| By Ian “Gizmo” Richards |
Just because a digital photo is poorly focused or blurred by motion doesn’t mean it’s a total loss.
Low-cost and free software can rescue blurry photos, once destined for the recycle bin.
When a photo is more than just a photo
It was a tragic subscriber letter. A reader had lost her 18-year-old half-brother in a motorcycle accident while he was traveling in Puerto Rico. She had just one blurry digital shot of him as an adult, and she wondered whether there were any ways to improve the photo.
My initial thought was, no. But after a bit of research, I discovered two applications that could help — one reasonably priced, the other free.
Before you get the wrong idea, know that these programs cannot transform a totally smudged snapshot into a photographic masterpiece. What they can do is improve overall detail and sharpness, often turning an unusable photo into one that is quite acceptable. No computer software that I know of, however sophisticated, can raise the quality of a blurry photo to that of one that was sharply focused when originally snapped.
For my subscriber, acceptable was enough — the results were far from perfect, but good enough for a lasting memento.
Deblurring photos is not the same as sharpening
Almost every photo-editing application has a tool to sharpen digital images (for example, Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen filter, to name one of the better ones). None of these tools, however, is adept at removing the blur created when a subject moves or the camera shakes. That task requires a totally different class of software.