I went to a charity concert by Bananarama (yes, the 80s girl group who sang 'Venus' and 'Love In The First Degree') the other night, and found myself unexpectedly positioned right in front of the stage. Even more unexpectedly, the usual security goons who try and block people taking pictures were nowhere in evidence, leaving me cursing that I'd left my EOS at home and only had the basic camera in my BlackBerry to fall back on. I took 150-odd photographs, but unsurprisingly given stage lighting and the camera's limitations, not many of them turned out too well.While I could have retouched a handful of them and got almost decent shots, they still didn't scrub up that nicely. Rather than deleting them all, though, I decided to see if I could construct wallpaper from them. Shrinking each photograph would make the stage blurriness less obvious, and grouping them together would create a better record of the event than each individual shot could. Here's the process I went through, which didn't require anything more exotic than Lifehacker favourite IrfanView for image processing. The instructions below are based on version 4.20, which is the current release as I write.
Even though I wanted to use as many pictures as possible, my original batch of shots included plenty of misfires, blurry moving arms that could be anybody, and other technical disasters. The first task of the day was to get rid of all the truly dodgy (as opposed to just unpleasantly blurry or underlit) shots. Once I'd done that, I was left with 84 shots, most 800 by 600 pixels. To build a 1280 by 800 wallpaper, the best bet was to have each one 128 pixels wide (which would need 10 across). That equated to just under 100 in height, which would give me 8 rows. Dumping four more shots thus gave me a set of 80 that would translate easily into a pretty-much screen-sized wallpaper.
IrfanView includes a batch-resizing facility which makes it easy to get all the pics down to the right size. Select File -> Batch Conversion/Rename, and navigate to the directory where your culled pictures are stored. Make sure that 'Batch conversion - rename result files' is selected — this will create copies rather than resizing your originals. Click on 'Use current ('look in') directory' to save the output files in the same location (otherwise they end up in your temp directory). Click 'Add all' to add all the pictures. Tick 'Use advanced options' and click Advanced. Tick Resize, select the width, and make sure 'Preserve aspect ratio' and 'Use Resample function' are ticked, then click OK. Then click 'Start Batch' to resize everything. For my photos, this was a quick process, but if you start with larger images, it may take a little longer.
Once the images are resized, you can create the final product using Irfanview's Image -> Create Panorama image option. While this easily groups together images either in columns or in rows, it can't do both at once. I built my final image by selecting this option, choosing Horizontal, adding ten images (one row), creating the image, saving it as 'Row 1', and then repeating the process for each other group of ten. I then built the final picture by using the Vertical panorama build option and adding all 8 rows, and saving the result as a new file.
Doubtless the task could be automated better (particularly the final construction). I'd have got better results if I'd shuffled the images around a bit, so that there weren't so many clusters of similar pictures near each other. If I'd done some image editing on each individual picture before grouping them, the final result would also be snappier, but part of the point was to save myself a long image editing session. With that proviso, I'm happy enough with the wallpaper I produced, and it does make a nice souvenir. If you've got other tactics for rescuing blurry camera phone shots or creating wallpaper, let's hear them in the comments.