This photomosaic of my boy is better seen as a larger image. Then its groovy, complex structure really stands out. But you get the picture.
Remember that magical moment back in the mid ‘90’s when you were mesmerized by seeing your first computer-generated photomosaic?
Also called photo-tiled pictures, they’re large image tapestries made up of many, many tiny photos.
All of the chaos when viewed up close dissipates into one clear image when seen from a distance.
How cool is that?
Kind of reminiscent of the world in the movie “Tron.”
Then technology advanced, and the voodoo trickled down to the masses.
A couple of years back, Apple even threw in a photomosaic screen saver into its OS X.
Clearly, computer-processing power had advanced sufficiently to handle this once monumental task.
So as I recently struggled with a gifting decision, I figured I would create a photomosaic and frame it.
How hard could it be?
And if there’s one thing I was overflowing with, it’s thousands of pictures that would fuel my new art project.
No Obvious Solution for a Complex Picture
As I sat down with my coffee mug,
I figured there must be tons of software available out there to choose between.
Heck, I was even hoping Apple’s OS X had incorporated a simple way to take a snap shot of what I knew my iMac could already do.
No such luck.
And as I continued my research, I strangely found there were only a few paltry options out there.
And those were either-
- Free shareware
- Inexpensive but flawed Mac App Store apps
- Or pricey solutions that no one was really talking about
(maybe because the cost was too steep for the typical art project)
My biggest concern was finding software that would integrate easily with Apple’s Aperture photo program. (iPhoto’s more powerful cousin)
To create a decent photo mosaic, you’ve got to use a lot of photos…hundreds of pics. I didn’t want to have to take the extra step of exporting all those pictures into a separate folder on my desktop for a program that won’t talk to Aperture or iPhoto.
Low Cost Options
There are several choices available in the Mac App Store for a few bucks.
But while perusing the user comments, I saw a lot of complaints about these programs freezing up.
I have enough trouble keeping my computer happy. I’m not going to intentionally throw it a curve ball.
Plus, I don’t have the time to try half-baked software over and over again on the off chance that it will work on the fifth try.
How Good is Free?
I don’t know.
I figured if the low-cost options were ravaged by reviewers, how good could the free ones be?
For those of you more intrepid than I, here’s a list of
8 free photomosaic software choices on Bright Hub.
The Two Expensive Heavyweights
Not that expensive always equates better, but I hoped the phrase
“You get what you pay for” was going to apply here.
Based on price alone, the Hertz and Avis of photomosaic software are:
I was initially horrified at the thought of spending this much coin, but after I dismissed the less expensive choices as likely failures, my wallet loosened a bit.
Look, I just wanted the software to work, and I was willing to pay for this sometimes-elusive convenience.
Image is Everything
So how did I choose between the two?
Of course, I immediately went to their respective websites, inviting myself to be wooed by their slick marketing presentations.
Now, simply ingesting advertising without analysis isn’t really a smart way to determine how good the item actually is, but it’s a start.
As they say, “You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
And, boy, was I unimpressed.
Both websites looked like they were designed by your clever tween niece.
Good as a first attempt, but hardly the center of a business’ marketing campaign.
Also, both companies had crummy-looking promotional videos on YouTube.
(One used a voice simulator for its audio track. They couldn’t even find a human willing to push the product!)
So I was forced to roll up my sleeves and do my own research.
There were two factors favoring Mazaika.
One was it actually had a bona fide review from a reputable website-
Macworld’s review from Chris McVeigh
And he really liked it.
Mazaika also claims to give you more manual control than any of its competitors.
The downside was its flexibility could also be its Achilles’ heel.
Too many operational choices might make it overly complicated to navigate.
(Remember, I’m impatient. I want software to work, but I also don’t want to take forever figuring out a program designed for designers.)
Plus you have to buy and download it from their clunky-looking website.
And then I wondered why Mazaika didn’t have its flagship product in the Mac App Store.
Instead, there was Mazaika Lite (for $2.99) and Mazaika Free.
The free version had more one-star reviews than anything else.
The light version hasn’t been updated for ten months and had only one review.
It’s a one star clunker titled “Big Nasty Bugs.”
I was not impressed.
Plus, after these two clear fizzles, you’ve got to wonder how good the $50 version really is.
And I hate the name.
Photo Mosaic by cf/x Software
Their big marketing line on the top of their website is-
“Does one thing. Well.”
Well… that’s good.
I also had trouble confirming if Photo Mosaic would work with Aperture.
Buried deep in their website was their Hint #7 from July 2011 that makes a passing reference to the fact that Photo Mosaic does indeed communicate with Aperture.
(Here’s my suggested Hint #8-
Please list this important detail on your home page!)
Look, I know that these companies are probably run by geeks with massive brains.
But they’ve really got to find a Morlock who understands basic web design and how to market a product to the average consumer who’s probably struggling right now at home with their tech.
The good news is Photo Mosaic is available through Apple’s Mac App Store.
Now, that doesn’t by itself make it a great product, but I assume it had to pass certain Apple standards.
(Overly naive of me?)
Yes, the “Better the Devil You Know” phrase applied to me here.
Eenie Meenie Miney Mo
So I decided to go with Photo Mosaic.
And guess what?
After all my hemming and hawing…
Photo Mosaic worked great!
- Yes, it plays nicely with your Aperture and iPhoto albums
- Yes, it’s fast
- Yes, it has a variety of photomosaic presets to choose between to vary the look of your final image
- And no, it didn’t crash on me once!
My photomosaic gift was a huge success.
Not that I want to be a one trick pony, but for now, my gifting strategy has just received a major update!
Fickle User I Am!
Has anyone else out there had success with the other photomosaic choices?
I’m sure I haven’t earned any brownie points with the big brain programmers of the software I’ve so heartlessly shunned.
(I bet they’d like to use their programs to scatter my image into a billion pixels.)
If I ever find myself zapped into the Grid because of this post,
I’m really going to need some protection from Tron.