Mac app Focus lets you add effects to photos you never could with a camera

Mac app Focus lets you add effects to photos you never could with a camera

When I was in college pursuing a degree in multimedia, I had taken a course in photography. There, I was introduced to the wonderful concept of depth of field (DoF), which refers to how much of the shot is in clear focus. Good photographers can take a shot with a wide aperture to produce a magnificent shot with a shallow DoF, with the subject isolated from the background.

Not all camera-wielding amateurs are good photographers, however—with me being a perfect example—and an app like Focus can help us play with the DoF of any photo after it has been shot. The results won’t be as impressive as the real deal, mind you, but you might be able to come up with something much better than what you started off with.

To start things off, the app is really well-designed. The UI borrows from the design of iPhoto, which is a good thing, and adds some polished animations and textures of its own. It is also “enhanced for OS X Lion”, which means that it supports all of its fancy new features such as Multi-touch features, fullscreen mode, autosave and resume.

To use the app, you drag an image into it and then use the Place button to straighten or crop it, or change its aspect ratio. After that, depending on whether its a portrait or a marco shot, or a photograph of nature or architecture, you can use those modes to add blurring effects suited for the photographs.

The portrait effect, for example, allows for a circular area to be kept in focus while it blurs away the background. You can adjust the size of the areas in and out of focus and the part of the photograph that the focus should be in. It also automatically recognises faces and places the effect accordingly in the Portrait mode to make things easy for you.

The other modes—Nature, Architecture, Macro and Tilt & Shift—similarly have their own blurring styles to add to your photos that extra ounce of zing. I tried all the effects the app provides and found them all to be well done. The fact that the app does instantaneous live preview of the effects as you apply them is a particularly useful feature.

Remember, though, that your photographs can only be great if they were at least good to begin with. Focus’s DoF trickery can add to the overall appeal of certain photographs, but it is by no means a magic trick. If used inappropriately, the post-production nature of these effects becomes clearly visible in the final photo and can actually ruin it instead of making it better.

Once you are satisfied with the results, Focus lets you share the photo by uploading it to the company’s website and sharing the URL with your friends via Facebook or Twitter, or export the photo out to your desktop, iPhoto library or to an email message. Unfortunately, however, the feature is buggy in the current version of the app and you end up with a garbled image when exporting it to your desktop or to iPhoto.

Other shortcomings include the inability to export to any other format besides JPEG and the presence of a white border in outputted photos that, unless manually cropped out later, clearly gives away the synthetic origins of the blur effect. However, the app is currently only at v1.0.1 and I expect to see improvements and fixes for these issues in later versions.

Overall, despite the shortcomings outlined above, Focus is a really simple and beautifully designed app that can add some pretty neat effects to your photos within seconds. If you need more features than just adding some blur effects to photographs, try a more full-featured alternative like Flare, but if you’d rather just play with the D0F in your shots, give Focus a look.

[Focus is available for $4.99 from the Mac App Store and is compatible with all Macs running Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later.]

[Image courtesy of Kuzma / Shutterstock.com.]

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