Software's Focus Magic is as close to magic as it
gets by helping minimize and sometimes eliminate blurred
photographs caused by camera or subject movement. As a
photographer who shoots too many images handheld at slow
shutter speeds, it has become an indispensable power tool.
Photos © 2004, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved
"Vitaque mancipio nulli
datur, omnibus usu."--Lucretius (96-55 B.C.)
I happen to think that the
process of making photographs extends beyond snapping a shutter. Manipulating
images has been a part of the photographic process since Julia Margaret
Cameron got her first camera, yet when computers are involved, it sets
the purists' "hair on fire." Recently, the appearance
of one of my motorcycle images on a photographic website generated these
"Once you change an image it ceases to be a photograph, even if
all you do is sharpen it." I thought that was strong until I read,
"Resorting to Photoshop tricks just means you're not a good
enough photographer to actually capture the image." Ouch, that
one hurt, but I especially enjoyed: "Let's say you take
a photograph and manipulate it in some software program. If the end
result is 50 percent photograph and 50 percent manipulation, you are
only half the photographer you think you are."
One photojournalism fan put it this way, "Putting anything new
in a photograph makes it an illustration. Taking objectionable items
out does not debase its basic photographic nature." So let me
get this straight: Removing a telephone pole is OK as, I assume, was
the 1970s Denver Post photo editor who airbrushed a prize bull's
photograph to hide its cojonés. I can tell you this; the bull's
owner was not amused. Then there was a comment that "Photoshopped
images are drawings, not photographs." After all these years of
not being able to draw stick figures, I can finally draw! Mom would
have been proud. Finally, there was this Rodney King-like statement
I sorta agree with, "Why don't we just call it all Art?"
Skin Softener is part of the Complete Edition of nik Color
Efex Pro 2.0 and lets you use a few simple sliders to smooth
skin tones affected, while areas such as eyes and lips remain
When my friend Michael got a new digital SLR, he e-mailed me saying that
most of his pictures were "out of focus." I asked, "What
are your shutter speeds? Are you sure you're not seeing camera movement?"
Hand holding cameras at slow shutter speeds is easier for some photographers
than others, and that's why a sturdy tripod is a useful accessory
when image sharpness is critical. Acclaim Software's (www.focusmagic.com)
Eric Schwerzel believes that 60 percent of blurred photographs are caused
by motion and developed a Photoshop compatible plug-in called Focus Magic
that reinstates as much of the original "in focus" image as
possible, allowing it to recover detail from photographs blurred by movement.
How does it work? The short answer is pretty good, but it's ultimately
dependent on how much camera movement there is. Focus Magic is not a miracle
worker, but it improves images for which there is otherwise no hope, which
earned it a place in my personal list of must-have plug-ins. A free trial
version can be downloaded from Acclaim's website and allows up to
10 images to be sharpened. Focus Magic costs $45 to register and is available
as a stand-alone Windows program and Photoshop compatible plug-in. A Mac
OS version is available as a package of two plug-ins, one for images blurred
by motion blur, the other for out-of-focus photographs.
latest nik Color Efex Pro plug-ins include a "Traditional"
filter called Classical Soft Focus that now offers three
different soft focus modes with two sliders instead of one
allowing you to maintain as much skin detail as you like
while smoothing and softening. Classical Soft Focus still
includes the basic Zeiss Softar-style soft focus but adds
modes that add warmth and glow, making it a good bet for
glamour images like this one.
I've seen Photoshop tutorials that purport to show you how to create
"perfectly smooth skin," but every one I've tried accomplished
this goal by obliterating detail and creating an unnatural look. Here
are some power tools that put you in control.
The nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 (www.nikmultimedia.com)
includes a new filter called Dynamic Skin Softener. First use the eyedropper
tool to select skin color; adjust the Color Reach slider to encompass
the range of skin tones affected; then move the Soften Strength slider
which lets areas such as eyes and lips remain sharp. Like all of the new
Color Efex Pro 2.0 filters, Dynamic Skin Softener includes multiple preview
windows allowing you to compare "before and after" images
in adjacent horizontal or vertical windows with individual zoom controls
for previewing image detail.
Previously my favorite nik Color Efex Pro filter for smoothing skin was
Classical Blur, which was a bit of a misnomer, because it was really a
soft focus filter in the mode of a Zeiss Softar camera filter. In Version
2.0, it's been reworked, expanded, and re-named as Classical Soft
Focus and now includes three different soft focus modes with two sliders
instead of one, allowing you to maintain as much skin detail as you like
while smoothing and softening. Which one of these two filters is best?
I like both, and choose between them based on the mood I'm trying
to produce. Dynamic Skin Softener is easier to use and produces realistic
effects for portraits, while Classical Soft Focus is a good bet for glamour
Media Creator 7 has a common user interface design and a
shared set of utilities for common tasks such as copying
discs, importing photos, capturing videos, making "labels"
as well as a utility for organizing, finding, and accessing
More Than Burning CDs
Easy Media Creator 7 combines photo, video, and music capabilities along
with CD/DVD burning in an integrated suite for Microsoft Windows. I don't
know about you, but whenever I burn CDs using Windows XP, I end up copying
lots of duplicate files that can't be opened; confusing my clients
and making me look like a dummy. (OK, maybe that part is easy.) Easy Media
Creator 7 includes an enhanced burning engine along with PhotoSuite 7
Platinum, VideoWave 7 Professional, and the newly reborn Napster. Consider
it the Windows version of Apple's iLife. All the programs have a
common user interface design and a shared set of utilities for common
tasks such as copying discs, importing photos, capturing videos, and making
labels, as well as utilities for organizing, finding, and accessing files.
Label Creator produces great-looking disc artwork and includes the ability
to print directly on CDs with supported printers. I especially liked StoryBoard;
it can create slide shows combining photographs and video clips with narration,
background music, and special effects. Its Motion Pictures feature adds
pans, zooms, and motion to still photos a la Ken Burns. Easy Media Creator
does all this for less than $100.
new Toast with Jam 6 includes all the capabilities of Toast
6 Titanium, but adds audio capabilities such as Dolby Digital
Hollywood-style encoding and decoding, the ability to record
36 hours of music onto a single DVD, and DJ-style mixing
Mac OS users should use Roxio's
new Toast with Jam 6. (I last wrote about Toast 6 Titanium in the December,
2003, Shutterbug.) It includes all the capabilities of Toast 6 Titanium,
such as ToastAnywhere, which enables sharing of CD or DVD burners across
a network; Plug & Burn that lets you create Video CDs or DVDs automatically
from DV camcorder content; and Motion Pictures that can add pan and zoom
effects to photographs. Toast with Jam 6 includes Dolby Digital Hollywood-style
encoding and decoding software that lets you squeeze more than two hours
of video on a DVD (that works in standard DVD players) while maintaining
audio fidelity and video quality.
DVD Music Album lets you record more than 36 hours of music onto a single
DVD. Jam 6 includes DJ-style mixing and mastering software that produces
mixes with smooth crossfades and BIAS Peak Express stereo editing software
to enhance and clean audio files and video soundtracks. Jam 6 can be purchased
as a stand-alone product and installed without Toast, as an upgrade to
Toast for $99.95, or a separate package for $199.95.