Lytro's processing software just received a significant update. Lytro Desktop 4.1 provides some new and very useful features for users of the Illum light field camera, including Focus Spread, which allows photographers to pick beginning and ending points for depth of focus. The video above demonstrates the capabilities of Focus Spread. Using a single exposure, the effect is similar to focus stacking with multiple exposures using a traditional camera - subjects at different depths in a photograph can be kept in focus while the background is blurred. We have a real-world example below from a recent wedding Rishi shot with a Lytro Illum that shows what you can do with the new Focus Spread feature.

Shallow depth-of-focus
Extended depth-of-focus

Rather than choosing one subject to bring into focus, Focus Spread separates an image into foreground, subject, and background; using a slider, the user can adjust where each of these regions begins and ends. In the example above, we extend the subject from just the face ('Shallow depth-of-focus') to the face and the hands - and everything in between ('Extended depth-of-focus'). Meanwhile, the background remains just as blurred.

Lytro likens the effect to using multiple apertures in a single shot, as subjects are rendered with sharpness equivalent to f/16, while the foreground and background are blurred as if the image were shot at f/1. To see how this is done, have a look at the screenshot below of the new tabs in Lytro's Desktop software that enable this feature. In the Focus Spread slider, the cyan-, orange-, and white-shaded areas represent the foreground, subject, and background, respectively. Moving the cyan and orange indicators allow you to define these areas. The droppers can also be used to define the front and back limits of the field of focus by directly clicking on the image. Meanwhile, the foreground and background remain blurred, the extent of which is determined by the aperture setting (which itself is an adjustable slider in Lytro's software).

Focus spread controls allow you to fine tune the position and depth of focus, essentially allowing you to choose which subjects are in sharp focus and which are blurred. In the focus spread slider above, the white region indicates the region of sharp focus, with the cyan and orange indicators representing the front and back limits of the field of focus, respectively. The depth map assist allows you to visualize the depth map (which can be edited for better results in certain cases).

Also included in this update are new editing tools including a white balance dropper, individual color saturation sliders, sharpening controls and the ability to export XRAW files. Image preview thumbnails now display real-time image adjustments, and images can now be shared directly to Facebook as animations or videos. For more information on the updates to the software, visit the Lytro Desktop's site.