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ATPM 11.12
December 2005



How To



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How To

by Tom Bridge,

PhotoBooth: A Quick How-To

I grew up in an era before digital cameras, when film was king and ruled the earth with a waxy fist at all the little mall kiosks and drug store photo counters. It made for a real hard existence, I suppose, having to pay for each individual print, not knowing which were any good before they were developed. But the best part of the film era was the cheap photobooth, in which you crammed yourself, and four of your friends, into this tiny little cabinet with a lens. The flash went off a few times, and shortly thereafter you had goofy, low-quality images of your friend Tony sticking his fingers in his nose, and Melissa holding her pigtails out like Pippi Longstocking. As the digital era approached, the photobooths became fewer and further between, and now they are a truly endangered species.


When Steve Jobs sauntered on stage recently and announced an iMac with a built-in camera and showed off his new PhotoBooth application, I was enthralled! The application itself will work with any iSight camera, if you happen to have a copy of it, and so this is a quick guide to using PhotoBooth to make some really fun images. Don’t expect anything you can hang on your wall; the iSight’s image quality isn’t high enough to produce commercial grade prints.


The application is fairly straightforward, to its credit. Fire up PhotoBooth, and you’ll see the only window the application will spawn. It contains a view from your camera, a trigger button, and the two panes of special effects that the application can generate. Strike a pose and click the Camera button that’s dead center in the interface. Your computer will count down from three, flash the screen bright white (acting as a flash), and snap your picture. Don’t blink!


Once the computer has snapped your picture, it will show up in the tray below the window, ready to be e-mailed, set as your user account picture, imported into iPhoto, or turned into your iChat or AIM account picture. You can store a nearly unlimited number of photos in the tray, or delete them at your leisure.

Making good photos with an iSight camera is no small feat, as they tend not to have a good white balance under certain types of light (fluorescent light being the worst offender), but generally the same rules of good photography apply: Get close to your subject (in this case, yourself), make the composition interesting, and don’t forget that it doesn’t cost a bright shiny nickel to take a second shot.


The filters that Apple provides as an amusement can actually create some spectacular effects, especially the comic book effect, which has you looking sort of like you’re straight out of a third rate Lichtenstein knock-off. My favorite is the “Thermal” Image, though it’s not truly a thermal camera, merely just a change of color based upon the gradation of the light. Overall, PhotoBooth is a lot of fun to use, and better yet, a lot of fun to play with, until you get the image you want to keep. Now, if someone would just make me an Automator workflow to turn them into the old style photostrips…

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