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This control works great if you have a fairly simple oval or planar region that you want apply your blur towards, but it has holes in real world applications such as the the situation below where we want to make my lovely expectant wife the focal point and ignore my daughter and the noise in the background. In addition, using its strongest blur, still results in a blur that isn't super strong as shown in this image: FocalPoint is easy to use and offers a fantastic UI, but its spider control doesn't yield the best results for a shot like this.

However, there is an added benefit to FocalPoint in that it offers some interesting presets for nice vignettes and the spider is great for offering control over the effect for a really slick border to your photo. Click here to learn more about FocalPoint. Click here to see my new review for 2. Alien Skin Software 1. Here's a view of its crude user-interface: However, a big challenge although some would call it a benefit of Bokeh is that you must apply your selection of the area you wish to protect i.

The results can be great if your selection is good, but if your selections are off as mine was in this example which was done with a fast quick mask selection then you'll have nasty holes without a nice feather like FocalPoint offers at least using the preset options: The result is that you end up with something that can be great if you take the time up front to make sure your selection is spot on.

This of course, makes it not much different than applying a lens blur in Photshop itself which makes you wonder what it is you are really paying for? The answer it seems, is the magic settings that simulate some famous lenses known for fantastic bokeh.

Alien Skin has decided to discontinue its discount, but you can support this blog by purchasing through this link. The settings I used were hexagon shape, a radius of 79 a total guess blade curvature of 14 previously used setting and the rest of the values were the defaults including the Uniform distribution instead of Gaussian - which didn't have a obvious difference.

Here's the result of the Photoshop version overlaid on the Bokeh version: The net result is that it is similar, but you might not be able to crank CS4 up high enough to get the same results as Bokeh. In fact, the results look closer to what I got in FocalPoint. As you can see the bokeh is pretty sweet, but perhaps not as smooth and exaggerated as the one created by Bokeh.

Conclusion When I analyze the two products together move your mouse in and out on the image below , you quickly notice that Bokeh is using the stronger blur that really does a decent simulation of the great bokeh you'd get from a high end lens: With that in mind, is it worth paying for the effect? Then again, it is really easy to get results that aren't believable as its is more than just a good selection, but also knowing how to apply the appropriate gradient to feather the blur in the transition areas.

These details can only be done by understanding what these lenses do in real life, so that leaves the user with a gap in knowledge to do an accurate job if they've never actually owned the lens.

Overall, I'd say that there's not much advantage to FocalPoint over Photoshop's Lens Blur filter, but Bokeh does offer a noticeable advantage in a much less user-friendly user-interface. Short of having the real thing, Alien Software's Bokeh seems to be the product of choice for simulating what some of the great lenses do, but if your goal is to simply use blur as an mechanism for guiding the users eye to your focal point, then Photoshop's Lens Blur filter should be sufficient for your needs at no additional cost.

Disclosure I was provided free copies of these products and will receive a commission if you use the links in the blog. Thank you for supporting this blog by using these links and the discount codes.

This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies. If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated! This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site. The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity.

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Ron Martinsen's Photography Blog: REVIEW: onOne Focal Point -vs- Alien Skin Bokeh

This is an update to the existing Alien Skin Exposure X4 review, and includes the latest features in the X4. It started out as a Photoshop and Lightroom plug-in and can still be used in that mode, and as an external editor for Capture One , for example, but Exposure X has evolved so that it can also be used as a standalone program with its own integrated photo browsing and cataloguing tools.

Like Lightroom , Exposure X4. They include regular photo enhancement and retouching options too, such as curves, cloning and perspective corrections.

Exposure X4. Exposure X4 works in a very different, rather clever way. The only danger is that if you use other software to move files, they might get separated from the adjustment data created by Exposure X4. If you have made adjustments, it is best to use Exposure X4.

A single image can only be in one folder, but it can be in as many Collections as you like. With these, instead of adding photos manually, you simply specific a set of conditions — a particular camera or lens, for example, or a particular keyword — and Exposure X4. Otherwise, Exposure X4. Editing tools Exposure X4. It supports the vast majority of camera RAW formats, but you may have to wait a few weeks for support to be added for very new camera models. You can use Exposure X4 as a regular photo editing tool for curves, retouching, local adjustments with masks and, in this version, perspective corrections.

In this version, Alien Skin has added improved highlight and shadow recovering tools for RAW files, which makes it easier to extract the maximum tonal information from your files. Nevertheless, Exposure X4. But it does offer adjustment layers and masks for combining adjustments and effects.

You can create as many adjustment layers as you like, and apply the full range of editing tools and image effects to any of them. You can create layer masks manually using a brush tool, or with a gradient or radial mask tool. You can build your own effects manually from scratch, but the presets give you a useful head start and also give you ideas for ways to process your pictures that you might not have thought of otherwise.

The key to many of Exposure X4. This has three sections for Borders, Light Effects and Textures. The Light Effects tools have been updated in this version.

From being simply a tool to make pictures look as if they were taken on an old camera, the Light Effects can now be used to add simulated window flare or a hazy low sun effect to any kind of picture to add atmosphere. Version 4. The big new addition in Exposure X4. Alien Skin has implemented LUTs support perfectly, right from the start. With Exposure X4. The rest of Exposure X4. Individually, its adjustments can appear small and relatively insignificant, but cumulatively they can produce colour and tonal shifts of great subtlety.

Lots of programs have the same or similar tools as these, but Exposure X4. First, Exposure X4 brought improved shadow and highlight recovery. These are practically a must for fans of travel photography, architecture or interiors, as skewed verticals can spoil an otherwise great shot, and the difference between a beautifully captured interior and a snapshot is often down to the perspective control. You can use these to organise and find matching images in ways that would be slow and painstaking with regular Collections and Folders.

At first, it looks like this is barely a feature at all, but as you dig deeper you uncover something rather interesting, not to mention powerful. The bad news is that you will still need tethering software and a cable for your camera — so what have you gained? The less obvious reason for upgrading is that you get to stay up to date with the newest camera RAW formats. That long list of enhancements in Exposure X4 does feel like it justifies the upgrade price. And with Exposure X4. Not sure what preset effect would suit your image best?

Verdict As a photo organising tool, Exposure X4. Its strength, though, is its huge and evocative range of film-like effects and adjustment tools, and the subtlety with which you can combine them.

Where Exposure X4. You can get the same tools and more for a good deal less money than this. Where to get it, what it costs Alien Skin Exposure X4. You can find out more here. Alien Skin also publishes Snap Art, a plug-in for turning photos into authentic-looking art, and Blow UP, a plug-in for enlarging images without losing sharpness.

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