New algorithm lets photographers change the depth of images virtually

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Researchers have unveiled a new photography technique called computational zoom that allows photographers to manipulate the composition of their images after they’ve been taken, and to create what are described as “physically unattainable” photos. The researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara and tech company Nvidia have detailed the findings in a paper, as spotted by DPReview.

In order to achieve computational zoom, photographers have to take a stack of photos that retain the same focal length, but with the camera edging slightly closer and closer to the subject. An algorithm and the computational zoom system then spit out a 3D rendering of the scene with multiple views based on the photo stack. All of that information is then “used to synthesize multi-perspective images which have novel compositions through a user interface” — meaning photographers can then manipulate and change a photo’s composition using the software in real time.


The researchers say the multi-perspective camera model can generate compositions that are not physically attainable, and can extend a photographer’s control over factors such as the relative size of objects at different depths and the sense of depth of the picture. So the final image isn’t technically one photo, but an amalgamation of many. The team hopes to make the technology available to photographers in the form of software plug-ins, reports DPReview.

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