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Photoscapes: A New Method of Digital Communication

By Scott S. Weinberg, LASN technology editor

This photo shows the project prior to using the Photoscapes design imaging program.

When I asked for a review copy of RainCad, the people at Software Republic were kind enough to send me a copy of Photoscapes. Photoscapes is a landscape design-imaging program, similar to others that I have seen and reviewed. What I liked about this program was its ease of installation and use. Unlike the RainCad program, which had a huge learning curve, within an hour's time, I was imaging my way to a new home landscape.

Again, let's talk about the target audience for this type of software. I would seriously doubt that many large firms that do not deal with "typical" planting design concepts would be interested in this type of program. I would imagine that all landscape architects and designers that deal with trying to communicate their ideas about planting design would find this a great tool, and almost as importantly, a wonderful sales tool.

It seems that many of the newer programs have borrowed some of the better ideas from existing programs and have produced software that is easier to use and in most cases more efficient. That is what this program has done. Within minutes, I was able to take a digital photo of a house and import the image into Photoscapes. The on screen pull down menus were very easy to understand and use. In fact, I was surprised to see such a limited amount of information in the pull-down menus. However, after completing an image I realized that there was no need for additional options. The software developers did a great job in paring this program down to the tools essential to the program and no more.

Using Photoscapes' numerous tools allows the designer to "install" a variety of plants and shrubs and hardscapes onto the photo. The program features more than 1,300 different images of landscape and hardscapes materials.

To begin a project all you need to do is take a digital photo. It will make life easier if you select a point that is 90 degrees to your intended object. A little bit of height would also help. The idea is to obtain a little ground plane in your photo. That will allow you to add depth and work with areas such as lawns and groundcover beds. If you take the photo to low you will create a true section effect that will not allow you to work in any beds or lawn areas and would appear fairly flat.

In this example, the first step I had to complete to get the canvas ready for planting was to clear off some of the undesirable objects in the photo. For example, there is a mailbox in the center of the photo and some shrubs and a small Japanese maple that needed to go. Using the program's Cloning Tool, it was a fairly easy task to remove the mailbox and plants from the photo. In reality, the Cloning Tool allows you to place a "mask" over the existing objects and blend it into the background. For example, the mailbox was covered over with patterns from the grass and sidewalk area. Once covered, it is hard to imagine something ever being there.

Prior to placing the plant materials, a floating tool bar previews the materials selected to be placed in the photo.

Once the canvas is cleared, it is time to select the plants to be placed on the site. Remember that this is an imaging program and not a design tool. It works better if your design is already complete before trying to place your plants. Knowing where the plants should go is a very useful step. Using the pull down menus, select the Objects pull down. Once selected, a "floating" toolbar will appear. This tool bar can be moved anywhere on the drawing and minimized so you can work in the photo without having the distraction of a large dialog box. In this example, I have selected a tree first. By simply dragging the desired plant and sizing the plant you can easily move it to the desired place. Keep on track by selecting, sizing, placing and even duplicating your plants and you have just about created your total image.

The program will even allow you to create shadows to increase the visual depth to your image: very simple to do with just a right click and left click and the shadows are created. I had a better experience putting shadows on the shrubs than on the trees. The tree shadows were out of perspective and looked a little awkward. (I am sure that with a little patience I could put a perspective command to work and get the tree shadow to look correct). The entire photo image did not take more than an hour. In fact, I am confident that the second time I could almost cut the time in half.

Objects can be manipulated to the front and back of the image, so they appear the way you would see them in reality. The plants can grow on the screen, so you can show a growth cycle and you can also do a materials takeoff of the objects in the image.

The program includes some 1,300 different images of landscape and hardscape materials. You can easily add additional images to the existing database if you desire.

Along with the ease of use and the product it produces, one of the best parts about the program is the cost. It is available for about $150 and can be viewed at the website of the developer, Software Republic. The web address is

Scott Weinberg

Scott Weinberg is a professor and associate dean at the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Education. Weinberg earned his B.S.L.A and M.L.A. degrees at Iowa State University.

His teaching experience includes construction, planning design, and professional practice at Iowa State University, and planting design, computer applications, engineering, construction, and site design at the University of Georgia.


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October 20, 2019, 8:15 pm PDT

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