Picture perfect

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 July, 2006, 12:00am

According to the Photo Marketing Association, photography as a hobby has once again taken off and people are now spending huge sums on equipment to capture that perfect moment. Having been a photo enthusiast since the 1960s, I?m delighted the rest of the world is rediscovering this hobby. I am equally delighted my son has taken an interest.

He received a digital SLR camera for graduation and the first opportunity he had to use it was at the wedding of a cousin. He took 400 shots over two days and because he saw the results instantly, he learned more about photography in 48 hours than I did in my first two years. And I learned that, as impressive as these new cameras are, if you have a Mac and a few applications or plug-ins, you can make all your photos absolutely picture perfect.

Of his 400 shots, 200 were already perfect and went into the album with only a small amount of cropping (new photographers rarely get close enough to their subjects). Of the remaining 200, 40 per cent were blurry because the camera focused on the wrong target or the subject was moving. The other !60 per cent were poorly exposed because the flash had not yet recharged or the background was too far from the subject.

To remedy focus imperfections I used the application FocalBlade (www.thepluginsite.com; US$49). This plug-in works in any application that accommodates Photoshop plug-ins and sharpens images without leaving halos or artifacts (unwanted visual elements, such as jagged lines, caused by imaging technology). It has a novice mode that delivers incredible results without a lot of fuss. If you just want a section of an image sharpened, you select that area, click the button and, hey presto, it?s done.

For poorly exposed images, I have recently discovered Power Retouche?s Dynamic Range Compression (www.powerretouche.com; US$54). It sounds complicated but it is one-click simple and gives breathtaking results. Range compression lessens the difference between the dark and light areas. The result is that the dark and light areas fill with colour and detail. So when a flash exposes for a subject in the foreground, leaving the background dark, the tool fixes the image and presents the shot as you saw it originally.

Now, once your images are perfect, you need to present them appropriately. To do this I used AutoFX?s PhotoGraphic Edges. It is a little expensive but all other photo frame/edge tools are lame in comparison. PhotoGraphic Edges places your images in virtual 3D frames with simple, textured papyrus backgrounds or elaborately carved traditional frames. I always use a simple, textured edge around every image and then place my signature/copyright (or watermark) straddling the frame and image. This way, viewers are aware that I own the rights to the image. The best digital water8marking application is called PicMark (www.!digitalcalamity.org). It is free and enables you to identify your shots stylishly and discreetly by embossing your name on the image. After all, when you create perfect pictures, you want people to know who is responsible.

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