Review of MacPhun – Focus CK

In 2012, I purchased a “bundle” of a few useful applications for my MacBook, and one of the items in the bundle was a snazzy little product from MacPhun, called SnapHeal. It went unused for a little while, but I did decide to try it out to “erase” an object on a wall which was distracting. Yes, it worked quite well and from then on, I was paying attention to this new little software developer; MacPhun.

Enter Focus CK- The Creative Kit.

In the last few years, MacPhun has exploded with some wonderful new products and updates of their older favorites. Today I want to “focus” on CK FOCUS, which happens to be a really interesting and useful product with a narrow focus. It allows you to alter the focus and introduce both blur and swirl selectively, This is especially useful when trying to depict motion, but even for still subjects it works wonderfully.

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For those of you that follow my blog, you will recognize the above image from my series on Terlingua, TX. Before I start using the software, here’s the original image which came from my trip to Terlingua, TX about a month earlier. I am showing it to you in Lightroom, so you can see it before any of the effects are applied.

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FOCUS CK

It’s a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop, meaning it’s used while in Lightroom. Once started, the plug-in handles the round trip of getting the image back and forth from the application back to Lightroom and neatly inserted into your catalog where you want it. As you can see, I am a big fan of using plug-ins for adding some creative effects to enhance some images.  I am about to transfer it to the application and begin editing it, using the Focus CK interface.

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The interface is clean and intuitive, as you can see on the right side of the screen, there are the controls for how we will apply the effect. Notice at the top of the screen, you can choose a focus application for macro, portrait, architecture, nature and tilt-shift. The one I am choosing to use is the “custom” selection, so I can control more of the way it applies to my specific image application.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 9.08.08 AMIn the image above, I have adjusted the size of my brush, applied the MOTION control and added a lot of TWIST. I could have added more blur, but I think it would make most of what is in the room almost unrecognizable, so I stopped where I did. The two main controls are PAINT and ERASE, which allow you to selectively remove the blur or twist, from the image you applied it to.

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The next step is to remove the blur in the areas that are considered the focus point of the image and paint out the blur. As you can see, the MacPhun FocusCK software makes it easy to see where you are removing blur with its simple editing tool.

Note to MacPhun: The one thing I wish you would add to the editing tool is the ability to “auto-mask” what you are selecting, so edges are sharper. The way it works now is tedious and not as accurate. For this tutorial, I did not spend a lot of time cleaning up my edits, but I did want to show you how accurate you can be with just a little work.

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Now we have the nearly finished version of the interior of the Terlingua, TX Church in the ghost town. I originally loved this image without the blur, but I like the blur effect a lot. It certainly draws the eye directly to the center of attention. All I have to do is to click the “Apply” button at the upper left corner of the interface, and my finished image will be neatly inserted back into my Lightroom Catalog right next to the original.

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In this last image, I am showing you the interface for the tilt-shift control, which is pretty useful. While I don’t think it works well for this image, you can see that the interface gives you a nice set of controls. Of course, you can still selectively paint in (or out) the area you want to stay sharply in focus.

Blur Feb 2016-4Here’s one more example of the use of Focus CK in a winter still, which is certainly “interesting” showing just how this effect can be used to spice up an ordinary image.

To see how I used it to convey the rapid movement of traffic, check this out; my blog post from my New York City series. In this image, I applied the same motion effect to the surrounding traffic while leaving the food truck stationery. I have not used it again since, but for this image, I like what it accomplished.

To get your copy of FocusCK, simply download the free trial and see how you like it. It’s pretty cool and can do some fun stuff, but it is one of those “specialized” applications that you won’t use a lot. But when you do, you will love it.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, more are on the way!