Most helpful critical review
88 of 91 people found the following review helpful
Easy to use, but not as useful as it should be
on December 27, 2009
The full name of this product is the FXhome PhotoKey 2 Lite. That should have given me a clue.
Right off the bat, FXhome PhotoKey2 Lite and I got off on the wrong foot. I've never before encountered a licensed version of a $70.00 program (not a free or trial version) that is so insistent in trying to force me to upgrade to a more expensive version. It begins from within the installation wizard; continues on the introductory video; "upgrade now" is actually one of the tools in the toolbox; and every grayed-out control has a pop up window indicating that you should upgrade now if you want that feature. When you consider just how many options are grayed out (half the filters, for example) that is a lot of irritating prompts.
First, the positive: the program does an outstanding job removing the chroma green. Even the green that shows up between hair and inside any nick and cranny of your subject is removed. Not only that, but there is no green spill or fringe left on the subject which, on other extraction filters I have used require going in and editing a slight green edge or a slight green color cast or reflection. I have used Photoshop and third-party extraction plug ins that don't work as well or as fast. It is a dead-on extraction and it happens instantly. When your image comes into the software interface, every trace of green is already gone. Absolutely amazing.
There is a problem, though, if you want to fully benefit from this wonderful extraction:
**Every wrinkle, crease, and fold in the green cloth has to be ironed out.
**The light has to be perfectly balanced so that your subject doesn't cast a shadow (as would happen if you used a camera flash). In some cases, a cast shadow is actually a plus when you later put it on a background, but usually it's not.
**If you have draped the cloth in such a way as to place your subject on the cloth with cloth behind it (such as placing your child or product on the cloth on the floor and continuing the cloth up the wall), the draping has to be smooth with no fold or bend mark, so squirming is forbidden.
**No part of the background outside of the 5' x7' green cloth can show in the image & if it does, it shows and it stays--it has to be green top/bottom & side/side. (5' x 7' is fine for small products and small children who stand still.)
**If any of these requirements is not met, the extraction won't work well.
Your shadows, folds, etc. will be left behind after the green is removed as gray areas--and the "lite" version offers no options for removing these spots post-capture (other than re-photographing!). Maybe the not-available Masks feature in the more expensive versions does but I'd have to spend another $75 to find out. I see no sign of a clone tool or an eraser tool to address these problems either among the available tools or among the grayed out tools--and all of these imperfections will appear as gray semi-transparent stains on top of the background when you insert it behind the image.
I am not as bothered as other reviewers by the selection of included backgrounds. There are very few I'd use for my purposes and the strange collection leaves me wondering who their target market might be. There is a limit to how many times you can place people in front of the pyramids or the leaning tower of Pisa, or a fairy forest or wild west saloon. Luckily, you do have the option of using your own high resolution backgrounds or solid-color backgrounds, or any background you create or buy. What you can't do is save these alternate backgrounds to the same folder. (That, too, is off limits).
Before I leave you with the idea that there are no useful tools whatsoever, let me correct that impression: there are scaling, position, and rotation tools for both the background and foreground; you can adjust brightness (so the lighting on both will match) as well as some color adjustment controls. You can also adjust transparency, contrast, saturation, and even apply some blur to both the foreground and background independently. On the whole, that is a lot of tools, they work well though not intuitively and the interface itself is a little confusing at first. There is also a convoluted crop tool where you subtract percentages of the image from the different sides.
But what you can't do, and usually will need to do, is correct mistakes caused by a less than perfect initial photograph. You can't even export just the extraction to Photoshop or Elements so you can correct the non-perfect areas there. Of all the grayed-out premium options we can't access, the inability to export just the extraction is the most unfair and irritating. If you export it to Photoshop, 'Lite' re-fills the formerly-green areas with white (complete with gray shadows, etc) and you have to re-extract it manually. Of course, extracting manually is exactly what I was trying to avoid by getting this product! It seems to me that, if I paid for software to make my extractions, I am entitled to these extractions--with or without their backgrounds.
On the whole, I'm going to give the product a 3-star rating simply because it is so incredibly accurate at extracting and I'm painfully aware of just how difficult that can be. Also, for my purposes of simple product photography for online auctions and web stores, this does the job. People with small children might find this fun despite the limitations as long as they don't expect perfection. Beyond that, it's questionable.
If some of the features that I can see (but not use) were available, I think this would be a first-class, 5-star product. As it is, it most certainly is not.