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Working with Auto Smart Tone

From Photoshop Elements 12, the Auto Smart Tone feature provides a new, highly intuitive way to make the most of your photos with just a few clicks. Even if you begin with no clear idea of what adjustments an image needs, the Auto Smart Tone dialog box provides visual clues and simple controls that make the process easy.

Called “smart” for a good reason, the Auto Smart Tone feature uses “intelligent” algorithms to analyze and correct an image automatically—and then actually learns from whatever adjustments you make.

Auto Smart Tone begins by comparing your image to a database drawn from hundreds of images of all types; then references information about how those images were corrected by different photographic professionals in order to calculate an automatic adjustment that is uniquely suited to the particular photo you’re editing. Auto Smart Tone adjustments combine corrections to different aspects of both tone and color, depending on the deficiencies of the image at hand.

  1. In the Organizer, isolate the photos for this lesson, if necessary, by clicking the Lesson 4 folder in the list at the left, or the white arrow beside the Lesson 04 tag in the Tags panel. Select the un-edited images DSC_0006.jpg, DSC_0212.jpg, DSC_0378.jpg, and DSCN0532.jpg; then, click the Editor button in the Task bar.

  2. In the Editor, click Expert in the mode picker at the top of the workspace to switch to Expert edit mode; then bring the image DSC_0378.jpg to the front by clicking its name tab at the top of the Edit window. Choose Auto Smart Tone from the Enhance menu to open the Auto Smart Tone dialog box.


    Click to view larger image

    The Auto Smart Tone dialog box opens with the automatic adjustment pre-applied. In the center is a “joystick” control that can be dragged in any direction: a preview in each corner shows what to expect from dragging in that direction. For this photo, the upper left preview is dark, low-contrast, and saturated; the thumbnail at the lower left is also dark, but has more contrast and less saturated color. At the right, the upper preview is brighter, with more neutral colors; the lower is even brighter, with more contrast.

  3. Toggle the Before / After switch at the lower left of the dialog box to see the photo with and without the pre-applied automatic adjustment.
  4. Click the upper-right preview—the closest to a technically balanced solution; the joystick control moves to the limit of its range in that direction. Click and hold the control; a reference grid appears. Drag the control downwards by two grid divisions to increase saturation, and one square left to deepen the shadows. As you drag, the display defaults to the After view to reflect your changes.

  5. Click OK, and then repeat the process from step 2 for each of the other three open images. If you’re unsure, drag the joystick left to right and top to bottom to become accustomed to the effects; then, refer to the illustrations below as a rough guide. Start from the points indicated, and then season to taste. Leave the last photo open in the Auto Smart Tone dialog box and read on.

    As you tweak the automatic adjustment, Auto Smart Tone learns from your actions. Each time you use the feature, your adjustments are recorded, and then taken into consideration when Smart Tone is calculating a solution for the next photo. Over time, Auto Smart Tone remembers whether you tend to favor a high-contrast, color-saturated look or dreamy, high-key treatments and begins to tailor it’s automatic adjustments accordingly for similar images.

  6. Click the small menu icon (small_menu_icon.jpg) at the lower left of the Auto Smart Tone dialog box to see the options available. For now, leave both options activated. Click OK to confirm your adjustment and return to the Editor.


    If you feel that Auto Smart Tone may be picking up your beginner’s bad habits, you can reset the learning feature on the General tab in Preferences.

  7. For each of the four images, choose Save As; then add the suffix _SmartTone to the filename and save a JPEG file to your work folder, to be included in the Organizer, but not in a Version Set. When you’re done, choose File > Close All.
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