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GroupShot Magically Melds Photos to Get the Perfect Pic

GroupShot Magically Melds Photos to Get the Perfect Pic

Try to get more than a couple people together for a group photo, and it's pretty much a sure thing that at least someone's going to look goofy in most of the shots you take. That's where GroupShot comes in. It lets you mix and match faces from a series of photos and create a composite in which everyone looks just right at the right time.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
02/21/12 5:00 AM PT

GroupShot, an app from Macadamia Apps, is available for 99 US cents at the App Store.

GroupShot
GroupShot
As the name suggests, GroupShot is all about creating photos of groups of people. In my experience, any time you're trying to take a photo of two or more people, someone is either looking in the wrong direction, smiling with a smile that implies there's something odd happening in their bowels, or their eyes are closed.

Consequently, most groups shots I make -- or have been part of -- result in a gob of quick photos all taken with the hope that no one will look like they're drunk or need to go to bathroom.

Enter GroupShot

Once you take several photos, you can load them from your iPhone or iPad, then start working with the app. In addition, you can be proactively smart and simply take the group shots with your iPad or iPhone in the first place, from within the app itself. What's next?

Wow is what's next.

You can get this wow in one of two ways. The first is, upon launching the app for the first time, there's a super quick how-to video you can watch. Watch it. It shows you how to use GroupShot, and it might be the most painless how-to video I've ever seen. Then you have a choice: You can mess around with a few sample photos of a family at a beach just to see how it works, or you can fix your own group photos.

How It Works

GroupShot is seductively easy. Once you load two or more photos, the first photo is your key photo, and it's big. To the right is a column of your other photos. You can switch out the key photo if there's a better photo to start with as your foundation.

Next, you judge the people. If Grandpa looks sleepier than normal, simply rub his face. It will highlight in yellow and then boom, the right column adjusts to offer closeups of Grandpa's face. Tap the image where his eyes are open and smile engaged, and then GroupShot starts working to use the better face on the photo. The popup window says, 'Performing magic...,' and at first, I thought this was just hubris.

I was wrong. It is magic. In fact, I don't think the developers at Macadamia Apps actually used any sort of programming language to create this app -- I think they somehow harnessed mystical forces from the universe and simply created a shell app that they then infused with pure magic.

You can also rub multiple faces -- say a pair of scowling brothers -- and you can replace two heads at once.

To put GroupShot through its paces, I found three group photos of a wedding party that I shot with my big Canon DSL. So the photos were fairly large, and the group had a dozen people in it. I loaded them up and went to work.

This time the boom wasn't so fast -- my iPad 2 worked for close to five minutes before the magic was done. At the end, the result looked pretty good -- at least digitally. I didn't blow it up in another program to examine the pixels or waste ink or paper to print it, but based on what I could see on my monitor, the end result would have been far better than having the version with the best man's contorted smile.

Oh, and what about other areas of the photo, like hands in weird positions? You can rub a hand and then choose the best hand, too.

Next, I tried a really tough subject: A pair of babies. With kids and adults, it's pretty easy to get all of them to stand in basically the same spot. Babies are wiggly, though, and constantly moving. I picked four quick shots in succession and loaded them up. Unfortunately, they were too different to work. If your group of shots isn't alike enough, you'll get this message: "We are sorry, but GroupShot could not find similarity between all photos selected. Please refine your selection and try again."

So I selected the three that seemed to be most similar. That worked. I rubbed a baby face (it seems odd with kids, BTW) then let the magic begin. Boom, two babies looking at the camera the same time. Amazing. And then I noticed a little quirk -- one baby had some ghost shadow effect on the shoulder, and then the seam between the head and the body wasn't quite perfect. What went wrong? The movement of the baby might have been hard to fix, but what about the seam? It was bare baby skin, not someone's shirt with predictable lines and colorations. There may also have a been a difference in lighting or the photos may not have been originals; perhaps they had been enhanced previously with better contrast or exposure.

I tried it again with two different shots and the result was perfect. So what's the takeaway here? It's not 100 percent magic, but it's darn close.

All in All, GroupShot Is an Easy Recommendation

While I was able to crash GroupShot once, overall, it seemed stable enough. When I did very similar steps immediately following the crash, it handled the inputs just fine. Not sure what happened, and I wasn't able to replicate it.

Last of all, I didn't test GroupShot on my iPhone 4, but since it works for both devices, I'm pretty sure your results will be similar. I'll be loading it up on my iPhone soon ... and using it for those impromptu group shots directly from my iPhone.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.


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