Editing Imagery?

07-13-2015 02:32 PM
Occasional Contributor II

What's the best way to alter the appearance of satellite/aerial imagery? Is ESRI or a 3rd party app like Photoshop better for simple modifications? Do you lose the image's spatial reference by editing it or applying a filter?


I have a 320 mb TIFF of an area about 8 square miles large. The image is pretty dark so I'd like to lighten it.


Thanks, Alex

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8 Replies
Frequent Contributor


You should be able to do this right in ArcGIS:

Contrast And Brightness function—Help | ArcGIS for Desktop

Here's info on the tool:

Using the Effects toolbar—Help | ArcGIS for Desktop

Note that this is just for display... You may not want to analyze your raster dataset after performing this function.

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MVP Esteemed Contributor

Hi Alex,

You might like to apply one of the appropriate stretch types in Raster layer Symbology in ArcMap.

Think Location
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MVP Esteemed Contributor

Beyond visualization and beautification of the imagery, the Spatial Analyst extension would be required for other functions to produce new images involving traditional remote sensing tools beyond those that are offered in the Image toolset.  SA's link is here (for 10.3, but the link applies to 10.2 as well)

What is image classification?—ArcGIS Help | ArcGIS for Desktop 

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Regular Contributor

All answers above with ArcMap are nice.

However, if you prefer Photoshop for color enhancement and keep spatial reference after done in PS, you can take the following actions:

If the world file (*TWF) not available with TIFF, pls create in ArcMap. When you export the images from ArcGIS, check the Write World File check box.  This will create a world file (*.TWF) with the same name as the output tiff. The world file stores the georeferencing information.  Always keep the twf file with the tiff.  IF you do not resize or crop the image in Photoshop, or change the data frame coordinate system, the tiff will be geoferenced.


In practice, many cartographers do in this way.

Honestly, still challenging for end image users to perform interactive & flexible raster operations for color enhancement in ArcMap, in particular, when working on adjacent images for beautiful mosaic (color enhanced and balanced one)...

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Occasional Contributor II

To do Larry's step, multiple things need to happen:

1) Be in Data View

2) Turn off all layers except imagery

3) Only have one data frame

4) Do "Export Map" and select "TIFF"

Only when these four criteria are satisfied will the "Write World File" checkbox show up and be available.

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Occasional Contributor II

Also, ArcMap will give you a different DPI than your original file has. I'm having to test out different DPIs to find the proper level of details. There may be an easier way to figure out the DPI of the source file, though.

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Occasional Contributor

You may also want to check out this video.  It walks you through the steps for using the interactive stretch and several other enhancement tools in the ArcMap image analysis window. 


Occasional Contributor II

If you do not want to edit the image, create a mosaic dataset then add the tiff. you can then make and apply a function to the image in your mosaic dataset that will allow you to alter the appearance without editing the tiff.

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