Written by T. Michael Testi
PhotoTune 2 is a product whose goal is to allow you to do color correction in Photoshop without having to learn complex controls. It is really two separate programs that target different methods of correcting color.
First there is ColorTune that uses a six step process to correct the color in your digital photos. Essentially what ColorTune does is present you with two images, side by side as shown below. You choose which one looks the best and then you select it and you move on to your next choice until you complete all six steps.
By using this six step process, it makes it very easy for anyone to use PhotoTune 2 and come out with better looking images without having to know a whole lot about Camera Raw and curves manipulation. It works kind of like an eye exam in which you are presented the images and you make adjustments (or you can use the default changes and just select the image that looks best) until one of them looks good to you. You select the image and then you move to your next correction. You work through tone, brightness, and color temperature until it looks right to you.
The next module of PhotoTune 2 is SkinTune which focuses on skin tones. The SkinTune portion works in a similar way except that when you open your image, you are asked to select a skin tone and a racial type, Caucasian, Asian, African, etc. Then you select a skin tone, and it auto corrects based on a bunch of calculations. See the second image below.
What is needed to run PhotoTune 2? On Mac you need OSX 10.4.8 or higher with either Power PC or Intel Processor. On Windows you need XP SP2 or later. And then you need Photoshop CS2, CS3, or Photoshop Elements 4 or later. 512 MB ram, 150 MB disk space, and Adobe Flash Player 9 for tutorial movies.
• Six Step Approach – takes the color wizard down from 13 steps to just 6 steps. It now takes less time to auto correct your images.
• User Control in the Color Wizard – now lets you set the amount of each change during each step in the 6 step process. You can now adjust the dynamic range, brightness, contrast, saturation, and the shadows and highlights.
• 16-bit compatibility – lets you open 16-bit images as well as 8-bit images. You can open your Raw camera images in Photoshop and color correct them using either the ColorTune or SkinTune modules within PhotoTune 2
• Improved Adjustment Algorithms – have been refined for better color results as well as 8-bit and 16-bit adjustments that share the same equations so results will match.
• More Snapshots – allows you to record up to 4 snapshots in the Fine-Tune Panel so that you can compare multiple versions of your digital Photos. There are additional snapshot management features as well.
• Support for Photoshop Selections – will allow you to target a color correction to only a specific area in your digital photo. You make a selection in Photoshop and then enter the PhotoTune 2 plug-in and any corrections will only be made to that selection.
I found that PhotoTune 2 is very easy to install and use. It gave surprisingly good results. The available resources via the help and the video tutorials make this easy to learn as well. I also liked the fact that you could go into Fine-Tune panel to take more control over your image correction
The one thing that I did not like was when I clicked on the Fine-Tune button from the six step approach, I was taken to the Fine-Tune panel but there was no way to go back without totally resetting. I assumed that clicking cancel would take me back and I was taken out of PhotoTune 2 and deposited back in Photoshop. I was not told my changes would be lost, I was just back there. I tried a number of times to see how to get out of the Fine-Tune panel, but found none short of restarting. This is not something that would prohibit me from buying PhotoTune 2, but it is something to be aware of and it can be really annoying.
Other than that I found that PhotoTune 2 works really well and gives quality results. It works with Layers, Actions, and Smart Objects. In my opinion you may still need to do some tweaking to the image, but I like the fact that they give you that control as well. I think that if you work with color correction; especially in mixed lighting situations, then PhotoTune 2 would be a good addition to your tool box.