Using Preview’s Enhanced Photo Editing Tools


For basic photo editing, if you’re running OS X 10.5 Leopard you don’t need Photoshop Elements or Pixelmator. Leopard’s Preview graphics viewer application is much more than a viewer; it now incorporates some very handy image correction tools that are not only user-friendly and intuitive to use, but also work really well.

Consequently, if you take digital photos or scan transparencies or prints onto your computer and want to optimize them, you may not need a traditional image editor application at all. Preview can do the job for you.

New Tools

Check out Preview’s new Tools Menu. If you’re familiar with the Tools Menu in OS 10.4 Tiger Preview, you’ll note that there are some new selections.

Now, say you’ve downloaded a photo from your camera, and you’re not quite happy with the exposure, color rendering, or other picture attributes. For example, here is a photo of a beach near my home. It’s straight out of the camera (an old, 3.2 megapixel unit) and is a bit underexposed, has a greenish tinge, and it isn’t as sharp as it probably should be.

So, open the image file in Preview and choose Adjust Color from the Tools Menu. A translucent black color and exposure adjustment palette will appear, with ten sliders that facilitate the adjustment of exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, temperature, tint, sepia, black level, white level, and sharpness.

Real Time Feedback

The adjustment sliders give you real time feedback, and I have found that they work beautifully. I love to play with all possibilities, and after my adjustment efforts, my beach photo now looked like this. It definitely has more brightness and pop and I like the color balance better. I was also able to make it sharper, although in cranking up the brightness I lost the cloud detail in the sky.

However, if you’re pressed for time, or are not quite sure what adjustment/correction effects you would like, just click the Auto Levels button and the program will make its best guess as to what the optimum values should be, automatically adjusting the sliders. You can still tweak individual qualities if you wish before saving the image. Here’s Preview Auto Levels’ best guess for my beach shot. I like my manual effort better, but it does retain the cloud detail.

Best All Around Tool For Simple Image Correction?

What both surprised and delighted me the first time I used it is how well this all works, and from one simple palette too. I’m not sure that this isn’t the all-round best tool I’ve ever used for this sort of image correction. It’s certainly the most convenient, and has added a great deal of value to the Leopard Preview application from my perspective.

But there’s more. Preview now has an image scaling and resizing tool as well, allowing you to conveniently and quickly change a photo’s resolution. Just select Adjust Size from the Tools Menu, and either manually enter the desired dimensions in the provided fields, or pull down the menu and choose one of the resolution selections provided. You can also change the resolution of your picture (number of pixels per inch) by setting it in the resolution box.

Of course, if you need to do more advanced correction such as red eye or spot removal, or retouching, you’ll still need an application like Photoshop Elements, Pixelmator, or iPhoto. But for basic exposure, color and sharpness correction, Preview is now a very quick, handy, and effective tool.



I keep checking to see if they have added an update for some very simple, yet necessary tools. Not yet. Only a few things needed for a much more usable program:

A Moveable, Selectable, Crop Function that could be Rotated degree-by-degeree as mentioned above by RockMeister & NG.

A Selection Tool that allows Copy AND Paste functions (for example, where you can copy a block/square of grass in one area, and paste it over some trash in another part of a lawn in the same photo).

A Pencil Tool that allows you to Select A Color from a Pallet OR directly from any part of the photo, and then Draw over the photo or document using your mouse.

Simple, and yet USEFULL. Basically, what I’m asking for is to add simple functions like you’d find in MS Paint to the Preview program. It would appeal to an enormous number of folks like me that HATE the complex, confusing, frustrating professional programs that take college courses to learn how to use. Hahaha


I’m most disappointed in Preview’s lack of a decent crop tool. When I try to crop an image, it should show the dimensions changing dynamically. Also, I should be able to enter a set of dimensions and be given a frame to place over the part of the image that I want to keep. I can’t imagine why Preview doesn’t have simple features like these.

mike sanders

I think this is great the palette looks the same as the one I paid $200 for in Aperture.


Great little piece. If there’s one thing that Preview’s photo editing could use it’s IPhoto’s ability to straighten an image using the similar palette to IPhoto.

Many times you need to quickly show off some shots and when the picture of a sunset over the lake has the water tilted ten degrees to starboard you wish you had a quick fix.

Maybe in the next version of Preview.

Comments are closed.