Jade: No Hassle, Digital Image Correction for Leopard

Jade, a different sort of digital image processing utility, doesn’t do anything you can’t achieve using tools and filters in Photoshop, Pixelmator, or other image editors, but it can transform your less-than-perfect shots (dark, dim, feeble, pale, badly lit, vague, gloomy) into images you can be proud of with minimal effort.

Jade leverages advanced graphics algorithms to enhance color, contrast and dynamic range with no user adjustment required for individual shots or batch lots, and also provides manual control to fine-tune intensity values, image contrast and color correction values if desired. I found this seldom necessary. Jade delivers a pleasing result by default almost every time, amazing me by how it can take shots I’ve expended serious time tweaking with Photoshop Elements’ or Pixelmator’s formidable arsenals of image correction tools, and improve them even more almost instantly. Jade is a staff pick on Apple’s download website with good reason.

Jade version 1.3.1, released late last month, adds Picasa Web Albums upload support, keychain support to remember Flickr and Picasa login data, and an updated Picasa/Flickr batch save process, plus extensive fixes in the Help files and some renamed menus. An Apple Aperture Plugin that uses the same algorithms and correction parameters as Jade is also available.

Jade’s interface window has two panes; one a size-adjustable (slider) thumbnail gallery of available images that can be positioned left or right, and the image display panel where you preview originals and the filtered results.

To activate the correction/enhancement filter, click on the Jade Enhanced Icon on the toolbar or select the Enhance command in the Image Menu. Once an image is selected from the thumbnails or dragged into the window or to Jade’s Dock icon, the enhancement filter starts processing the image. Jade does its thing so quickly you won’t spend much time viewing the unprocessed image. You can click on enhanced photos to temporarily revert to the unprocessed image for comparison (Jade unfortunately doesn’t display before and after side-by-side comparisons).
Here’s a sampling of what Jade can do with a single click compared with a couple of full-featured image editors. The original image as it came from the camera isn’t really bad, but a bit dull with little detail visible in the dark areas.

Below is the result with Photoshop Elements 6’s “Smart Fix” command. There’s more snap to the image, and the grass color is more pleasing, but the blues have taken on an aqua tinge.

Pixelmator’s “Enhance” command produced this result. I like the sky color better than what PSE produced, but the cloud detail is a bit washed-out and the grass color isn’t as good although it’s got more detail.

And finally, here’s Jade’s default result. In my estimation the best sky and lake color, the best detail and color in dark areas, and the best grass for both detail and color of all.

Now here’s what Jade did with this underexposed, backlit shot.

For a different sort of example, here is a product shot, with the original at the top, Pixelmator exposure correction in the middle, and Jade’s automatic correction at the bottom.

Jade can batch-process and save many images in a single operation or filter and save all selected images in a folder, a capability that theoretically allows you to filter thousands of images sequentially with no intervention, but one that should be used with care.
I found Jade lively and responsive even on my old 1.33 GHz G4 PowerBook, so it must really fly on a MacIntel machine. Jade gives you an awful lot of almost effortless image correcting power priced at $30 for the Home version (functionally identical to the Pro version, but with a Pro registration key you can use Jade commercially). It’s not a comprehensive image editor, but I figure that about 90 percent of the time Jade will do the trick very satisfactorily for my purposes, and it can save a ton of time fiddling with images.