Magic Software Re-Focuses Your Blurred Photos

06 Dec

Back when I used to spend time in the darkroom, somebody once asked me if they could cancel out their mis-focussed photos by just dialing the enlarger’s lens in the opposite direction. I laughed, but I couldn’t help wishing it was true.

25 years later, it can be done, not in wet darkroom but with your computer. A new Photoshop plugin from Topaz Labs corrects focus-blur, as well as motion-blur caused by camera-shake.

It does this by reverse-engineering the blur, using something called “image deconvolution technology”. This actually correct the blur instead of just increasing edge-sharpness, another technique which makes photos appear sharper, but does nothing to fix them.

There’s a 30-day free trial for the InFocus plugin (the software costs $70 otherwise), so I gave it a quick test drive, with pretty bad results. It seems that every image I tried it with ended up with speckly artifacts all over it. Images with more detail fair better: an out-of-focus portrait doesn’t fare as well as a detailed architectural shot, for instance.

It’s worth a try, and the sample images on the site show that, in practiced hands, it works well. But more important is what it means for digital photography. With imaging tech always improving, otherwise hopeless photos could be saved in the future. You’d better go out and buy another hard-drive to store all the photos you’d otherwise toss out: if you wait long enough, some piece of software will come along and turn it into a masterpiece.

Topaz InFocus product page [Topaz Labs]

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