Cloudinary Blog

Automatic cloud-based image improvements and effects

Do you like to show your photos exactly as they were taken or do you usually tweak them a little to get that extra punch? What about applying artistic filters before sharing them with your friends and family? 
 
Just a few years ago, almost all photos were displayed and shared as-is. Image manipulations and improvements were left to the Photoshop experts. Then came the more user-friendly desktop apps, like Picasa, that allowed any user to easily improve their photos. A single click on the "I'm feeling lucky" button would instantly make a photo pop, and if the result wasn't satisfactory, you could have always played with the intuitive image adjustment controls.
 
With the rising adoption of smartphone based cameras, we experienced an explosion of photo taking & sharing mobile apps such as Instagram. With a single touch, users can now enhance the colors of their photos, apply artistic filter effects that match their taste and mood, and add fancy looking frames. The photos such users share with the world are eye-catching, and with the right personal touch - look very professional. 
 
Even if you prefer your photos to be as realistic as possible and perfectly match the captured scenes, you'll probably agree that the more amateur photographers amongst us can greatly benefit from gentle photo retouches, colors and lighting fixes. After all, people neglect to pay attention to their camera’s white balance settings, and not all cameras can perform equally well on different lighting situations.
 
In the comfort of your own home, you can manually retouch your images one by one. But how does this scale to your website or mobile app? When you have many visitors uploading their photos to your online service, how can you retouch these automatically?
 
In this blog post we wanted to introduce Cloudinary's image improvement filters and effects. With these new capabilities, you can now embed better looking images in your websites and mobile apps with ease. You can even mix and match multiple improvement filters together to create cool, "artistic" results.
 

A fully automated image improvement filter 

Take a look at left-most image below. This image was uploaded to Cloudinary, and doesn't look optimal. Applying Cloudinary's new cloud-based 'improve' effect (e_improve for URLs) will make it look much better, don't you think?
 
 
                         
 
     
The following Ruby on Rails code generates a transformation URL with the same 'improve' effect:
<%= cl_image_tag("orly.jpg", :crop => :scale, :width => 200, :effect => :improve) %>
Here's another example of the powerful impact of the 'improve' effect:
 
 
     
 
 
You can simply set the 'effect' parameter to 'improve' and most images and thumbnails on your website would automatically look much better. Here's a PHP code for reaching the same result.
<?php echo cl_image_tag("gray_mountain.jpg",
     array("width" => 300, "crop" => "scale", "effect" => "improve")); ?>
 

Automatic color, brightness and contrast balancing

The 'improve' effect gives you a powerful improvement filter. Occasionally though, you may want to fine-tune your image tweaking. To do that, Cloudinary offers granular filters you can use individually or combined, to create customized effects.
 
Automatic contrast balancing is available by setting the 'effect' parameter to 'auto_contrast' (or e_auto_contrast for URLs). The following example shows the uploaded image before and after contrast balancing.
 
 
     
 
Two additional effects are automatic color balancing and brightness balancing. You can apply them by setting the 'effect' parameter to 'auto_color' or 'auto_brightness' (e_auto_color or e_auto_brightness for URLs).
 
The following example shows the impact of applying both 'auto_color' and 'auto_brightness' on an uploaded image:
 
 
     
Same example in Django:
cloudinary.CloudinaryImage("nice_beach.jpg").image(transformation = 
  [dict(width=300, crop="scale"), dict(effect="auto_color"), 
   dict(effect="auto_brightness")])
 

Fill light strengthening 

Brightness level adjustment is very useful to fix dark images. However, on certain scenarios, you might encounter images that have both bright and dark sections. In this case simply increasing the brightness might overexpose the brighter areas of the image.
 
The new fill-light effect can be used to fix this exact scenario. The following example increases the fill light by setting the 'effect' parameter to 'fill_light' (e_fill_light for URLs).
 
 
     
   
Same example in .NET:
cloudinary.Api.UrlImgUp.Transform(
  new CloudinaryDotNet.Transformation().Width(300).Crop("scale").Effect("fill_light")).
    BuildImageTag("street.jpg");

"Artistic" filters 

Cloudinary's set of automatic image improvement filters, together with its custom filters and effects, allows you to easily generate 'cool' chained effects that should match your taste and graphic requirements.
 
The following example applies multiple transformations to reach a unique, custom filter. It applies the auto improve effect, increases sharpness level, reduces the red levels and increases the blues. It also increases brightness, adds a gradient fade effect, rounds the image’s corners and adds a wide border. All done via a simple URL. Isn't that cool?
 
 
                        
   
If you don't want to embed such long URLs in your website, you can always define a named transformation instead. For example, we defined a transformation named 'sample_artistic' that applies all the above effects. Simply add t_simple_artitistic your code and all images will be automatically modified accordingly. Here's a much shorter URL that generates the same result:
 
 
You can also use Cloudinary's overlays, underlays, opacity changes and text layers to dynamically and automatically create cool results, like the one below, for any uploaded image:
 
 
 
 

Summary 

Do you work on a site or app that allows you or your users to upload images? Using Cloudinary and a tiny transformation URL change, you can have your site's images look much more vibrant and professional and make your visitors happier.
 
You can always use Cloudinary's face detection based cropping to focus on the relevant parts of the photo. Now you can also improve your images, make them look more vivid and balanced. With Cloudinary you can also easily change your mind and modify the default filters being applied. With just one more change to your URLs and all your images will be dynamically recreated for you with the updated filters, delivered optimized through a fast CDN.
 
If you don't have a Cloudinary account yet, you can sign up now for free.

Recent Blog Posts

Responsive Images Guide, Part 1: What does it mean for an image to be “responsive”?

“Responsive.” Where did that term come from, anyways?

In his sea-changing essay, Responsive Web Design, Ethan Marcotte explained:

Recently, an emergent discipline called “responsive architecture” has begun asking how physical spaces can respond to the presence of people passing through them. Through a combination of embedded robotics and tensile materials, architects are experimenting with art installations and wall structures that bend, flex, and expand as crowds approach them. … rather than creating immutable, unchanging spaces … inhabitant and structure can—and should—mutually influence each other.

Read more
Automatically deliver the best image format to the browser

One of the main optimization challenges for website and mobile developers is how to display sufficiently high quality images to their visitors while minimizing the image file size. A smaller image file size can lead to faster load times, reduced bandwidth costs and an improved user experience. The problem is that reducing the file size too much may lead to a lower image quality and could harm visitor satisfaction. Delivering an optimized image with just the right balance between size and quality can be quite tricky.

Read more
Three different ways to do progressive JPEG encoding

There are two different kinds of JPEG images: progressive JPEGs and non-progressive JPEGs. These categories have nothing to do with the JPEGs’ political beliefs. They’re all about the order in which they’ve been encoded.

Read more