, and the radius and the tapering of the effect can be adjusted. It's not critical at all, but Nevercenter recommends putting Vignette at the front of the filter chain for best results on most images.
  • Grain — allows adding a grain noise effect. You can select the size of the "grains" and the intensity of the effect. You can also reposition the grain field left and right, but I'm not clear on the value of that.
  • Discolor — adds a discoloration a bit like a light-leak, but larger and with more controls. Details on page 6 of this review.

The Utility category has only one tool:

  • Constrain Size — sets the maximum size of the output JPEG file. You can choose the height, the width, or the size of the longer side. This is mainly useful when batch-processing an entire folder; when you save an individual image, CB2 will always ask you what size you want it saved at so you don't need Constrain Size for that.

Notable Borders

Borders usually don't fit too well with a more serious look, but here are ones to consider:

  • Custom Straight — it's hard to go wrong with a simple border, especially a white one (example with a black border on page 7 of this review).
  • Paper — for 3:2 (4x6) images, with just a bit more character than Custom Straight (example on page 8 of this review).
  • Cut — for 4:3 images, gives the appearance of having a dark gray photo mount (example on page 3 of this review).
  • Insta 50 — for 4:3 images, gives the appearance of a transparency or a print from a transparency.
  • 47mm Square — for square images, gives the appearance of a transparency or a print from a transparency (example on page 4 of this review).