Review and Tutorial of AfterFocus – A Mobile Photography App for Android
AfterFocus is a great specialisation app worth having in one’s toolbox. It is a must have for adding depth of field (DoF) lens effects to your images. Unlike Snapseed’s own blurring tools (which are also quick and easy), AfterFocus allows you to draw out where you want your image to remain sharp, where you want slight blur, and where you want strong blur. This allows you to avoid linear blur straight across the image, on a street image for example.
Where Snapseed blur tools will make the top of a foreground building blurry along with the distant street (because both occur in the upper portion of the image), AfterFocus allows you to decide that just that distant street gets blurred. The wall can remain in focus along with other foreground objects. This is so much more accurate to the real world of how the eye sees. This image to the left (above if you’re viewing on mobile) shows just how detailed one can get using the zoom feature to really make sure what you want to blur, gets blurred, and what you want to remain in focus, stays in focus.
The original image was one using infinite focus, where all objects, near and far, were equally in focus. The results of using AfterFocus are clear. Ehem. The app gives you the option to draw your blur onto the surroundings, to adapt to its natural forms. As you can see in the image, I highlighted the spheres in the foreground as objects to remain in full focus, while the middle ground is in slight focus, including that tall lamp post and the individual walking by. I then ensure that those things that are in reality in the distance, rather than just higher within the frame, are blurred the most. Keep in mind that you don’t have to always have the foreground in focus. In this image example, you may want to blur a tiny bit of the foreground, to give a narrower depth of field.
There are a number of tools available beyond these main ones for determining blur. For instance, what kind of blur do you want? In the above image, I finally chose a “motion blur,” compared below with “lens blur.”
Both in the lens blur tool and the motion blur tool, you are offered the option to increase or decrease the strength of the blur. The motion blur tool, while good, is static and is always horizontal. It is a minor downside that you can’t adjust the direction of the blur. The lens blur mimics the blur from a lens out of focus, or of objects outside the depth of field of the lens. In both case there is a handy tool called “edge feather”. This tool prevents edges from popping out so sharply from one focus or blur zone to the next. By feathering each blurred section, you are able to transition more smoothly between one blurred region and another. A smart little button if you ask me.
Another handy tool for AfterFocus is the bokeh tool. Bokeh is blur, and while DSLR and analogue camera lenses produce various kinds of bokeh, these features must for the most part be mimicked on a mobile camera. This tool allows for various shapes of bokeh, though it doesn’t really produce such a marked difference in blur effect. Worth having though, if you want that extra little nuance.
The app comes with various other tools, including a linear fading background tool (handy for train tracks and so forth), various monochrome and color filters, and vignetting. The pro version has the ability to take two images, one focusing on the foreground of an image, one focusing on the background, which the app then splices together to get a more natural rather than contrived depth of field effect.
It’s maximum save image size on the other hand is 3264px (along its longest edge), which is 8 megapixels.
AfterFocus Pro (for Android) was updated as of July 2014. While the free version of the app looks the same, the pro version got a few extra goodies. The pro app now saves at 8 megapixels (and 8 megapixel image uploads, so that images aren’t compromised like they were previously). It is much faster at recognizing foreground and backgrounds, and also in creating blur. There are now brightness and contrast tools that can be applied separately to either foreground or background or both, and numerous extra filters to apply. The pro version also has a new icon to distinguish it from the free version better. A welcome update.
For tutorials and tips using AfterFocus on iOS and iPhone, go here.