One problem (and there are a few) with camera phones is the small sensor doesn’t allow the nice out of focus backgrounds you can get with an SLR and large aperture lens. However, as usual with smart phones, there is “an app for that”. This one is called AfterFocus which is available for both iPhone and Android phones. AfterFocus lets you apply a blurred effect to selective areas of an photo making it seem like you used an f1.8 50mm lens. For example, with the first of the below photos you can see the hat is in focus, as is the ceiling and the wall of the room is clear enough you can still read the 404 on it. However, after a little magic from AfterFocus I created the second photo, where you can see whilst the first hat is still in focus, the ceiling is slightly blurred and the rear wall is unreadable. Cute no?
Whilst the app isn’t as pretty as something like SnapSeed, the workflow is pretty simple and the outcome is pretty neat. You start by defining three areas – in-focus (the foreground or subject of your photo), mid-ground and background. You then get a preview of the effect showing you the blurring of the mid-ground (a bit) and background (a lot). Before you save or share (via FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa and email) you can choose to apply a number of Instagram style filters.
How well does it work? There are two modes for the selecting the different areas: Smart and Manual. Smart allows you to draw broad brush strokes (like Photoshop masks) over parts of your photo, defining each area in turn, whilst AfterFocus will make its own judgements about unselected areas. Manual mode lets you to select the focus area more precisely, allowing you to take more control so you can achieve a more smoother image in many cases.
I haven’t always been happy with the smoothness of the effect in Smart mode and Manual mode, whilst more precise. does take longer to set up, but I am often happier with the blurring effect. However, to be fair Smart mode can work very well and I often start out using it and then switch to Manual once I have defined my areas. The above photo used only Smart mode and I was even able to get something I was happy enough to post after 5 minutes (and this was whilst bumping around in the passenger seat of a car, not the best environment for steady hand work).
In summary a cool little app which can add something to your photographs elevating them above their humble origins. However, it can be a bit fiddly to set up to so you’ll need to have a bit of patience to get the best effect, but it is work it.Note for iPhone users: This post is based upon AfterFocus for Android, I haven’t tried AfterFocus for iPhone, but I am assuming (hopefully) the functionality is very similar.