Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Software Review: FocalPoint From onOne Software

Written by T. Michael Testi

Have you ever wondered how professional photographers make their subjects stand out from the background? You may see an insect on a flower that is in focus and everything else is blurred. This is a standard trick used by the pros that is called selective focus. One method of doing this is to control depth of field in the camera by using a large aperture lens to produce a narrow depth of field.

Another method is to hand-manipulate the image in an image editing program such as Photoshop, but that can take time and some skill to get it to look good without that manipulated feel — that is, until FocalPoint from onOne Software.

FocalPoint gives you the ability to use selective focus to remove distracting backgrounds and allows you to force the viewer's line of sight directly onto the subject. While this is often used in macro photography, it is also very popular in portrait, wedding, commercial, and editorial photography as well.

FocalPointTo run FocalPoint on Mac you need OSX 10.4.10, 10.5 or higher with either 1 GHz G5 or Intel core processor. On Windows you need XP SP2, Vista, or later, 1GHz Pentium 4 processor or equivalent. And then you need Photoshop CS2, CS3, or Photoshop Elements 4 (on Mac) or Elements 5 (on PC) or later. You'll need a minimum of 1 GB ram (2 GB recommended), 25 MB disk space, OpenGL 1.5 video card, and Adobe Flash Player 9 for tutorial movies. On a PC you also need Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or higher.

So what do you get with FocalPoint?

• Selective focus – gives you the ability to add selective focus to images after they have been taken. Unlike attempting this in the image, there is no special knowledge or additional equipment needed. Also, unlike camera-based selective focus, you can adjust the degree, the plane, as well as the "sweet spot" — the un-blurred area of your image — well after the image has been taken.

• Adding vignettes – will now let you lighten or darken the edges of the image to minimize the distractions within the image's edges and focus the attention back to the subject.

FocalPoint • Blur control – gives you the ability to blur via two shapes, planar and round. The planar simulates a tilt-shift appearance similar to that what you would get in a view camera, or a tilt shift lens. It gives a sweet spot that slices through the image from one side to another. The round creates a round or oblong sweet spot that is similar to using a selective focus lens.

• 3D tilt – lets you tilt the sweet spot aperture in 3D simulating the tilt effect of a view camera or a tilt shift lens. It allows you to increase or decrease the amount of feather or blur across a plane.

• Blur types – allow you to vary the blur style that is used. You can select from a standard defocused look, or add a little motion to simulate the look of certain types of lenses.

FocalPoint • Layers – FocalPoint always returns its results into a new layer in Photoshop. This protects your original image for additional editing. It can even add a layer mask so you can adjust the effect in Photoshop.

I found that FocalPoint is very easy to install and use. It gave surprisingly good results. The available resources via the help and the video tutorials make this easy to learn as well. I also liked the fact that you could go into the Fine-Tune panel to take more control over your image correction

I found that FocalPoint was very easy to use and apply. You take your image in Photoshop and select FocalPoint from the onOne Menu. Then you start with a FocusBug that you place on the image. By changing the four shorter extender bars you control the size of the sweet spot, and by changing the longer bars you control blur, opacity, and the feather. You also have slider bars on the side panel that you can control as well. Once you are done, you select apply and you are then returned to Photoshop with your image in a new layer. You can even save the effect as a preset to recall it later. The FocusBug will recall prior settings so you can apply it to a number of images easily.

FocalPoint really makes it easy to get professional results from outside the camera and the lens. If you have images that you want to have that selective focus feel, but cannot go back and re-shoot, if you don't the right equipment to get the look, or don't have the time to set everything up, then I can easily recommend FocalPoint 1.0.

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