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Big Aperture – Mac App Review

Use this Mac App to go retro with shallow depth of field and some vintage effects

Price: £1.49/$1.99

Available from… • Mac App Store

Learn more… •

Key features: • Depth-of-field adjustments • Over 35 vintage camera filters • Export to Facebook and Flickr

There’s recently been a surge in the number of people wanting to obtain professional-level photography effects with minimal effort. Creating a shallow depth of field in an image, however, is particularly tricky with a high- end DSLR, never mind a smartphone or conventional compact camera. Big Aperture steps in by enabling users to blur images in postproduction.

The app itself looks simple but relatively clean, giving plenty of space both to view the photo and switch between editing tools. In its Basic mode the blurring effect can be adjusted using four preset shapes, consisting of two distinct rings or three parallel bars. They can be stretched, rotated and moved across the image, making it a breeze to pick out a particular subject or area. In practice it’s easy to create an effect that feels both subtle and authentic.

In the Advanced mode, meanwhile, users can blur specific areas using a brush and eraser. It’s a little long-winded, but does provide a workaround for any subject which doesn’t happen to be circle or box- shaped. A zoom slider is particularly useful, as is the ability to compare your changes alongside the original file. Although the Basic mode is more than serviceable, once you’ve used the Advanced version you’ll probably find it difficult to go back.

Big Aperture has no tutorial or built-in instructions, which seems odd for an app geared towards the casual user. It’s not difficult to experiment with various sliders and tools, but a guide for the Advanced tab in particular would have been appreciated.

The app is also loaded with more than 35 filters, clearly inspired by the massive growth in photo-editing apps on iOS, such as Instagram and Hipstamatic. It’s a welcome addition, although far too many feel harsh or overdone, altering the colours and contrast of the image unnecessarily.

Likewise most of the photograph frames are downright awful. They’re often blocky or obtrusive, mimicking the sort of cheap vignettes you can find in passport photo booths. Thankfully a few of the ‘classic‘ filters are quite pleasing on the eye, and can be combined with the blurring effects to create a much cooler Lomography or Polaroid-inspired image.

Simply being able to change the depth of field in postproduction makes Big Aperture a powerful tool. Although the effect will never look quite as authentic as if you had created it with a camera at the time, it’s a very convincing second best.

Pros: A focused app that is simple to use and very affordable

Cons: Filters can’t be customised and often feel overdone