One thing I’ve learned about my many experiences at the Minnesota State Fair is that people love the word “free”. I’ve been on both ends, receiving rulers, pens, pencils, and other products emblazoned with the logo of a company I will never contact, and (for five years) handing out those famous University of St. Thomas Purple Bags. If they had free colonoscopies there everyone would surely line up (though with pronto pups, fries, corn, cheese curds, and what?-on-a-stick being consumed in excess, I don’t know what doctor would be willing to provide one).

I’m sure we all have lots of free software clogging our computers. Some things we downloaded because we thought it was cool, used it a few times, and now it sits there taking up hard drive space and possibly slowing down our computers. Well, for some of us amature photographers, this free software I am going to blog about might be worth it. I’ll let you decide.

A few months back, as a colleague and I were admiring the precision of the demolition of a campus building he pointed me to a Microsoft product called Photosynth in order to stitch photos together and “walk” through scenes. Best of all, it was free.

Photosynth is a free product available from www.photosynth.com and runs using Silverlight, kind of Microsoft’s version of Adobe Flash. Best of all it is easy to use and it does all the work for you. And again, it is free.

Here’s how it works. You will need to download and install Silverlight and Photosynth after you create a Windows Live account. You get 20GB of space for your picture uploads which after creating 5 synths with about 230 pictures, I had only used about .3GB. I could very well upload all of downtown Fremont and White Bear.

I also did a family quilt with various patches depicting important events and that came out very nicely (89% synthy).

The percent synthy is used to let the user know how the program thinks it did in stitching the photos together. Maybe it came up with a few extra pictures that it couldn’t figure out where they matched up. This is one annoyance of the program, it does ALL the work. You can’t give it a hint or tweak it. There will most likely be a photo or two left over where you will say, “Hey, how obvious can it be? It goes right there!”

For the most part though, if you take a lot of pictures, zoom in on the details, and upload them in a certain logical order (like as you make your way around the object, not 3 pics from the north, 3 from the south, 4 from the west, a detail on the north end, etc) it should turn out with happy results at at least 85% synthy.

So, who needs Photosynth? Anyone who takes 50-100 pictures of a scene trying to get every detail and would love a way to stitch them together so that they can “walk-through” a scene or space. Might be too cumbersome at this point for realestate as those pics have a short shelf life and not worth the effort (though very minimum). It is perfect for those who want to capture the 3Dness of a scene such as those in historical photography.

Who needs Silverlight? Well, anyone who downloads Photosynth will need Silverlight in order for it to run. However, if you are just interested in viewing the Photosynths others create and you are not going to create your own, you just need Silverlight.

About Chad Leigh Kluck

Chad Leigh Kluck
Originally from Nebraska, I am a history and railroad enthusiast currently living near Saint Paul, Minnesota. I enjoy trains, photography, and nostalgic memories, as well as the history of transportation, agriculture, eateries, breweries, and railroad towns. More...

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