Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


FotoFusion Pro v3.7
by Chris Taylor

Digital photography is great! Taking pictures becomes “free”. If you don’t like the photo, you can delete it. This helps encourage experimentation. I know some of my better images have been serendipitous.

Once you decide to keep a photo, any number of image editing programs can help you touch up your photographs. It is a snap to straighten pictures, remove skin blemishes in portraits, adjust colour and lighting, remove objects, and even add textures or other special effects.

But when it comes down to your final printing or sharing, you are basically left with standard, old-style techniques. Don’t get me wrong…I have several of my photographs matted and framed. I think it is a fine way to display a finished print.

Recently, I came across a program that allows you to treat your finished prints…a little differently – FotoFusion from LumaPix. At its heart, FotoFusion is a program for making collages. The program makes it marvellously simple to grab a bunch of photographs and arrange them in various ways.

When starting, an Auto Collage feature helps you get set up. You are prompted for the photos you want to include. You can browse, view & select using thumbnails or a larger browsing window. You are then presented with a screen giving many of the broad options in FotoFusion such as overall layout (jumbled or organized in columns & rows), size of the page, etc. Click Finish and your photos are imported and laid out on the Canvas. Everything you do in AutoCollage can be modified later.

But that just gets you a starting point. From there the fun really begins. An AutoCollage button re-arranges all the photos on the canvas. Just keep clicking until you get an arrangement you like, or one that is close. Then really start to dig in.

Just some of the things you can do with FotoFusion;
• Move photos from one frame to another.
• Crop photos
• Pan photos within their frames
• Rotate photos or frames
• Move, resize & overlap frames
• Adjust the size, colour & shape of the border around
   frames
• Adjust the space between frames
• Adjust the drop shadow on frames
• Move frames forward or backwards in a stack

While FotoFusion is not a full-fledged image editor, you can adjust images for brightness, contrast, colour, etc. It is great to have such controls right in the program to match characteristics of images or to add contrast between images. You can even adjust image opacity to allow the background or another image to show through. You can add a texture or blur to images.

FotoFusion can also place text on your collage. As with other objects, you have amazing control over text. You can choose the font face, size, colour, style (bold/italic/underline/strikeout), alignment within the frame, opacity and degree of blur. Drop shadow options include angle and amount of offset, colour, blur, and opacity.

One very nice effect you can get with FotoFusion is to set one image as the background (the canvas) and lay other images on top (see Parliament Hill just below). And you are not limited to how FotoFusion first lays down your background image. If you unlock the canvas frame, you can zoom and pan the image to lay it down exactly how you want it.

You might think you need an enormous amount of memory to create a collage with lots of images, but FotoFusion manages by working with a lower-resolution version of your images. It maintains a link to the original and when you render the final output, it reads the originals to get the best quality possible. This has a side-effect you need to be aware of. Because a collage project is always tied to the original images, if you modify an image using some other image editor and then re-open a collage that uses the image, you end up with the modified image.

  Parliament Hill
Output options abound in FotoFusion. You can output a web page, a graphic file (JPeg, BMP, TIF, GIF, or PNG), or send right to the printer. There is even a built-in email function.

Each type of output makes intelligent guesses at things like resolution and compression. For example, when you choose to email a collage, FotoFusion suggests settings that will result in an image of about 130K, with a resolution no larger than 800x800 pixels. But if you want to produce a professional quality print, you can easily choose to output a 300 dot-per-inch TIF file, if you want. Parliament Hill, when processed for 300 dpi, produced a 20 MB TIF file.

There are some oddities to FotoFusion. To start with, it uses some of the strangest, non-standard controls I have ever seen. When you select a frame, you get two controls in each corner (one to crop the image in the frame and one to resize the frame itself), and two controls along each side (one to pan the image in the frame and one to resize the frame). As well, there are two controls in the middle of the frame for panning and rotating.

Add control keys (e.g. when using the rotation control, holding down Alt snaps rotations to 45 degree increments and holding down Ctrl rotates the image only, leaving the frame alone) and you can begin to see why it takes a little while to get used to using the program.

But once you get used to the controls, they are very powerful and put a lot of capabilities right at your fingertips. LumaPix calls this “dynamic resizing” and it reduces the dependency on menu options found in most programs. Tooltips pop up everywhere in FotoFusion…and are greatly appreciated!

All effects you apply are attached to the frame you insert an image into, not the original photo. Let’s say you brighten an image, increase the contrast, and apply a slight sepia tone. If you then swap photos between two frames, the image adjustments end up applied to the wrong photograph. I quickly learned not to swap photos in frames. Rather drag the complete frames around to adjust what photos appear where.

I am very impressed with FotoFusion. It is a really fun program to use and it can really make it easy to create attractive collages. The depths of the capabilities of the program are quite astounding.

I reviewed FotoFusion v3. v4 is in beta and about to be released. Those who buy v3 prior to the v4 release will get a free upgrade. More info, including comparisons of the features of the different versions, may be found at
www.lumapix.com.

System requirements:
Pentium II, 350 Mhz,
64MB RAM,
3 MB free disk space,
Windows 98 or better


Bottom Line:

FotoFusion Pro v3.7
by LumaPix
Version 4 will come in three editions:
Scrapbook Essentials - US$39.95
Enhanced – US$119.95
Extreme – US$299.95
Web site:
www.lumapix.com

The edition I reviewed (Pro) maps to v4 Enhanced.


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews do not necessarily
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