…or how the Adobe Super Resolution add-on works with smartphone photos
Photoshop has a new addition — Super Resolution. It helps to increase the clarity (detail) of photos. This is very useful if you need to crop a photo or print it in a large format.
Here’s an example of what you can get with the new ↓ extension.
When Adobe first introduced the Super Resolution feature, it helped to enlarge photos without losing quality. But it wasn’t clear if such magic extended to images taken with a phone.
In short, Adobe admits that it primarily optimized and developed Super Resolution to work with RAW files, but also “trained” it to work with already processed files, including those processed on smartphones, since by default phones always take pictures in JPEG or HEIC format (for iPhone).
Like cameras, smartphones have increased in megapixels over the years, and in some cases have been equipped with larger image sensors. But, if you need to do something more with a photo, sometimes problems arise. For example, a picture can be posted on Instagram and small displays will hide imperfections. However, when the photo needs to be printed, the flaws are revealed.
It’s all about the pixels
Eric Chang, Senior Research Fellow in Digital Imaging at Adobe, blogs about many of the technical details of how Super Resolution technology works.
“We’ve trained the program to work with a lot of images coming from sensors of different sizes, so they deal with really small pixels that you can find in a regular smartphone,” Chan says.
“However, if you apply Super Resolution to a high-quality DSLR file and then to a smartphone image, both will improve, but don’t expect the improvements to be the same. It all depends on the quality of the source.
And there are a number of reasons for that. Smartphones are sometimes used aggressive noise reduction, in particular when it is very dark — the elements are smeared or softened. Then Adobe technology will not be able to restore the details, especially if the object in question has a texture. Clothing fabric may look more like plain than patterned fabric, even after additional resolution has been applied to it. The same can be said, for example, about the clouds in the night sky.
JPEG smartphones can also compress photos heavilymaking it difficult to find all the details in an image.
By the way, for a smartphone, even the JPEG format can be huge. The 1.2 MB test image turned into a giant 126 MB DNG after going through the Super Resolution process — that is, the file increased in size by 100 times!
RAW from a camera and from a phone are two different things.
Differences in the signal-to-noise ratio, plus the size of the pixels on the phone’s display are already force smartphones to take higher quality, higher resolution pictures. This makes it easier to work with JPEG and HEIC files.
According to Chan, while RAW images from the phone’s sensors won’t match the details of the camera images, they contain enough information:
— In 2019, we added the Enhanced Details feature [расширенные детали], which has optimized pixel-level detailing from RAW to RGB,” says Chan. — So when you apply Super Resolution to a RAW file, you get both functions in one stepand this is where most of the improvements in pixel-level resolution and quality take place.
Chan says that using Photoshop or other image-editing tools, whether it’s sharpening or edge enhancement, may not make much of a difference when applying Super Resolution afterwards.
“Any artifacts you might get from fiddling with the edges might just become more visible,” Chan says. — We continue to recommend: if you want the best result, start with RAW. It is clear that many people have images that they took in the past and which are preserved in the JPEG format. They can use Super Resolution for them too.
However, image pre-processing, such as with Lightroom, will not cause potential problems. Running Super Resolution on an image coming from Lightroom applies some resolution to the pixels in the original image, thereby copying and pasting changes — presets, clarity, color correction, temperature, etc. — over the resulting DNG file. Or you can first run the pristine original image through Super Resolution and add the resulting DNG file to Lightroom for editing. In any case, there is no difference in the output.
Comparison with SLR cameras
Josh Haftel, product manager at Adobe, says that high ISO often causes noise and artifacts that distort the image from the phone.
Night and low light modes try to fix this with bracketed HDR capture that lowers ISO values, but if the process also includes sharpening and noise reduction, it makes Super Resolution harder to work with.
However, results even for well-lit images can be subjective, especially if the highlights are washed out or the photo was taken with a poor-quality sensor. For example, images taken with an iPhone 5 in 2012 may produce different Super Resolution results than images taken with an iPhone 11 Pro in 2019.
To compensate for the low level of image quality, phone manufacturers have resorted to software optimization. They tried to improve the photo even before the user takes the picture by applying terms like “artificial intelligence” or “scene recognition” to it. It creates additional processing that may affect Super Resolution output.
Change in perception
The Adobe DNG format is widely used by smartphone manufacturers that offer shooting in RAW format.
Apple developed its own ProRAW format when it released the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. It means that the company has officially incorporated RAW into its own camera app. Previously, users required third-party applications to work with RAW.
Format won’t work with Apple portrait modebut will work with other features such as Night Mode, Deep Fusion, and Smart HDR.
If your Android has a professional or manual mode, chances are that RAW shooting is available. Therefore, if there is such an opportunity, then it is better to use it:
“If a photographer wants to do something amazing with a photo — print the photo and turn it into a gift or present it on a big TV screen — it’s worth getting serious about starting with the best,” says Haftel.
Super Resolution is a cool Photoshop extension. And this feature can really come in handy in life — have you ever printed a huge birthday banner?
Of course, there are certain nuances when working with photos taken on the phone. At a minimum, the format of such pictures is different from that of the camera, and this degrades the quality of the images. Although some phones have the ability to shoot in RAW format, it is still considered to be inferior to the RAW of a SLR camera.
But let’s face it: we already knew that the quality on a phone is worse than on a camera, right? Therefore, if you are familiar with Photoshop, then you should definitely get acquainted with the new addition. After all, your mom’s or grandma’s birthday is just around the corner!