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Capture Moments with FaceTime and Photo Booth on Your MacBook

Many Apple switchers and first-time owners quickly notice the video camera that accompanies the latest MacBooks: a tiny square lens and LED light at the top of the screen. That's your MacBook’s built-in FaceTime camera (and the accompanying microphone), which allows audio and video chatting in iChat, video chatting in FaceTime or a quick, fun series of photos or video clips via Lion’s Photo Booth and iMovie applications.

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(Some third-party applications can use your MacBook’s camera for things like reading bar codes.) Heck, you can even take your user account photo with your FaceTime camera (in the System Preferences window)!

Previous MacBook models included an integrated camera that Apple called the iSight camera. Today’s models, however, use an improved version of the hardware, now rechristened as the FaceTime camera (a name change aimed straight at Lion’s FaceTime video chatting application). Therefore, if your MacBook has a built-in iSight camera, don’t panic — if your laptop meets the other requirements for the FaceTime application, your on-board camera will work just fine.

Photo Booth allows you to snap digital pictures just as you did in the old automatic photo booth at your local arcade, but Photo Booth comes complete with visual effects to add pizzazz and punch to your photos. You can even capture video clips using iMovie and use the footage in all your iLife applications.

(If you’ve used the Photo Booth application on an iPad 2, you’re already familiar with how much fun you can have with your images and video clips!)

The FaceTime camera’s indicator light glows green whenever you’re taking a snapshot or recording video . . . which, when you think about it, is A Good Thing (especially if you prefer chatting at home in Leisure Mode).

Need to quickly get a picture of yourself for use on your web page? Or perhaps your iChat icon needs an update to show off your new haircut. Photo Booth can capture images at 640 x 480 resolution and 32-bit color — and although today’s digital cameras produce a much higher-quality photo, you can’t beat the built-in convenience of Photo Booth for that quick snapshot!

To snap an image in Photo Booth, follow these steps:

  1. Launch Photo Booth from the Applications folder.

    Here is the application window that appears. (Ignore the rather silly gentleman who wandered into the frame!)

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    Photo Booth features a very different appearance in full-screen mode, complete with a fancy wooden stage and curtain! To try things out full-screen, click View→Enter Full Screen.

  2. (Optional) Choose to take one image, four quick photos as a group, or digital video.

    The three buttons at the lower-left side of the Photo Booth window allow you to switch between taking one photo, four photos in a row (arranged as a group, like an arcade photo booth), or a movie clip.

  3. (Optional) Click the Effects button to choose an effect you’d like to apply to your image.

    Photo Booth displays a screen of thumbnail preview images so that you can see how each effect changes the photo. You can produce some of the simple effects you may be familiar with from Photoshop, such as a black-and-white image or a fancy color-pencil filter, but Photo Booth can also deliver some mind-blowing distortion effects, and even an Andy Warhol–style pop-art image!

    To return the display to normal without choosing an effect, click the Normal thumbnail, which appears in the center. (Paul Lynde’s spot, for those of you old enough to remember “Hollywood Squares.”)

    Of course, you can always launch your favorite image editor afterward to use a filter or effect on a photo — for example, the effects available in iPhoto. However, Photo Booth can apply these effects automatically as soon as you take the picture.

  4. (Optional) Click a thumbnail to select the desired effect.

    When you choose an effect, Photo Booth automatically closes the Effects display.

  5. Click the Camera button.

You’ll notice that the image (or video clip) appears in the filmstrip at the bottom of the window. Photo Booth keeps a copy of all the images and clips you take in the filmstrip so that you can use them later. After you click a photo or film clip in the filmstrip, a series of buttons appears, including

  • Sending the photo in an e-mail message

  • Saving the photo directly to iPhoto

  • Using the image as your Lion user account icon

  • Using the image as your iChat Buddy icon

To delete an image or clip from the Photo Booth filmstrip, click the offending thumbnail and then click the X button that appears underneath.

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