Photo Fuse for Amateurs

Jack Simpson

Head of Marketing and Communications

Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.

This is the tale of how one person ventured into the unknown with three sub-par pictures and ended up on the cover of National Geographic.  Okay, not National Geographic, but it was still a good effort.

Let’s start this story off right; I was working on some ground-breaking stuff. While trolling the office looking for anyone with enough free time to give me a news story, I happened upon the Georges. Remember the Georges? They were the Support Monkey’s mascots, the cutest Sea Monkeys known to Man. Well, they were Support’s Mascots, they moved with their caretaker into the developer pool making them honorary Software Engineer Mascots. Well, the Georges and Georgettes have grown, more than doubling their size since I last saw them.

I tried to take a picture of the new Georges to show how much they have developed, but alas, I am a poor photographer. I ended up taking three pictures, none of them particularly great. One of the pictures was very tilted, one had my finger in it, and in one you couldn’t actually see any of the Sea Monkeys. Then I discovered Microsoft’s Photo Fuse.

Photo Fuse is one of the added features to Windows Live Essentials Photo Gallery. I had to download Windows Live Essentials 2011 (the latest version) to access Photo Fuse, but the three computer restarts it took were definitely worth it.

Quick note: it does not generally take three restarts to install Live Essentials 2011, I accidentally restarted the computer mid-download, not only messing up the current install but also the previous version. One more restart to actually install the latest version, and then another to fix what I had broken.

So, let’s take a look at Photo Fuse. Photo Fuse allows you to go through several pictures of the same thing (Microsoft uses group photos in their promotional material) to choose the best aspects from each picture. If someone has their eyes closed in one picture but open in the others, you can choose the open eyes and place them on the closed eye picture. The colours will auto-adjust in case the angle or lighting of pictures varies slightly. You can also straighten the picture if, like me, you have issues taking a straight picture (in my defence, it was with an iPhone).

Windows Live Picture Gallery will open with your directory of ‘My Pictures’. To create a Photo Fuse, check the box in the top left corner of the pictures that you want to merge together.  Once you have chosen the pictures you want to Fuse, go to the Create tab and select Photo Fuse. The pictures don’t automatically merge, you select an area in the base picture (the first one in the group) and next to your selected area is the same location in each of the other pictures, you can then choose which box has the best version of that area. It’s really that simple.

Like most of today’s photo-editing software, there are a bevy of other options for correcting the picture. There is an option to eliminate red-eye, you can crop the picture, rotate it, tag people, add captions and play with the colour adjustments (temperature, tint, saturation, etc). It is extremely easy to use which, for photo adjustment novices like me, is a real life-saver. Here’s an example, it’s the evolution of my Georges’ picture.

This is how these three pictures…

George One George Two  George 3 

became this one

The Final George

Some things to notice; all three pictures were take at slightly different angles, changing the colour tint for each one.  In Picture 1, very few Sea monkeys are visible, while in Picture 3, my forefinger is woefully visible.  The final version has been straightened, reducing the tilted look I (apparently) naturally give all photos.  Now, a couple things to remember, Picture 3 was taken at a much different angle than the other two – there is a limit to the difference allowed between various pictures, if the angle/lighting is too varied, the program will not allow the pictures to be compared.  The application is forgiving to a point, but don’t push it.  If pictures need to be rotated, do it before trying to fuse them together.  You may notice that you can see more Georges in Picture 3, it is because this picture was taken at too different an angle to be compared.  The other two were the ones that created the composite photo, Picture 3 had to be ignored.

Overall I found this application to be very well suited to my needs and I hope I shed some light on it for others as well.  I would like to extend a special thank you to the Georges for being so wonderfully photogenic.  TechCrunch did a great review of this service back in June which you can find