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Software Review: Focal Point 2.0 from onOne Software

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You know the kind of technique used where, within the photo, the subjects stand out from the background and everything else is blurred? You may see an insect sitting on a flower that is in focus and everything around it is out of focus. This is a standard trick of the trade that is called selective focus. One method of doing this is to control depth of field from within the camera by using a large aperture lens to produce a narrow depth of field.

Another method is to manipulate the image by hand using an image editing program such as Photoshop and blur everything in the background. That can take time and some skill to get it to look good without looking manipulated. Or at least it was difficult until onOne Software came out with FocalPoint.

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 popular in macro photography, it is also very popular in portrait, wedding, commercial, and editorial photography as well. Now with FocalPoint 2, you have even more options and control.

FocalPoint 2.0What is needed to run FocalPoint?

• Windows (XP SP2, Vista, or later), or Mac (OS X 10.5, 10.6)
• 1 GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent (Windows), PowerPC G5 1 GHz or Intel core processor (Mac)
• 1 GB RAM (2 GB recommended)
• Required host of Adobe Photoshop CS2, CS3, or CS4, or Photoshop Elements 4 (on Mac) or Elements 5 (on PC) or later.
• Optional host application of Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 or 8
• 100 MB free hard disk space
• OpenGL 1.5 video card
• Adobe Flash Player 9 for tutorial movies
• Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or higher on PC

So what is new with FocalPoint 2.0?

• Multiple FocusBugs gives you the ability to define more areas to keep in focus. You can combine multiple FocusBugs to create complex shapes or highlight multiple subjects.

• Blur algorithm has been updated so that it more closely matches actual lens blur so that you can create more realistic bokeh style images including aperture shaped highlights. Realistic depth-of-field changes can be created that look much more like they were taken in the camera.

FocalPoint 2.0• Lens presets are new presets that simulate popular lenses which produce a bokeh, or out of focus region from within the camera. This gives you the ability to reproduce the look of one of these expensive lenses without having to purchase the lens.

• FocusBrush now lets you hand paint in areas of either focus or blur so that you can get just the effect you want. You can use it to touch up the shape of a FocusBug, or just manually paint in blur anywhere you want.

• Smart filter support gives you the ability to use FocalPoint as a Smart Filter in Photoshop CS3 or CS4. This lets you make non-destructive, re-editable blurs, and vignettes on Smart Objects like Raw files.

• Highlight Bloom and brightness/contrast controls have been added to complement the existing film grain controls and give you even more control over your image. Using the highlight bloom tool, you can control how strong highlights are in the bokeh, or blurred area of your image. The brightness and contrast controls also work on the blurred area.

• onOne Panel gives you integrated fast access to FocalPoint 2. This allows you to launch a module without having to muddle through the Photoshop menus. It also gives you the ability to access your favorite effects and presets from the panel as well.

• Improved presets now include embedded previews making it easier to select the correct preset. FocalPoint also automatically saves your last six settings so that you can easily reproduce a particular set up.

• Improved vignettes have been improved to allow for a more natural, edge-only vignette for when you want to reduce distractions and focus the viewers eye. There is even an option to overlay the vignette to preserve detail.

I found that FocalPoint 2.0 continues to be very easy to use and apply. You take your image in Photoshop and select FocalPoint from the panel. 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. You can also rotate your bug to get just the placement you need. Once you are done, you select apply and you are then returned to Photoshop with your image in a new layer.

FocalPoint 2.0Of the new features I really like the ability to use multiple FocalBugs. It gives you much more control over your image. In the image of the two girls above, it would have been much harder to keep their faces in focus with just one bug. You would have had to expand the bug across both making it harder to control the outlying areas.

The other thing is the FocalBrush. Now I can brush in some blur into the background between the girls where I don't want the detail to be a distraction. You have control over the size of the brush, the opacity, and the feathering as well.

If you want to take control of the focus of your image, if you want the ability to introduce your own sense of depth-of-field, then you need Focal Point 2.0. It will give you instant creative license and more control over directing your viewer's line of sight. I highly recommend FocalPoint 2.0.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • http://talesofthepixel.blogspot.com Pelle Piano

    I like this filter though it seems to have a bug and some shortcomings.
    The bug being that there is no soft transition between a non blurred area and a blurred one, there is a sharp annoying “border”. This remains, using focus bugs, selection or trying to brush it with feathering or whatever. ( the brush is painfully slow when having the image open, better with just the mask showing ).
    I also would have welcomed a fetahring parameter for selections, its only avaiable for bugs and brush.
    I chose between using the Lens Blur in Photoshop, which is actually very good, but has little control over “blooming” which is essential and it is to slow.
    Bokeh from Alien skin had to little controls for my taste, and it could not make smooth transitions based on a selection ( often you want to make aselection fast in Photoshop first ( or be very exact, as it is faster to make masks in Photoshop ). It has a nice blooming feature that can really boost the highlight though.