By Robert Lachman
Focal Point from OnOne software is a photoshop plug-in for adding selective focus to your photographs, emphasizing the subject and eliminating or softening distracting backgrounds.
It?s a way of limiting your depth-of-field without purchasing very expensive lenses with f/stops of 1.4 or 1.8, or maybe even a tilt-shift lens. This software lets you add this style of effect after the fact, with control of how much and where you want the focus at a much cheaper price. The software also makes it very simple to add a dark or light vignette to your work.
Now, it?s possible to create the effects without the plug-in using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements by themselves, but it?s a complicated and time-consuming process.
When I first check out software, I usually go to the company?s website to see how much instruction is available. The OnOne FocalPoint tutorials are first-rate and very high quality, explaining how the software works.
The topics include:
- Launching FocalPoint
- Understanding the User Interface
- Using the FocusBug
- Working with Layer Masks
- Tilting the Plane of Focus
- Using the Vignette Controls
- Batch Processing
- Real World FocalPoint Examples
Once you take a look at the tutorials you?ll really have an appreciation of the software, and how easy, and how much time it will save you. I tried the OnOne FocalPoint software plug-in with Photoshop Elements 6 on my iMac and it worked without a hitch.
First up, was adding a little selective focus to a portrait. I opened a photo in Elements, then selected FocalPoint from the menu. The image opened in a new window with setting for Aperture Shape of the FocusBug which includes controls for feather and opacity. Changing the blur is next with amount and motion. Following down the list is Vignette with lightness and midpoint. The last control is Film Grain amount.
Next, I selected the round shape and clicked on the photo which gave me the FocusBug with all it?s controls. Even though the shape says round you can change the size and shape with handles which extend from the bug. Other handles give you control of blur, feather, opacity and blur blend. Also, you can see the actual layer mask by selecting Show Mask from the menu. While this isn?t necessary, it?s very informative about the process.
For a finishing touch, I added a little vignette to the photograph and it sealed the deal for me. The software really passed the most important test. It?s fun and easy to use.
For my next photograph, I tried the Planar shape. This effect simulates using a tilt-shift lens with rectangular shaped FocusBug extending through the entire image from top-to-bottom or side-to-side. This gives you softness or blur on each side of your subject. If you use option-click you can add it to only one side.
Portraits and sports photography with distracting backgrounds is where I think consumers would use this software. Most people can only afford zoom lenses which don?t really produce photographs with much limited depth-of-field.
The full version of OnOne Focal point is $159 which may seem expensive, especially if you?re using it with the much cheaper Photoshop Elements 6 instead of CS4. The price is competitive with most plug-ins on the market today and it?s a quality product which I would recommend.