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Your Phone Camera Photos Suck (Blur Removal Software Review)

Well, not necessarily yours. Mine, yes, but maybe not yours. As one of the people that the people whose photos do suck call to fix them, though, I know that a LOT of people’s phone photos suck. If you do happen to be one of those, just allow me, as a complete non-expert, to suggest you to look at and even, dare I say, adjust the settings on your phones camera?

Before I go any further, let me just say that I’m an Android user, so I have no idea what the settings are on an iPhone. I’ve seen some really nice images taken with an iPhone, as well as some really bad ones, so I assume there are adjustments to be made. To find out where to adjust your camera settings, either Google (“HTC EVO 4g Camera Settings”, for example) or look it up in your phones manual. Go for the highest resolution you can and, maybe, manually set your ISO to the lowest setting to cut down the noise in your images – unless you’re shooting your pictures in a really dark setting.

No matter how good the settings on your phones camera are, they probably aren’t going to help out of focus or blurry images. You might try to take multiple shots of whatever you’re photographing, and hope at least one comes out halfway decent – that’s usually my main M.O., but if you are stuck with blurry or out of focus images, what can you do?

I still maintain, though many have argued with me in favor of de-blurring software, that there’s just not a lot you can do when it comes to fixing a badly out of focus, blurred image (phone camera or not). There are certain instances when the afore-mentioned software does a good job, but there are also times when they just won’t. For instance, there’s just not a lot you can do with an image that has double vision from motion blur.

DblBlur

I’m going to go over a couple examples where I did get a little (and a lot) of improvement, either with de-blurring software or in Photoshop CS6. The first is a photo of a turkey.

turkey_orig

Yes, that is a turkey. Not the eating kind, obviously, but a picture of a figurine my great grandfather got from the 1904 World’s Fair. I have no idea why he decided on a turkey.  The one on the right is closer to how it should look. I’m not dealing with the blown-out whites, today, just the blurry gobbly bits…

The first software I tried was one called Blurrity. I actually like Blurrity more than the others I tried. I’m only going to look at one other here, because a couple of them were so complicated to use that I wouldn’t inflict them on my worst enemy. Blurrity’s interface was fairly straight forward. You have the choice of using the basic parameters or the advanced options.

Blurrity_ui

Either one does a decent job on a lightly blurred image, but I found the advanced options gave an all-around better result. Not a perfect, crystal clear result, by any means, but better, with a little more clarity. The only thing drawback with the advanced parameters is that you have to move each slider in very small increments, hit the process button, try the next one, hit process, adjust the first, hit process…process is the key word, here, because it can be a long one. Also, the larger the image is, the longer the processing time, so you might not want to try a huge, high resolution image in Blurrity or you might be at it all day.

Turkey_blurrity

I also tried software called Focus Magic. The Focus Magic interface is very basic and not attractive all. Of course, if it works, who cares, but I thought I’d mention it.

FocusMagic_ui

You have four different parameters to choose from and two adjustments, Blur Width and Amount, then you hit a green light to process. Every time I hit the green light, I got a pop up like this:

Turkey_fm_pop

I’m not sure where Focus Magic was pulling its memory from, but my system has a proverbial butt-load of system memory, so it was confusing. I could have looked into it further, and would have, but none of my tests results really wowed me enough to want to. You can try Focus Magic for free, if you’d like to see what you can do, but you only get 10 free images and if you try different parameters, each one counts as a different image.

Turkey_fm

Just for the record, I also used my own method to improve blur, HDR Toning in Photoshop CS6. All these parameters in any of this software is doing, essentially, is sharpening, which is what I’m doing with HDR Toning. You need to duplicate your original image, and then flatten it to use HDR Toning. What I try to do in the interface is find the clearest image with the most definition, then I up the detail, radius and strength to get even more definition.

Turkey_hdrset

After I hit ok, I move the HDR image to the original image by moving the image with the cursor, while holding down the Shift key, onto the original image tab. This centers the new image on top of the original. Change the Layer Blend Mode of the HDR image to Overlay or Soft Light, or whatever looks best.

Turkey_hdr

It looks nearly as good as the Blurrity result, though maybe not quite as sharp. The next image I tried was just a plain light blur.

Pop_orig

This kind of blur is where Blurrity really shines. Since it’s a simple blur, I went with the Basic parameters. Though a bit grainy, it brought out a lot of detail.

Pop_blurrity

I also tried the same image in HDR Toning in Photoshop CS6. The results weren’t nearly as good.

Pop_hdrset

I didn’t run this particular image through Focus Magic because I used up all my free images. I’ll be a part of a beta group testing the 64-bit version of the software, though, so I’ll be able to tell you more in the not too distant future. I have hopes that once I’m able to really test it I’ll get some decent results.

So, in conclusion, if your phone photos sucks, neither someone like myself or any software out there will make them pristine and blur free; we might make them better, but not perfect. There are some viable options you can try, however, before deleting those blurry messes. The best thing you can do, though, is to learn more about the camera in your phone, and how to use it. One resource is a book put out by National Geographic and author Aimee Baldridge called The Camera Phone Book. For iPhone users there’s The Best Camera is The One That’s With You, by Chase Jarvis.

In the interest of full disclosure, Blurrity provided me with a full use license, so I was able to explore it more fully. A trial is available, though the images have watermarks. A registration key costs $39. Focus Magic is $45.

 

 

 

About Janine Smith (114 Articles)
Janine Smith is the owner of Landailyn Research and Restoration, a Fort Worth, Texas based company whose services include family history research and photo restoration. Janine honed her skills in restoring badly damaged photos as a volunteer with Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair photographs damaged by unforeseen circumstances such as house fires and natural disasters. <br> Janine’s work is well-known in the world of genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries, university archives, and non-profit organizations; appearing on the board of directors for several organizations and institutions. She is a sought-after lecturer on photo restoration and preservation to libraries, genealogical and historical societies. <br> In addition to being a Lynda.com author, Janine is the author of many articles on research and restoration appearing in newspapers and magazines, both on and offline. Janine's history and photo restoration columns appear regularly on TipSquirrel.com and in the popular Shades Of The Departed Digital Magazine. <br> Janine is the winner of the 2010 “Photoshop User Award” in the photo-restoration category.

4 Comments on Your Phone Camera Photos Suck (Blur Removal Software Review)

  1. Hi Janine-
    I’ve followed your articles on restoration for some time. Excellent. I tried out the Blurity program and it doesn’t even clear up the examples they provide. I tried it on a couple less than well focused images I have and got equally bad results. The formats they require take me out of my workflow (no psd or tiff formats). I finally threw it out. I have found some success with an photoshop action adapted from Calvin Hollywood on You Tube (). If you haven’t seen it check it out. It may help on some photos. Again thank you for your excellent articles on restoration.

  2. The web address did not show up on my response. Search “Best Photoshop Sharpening Technique (Free Action)” on You Tube to find it.

  3. Hi Dennis! I’ve tried Blurrity on a few other images and if I got any results at all it took so long to go through all the steps, trying to move the slider this way or that, well, it’s just not worth it, that’s for sure! I’ll check out Calvin’s action – thanks!

  4. Hi Janine. That Focus Magic problem you encountered was because you were using the old 32-bit version which isn’t supported on a 64-bit computer. They’ve since released an update (Version 4) which works perfectly with 64-bit systems and also runs much faster than before (with multi-core support). I still much prefer it to the others I’ve tried, like Blurrity. Sure, the interface sucks, but the results are far superior.

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