Photo-enhancing tools add mystical dimension

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2003, 12:00am

Have you ever seen a ghost? Had an out-of-body experience? Witnessed a person's aura? I know quite a few Mac users who have encountered something of the paranormal. As astonishing as these experiences may be, sharing them with others is often unsatisfying because there is no easy way to illustrate these phenomena.


All that has changed with the launch of AutoFX's Mystical Lighting application (at www.autofx.com, US$179). Showing a person's aura in a portrait is a simple task for Mystical Lighting.


Or perhaps you would like to include a guardian angel hovering in the background of your photo. With Mystical Lighting the only problem is deciding how large or intense the spirit should be.


Mystical Lighting comes as both a stand-alone application and a plug-in for applications compliant with the Photoshop plug-in standard, such as Photoshop, Canvas or Elements.


Mystical Lighting adds dramatic lighting and shading effects to digitised photos or drawings. The effects simulate elaborate professional studio lighting techniques that previously required lots of time and money to produce. What makes Mystical Lighting so cool is that it can create these effects on photos you took years ago.


Open a photo in Mystical Lighting, apply one of the preset effects, and voila, you have a new addition to your portfolio. If the preset is not perfect, you can shift, adjust, or tweak to your taste. A shadow here, a light beam there, or add a sparkle or halo - your photos will never be the same.


Its interface is straightforward, so there is no need to read the manual to get results, but you will have to play with it for a while.


Actually, that is its biggest flaw. Start exploring the tools and you may unexpectedly blow five or six hours examining their potential to give art a new dimension.


Creating something from nothing is generally considered a paranormal ability, which brings us to Genuine Fractals
(www.lizardtech.com, US$159, US$299 pro version).


Genuine Fractals is also a Photoshop accessory, but can make high-quality enlargements even when the original is a little iffy. I tested it recently when I urgently needed a photo of my wife for her book jacket.


The only image handy was a 35mm print in which her head was the size of my thumbnail. So I scanned in the print and treated it with the Genuine Fractals' algorithm. Basically, it saved the image in Photoshop as a GF Print Pro document. Then I opened the new document image and enlarged it.


After sending off the resized image to the publisher, I then enlarged my copy to 13x19cm for my office wall. The enlargement was 375 times the original scan size.


It was a little soft, but there was no pixilation and the image looked fine from two metres away.


It is a magical solution to the increasingly common photo problem, especially for digital cameras that only make small files, of printing out enlargements of digitised photos.


Those who have a passion to make things disappear will appreciate the recently released Extensis Mask Pro 3
(www.extensis.com/maskpro, US$199.95). Also a Photoshop plug-in, it combines and improves on all the techniques for removing unwanted things from images, a technique known as masking.


If you want to take a person or object from one photo and put them in another, you need a masking tool. Some tools perform this task by following a line to determine what to mask. Others mask by only deleting certain colours, and still others mask relative to a line the user draws on the image.


Mask Pro 3 uses all three techniques, making it the new best-of-breed for this type of tool. The test of a masking tool is how well it handles transparent objects such as glass and hair without leaving a tell-tale glow on the edge of the masked object. Mask Pro 3 performs this task well.


Whether seeing some ghostly light that your camera cannot pick up, miraculously making something out of nothing, or mysteriously causing objects to disappear - whatever the effect you wish to create - your Mac can now hold the title as your digital mystical hub.

E-mail Dave Horrigan at
horrigan@electriciti.com
with your Mac queries.