Cre­ate beau­ti­ful mo­tion blur

Mas­ter Pho­to­shop’s Ra­dial Blur fil­ter and learn how to get the long-ex­po­sure look – with­out the need for an ND fil­ter!

Digital Camera World - - TOOL SCHOOL -

Pho­to­shop’s Ra­dial Blur com­mand is one of sev­eral fil­ters that let you blur the de­tail in your pho­tos. What’s clever about this par­tic­u­lar fil­ter is the di­rec­tion in which it blurs. As the name sug­gests, it lets you blur in a ra­dial way – ei­ther in con­cen­tric cir­cles or burst­ing out­wards from a cen­tre point. The lat­ter op­tion can be used to mimic the look of clouds in mo­tion, as if they have moved across the sky dur­ing a long ex­po­sure.

Of course, noth­ing beats cap­tur­ing a real long ex­po­sure in-cam­era. But some­times it may not be pos­si­ble to do this. Per­haps you’ve been caught short with­out a tri­pod or ND fil­ter, or maybe you’d like to try the ef­fect out on one of the older land­scape pho­tos from your im­age li­brary. Ei­ther way, you can mimic the look of mo­tion blur in Pho­to­shop with a com­bi­na­tion of fil­ter, se­lec­tion and mask­ing skills.

The kind of blur cre­ated by the Ra­dial Blur fil­ter has lots of other uses too, whether you want to add mo­tion blur to car wheels or cre­ate a zoom burst ef­fect.

Blur Method The fil­ter of­fers two dif­fer­ent types of blur. Spin works in a cir­cu­lar mo­tion around the cen­tre point, while zoom pushes the blur out­wards from the cen­tre point, like a zoom burst. Spin is use­ful for adding blur to wheels, for ex­am­ple, so that ve­hi­cles ap­pear to be mov­ing fast. Zoom is not only use­ful for blur­ring clouds like this, but also for cre­at­ing all man­ner of vor­tex-like ef­fects – try us­ing it on the back­ground in an ac­tion por­trait for a dy­namic blurred back­drop.

2 Se­lec­tive blur The Ra­dial Blur fil­ter is most use­ful when you ap­ply it se­lec­tively to parts of your photo, like the sky here. First need to make a du­pli­cate layer (Ctrl/ Cmd+J), then se­lect the area. The Quick Se­lec­tion tool is ideal for se­lect­ing skies: sim­ply paint over the area and Alt-paint to sub­tract if it goes wrong. Once done, add a Layer Mask to iso­late the sky. Se­lect and mask the sky be­fore you con­vert your du­pli­cate layer to a Smart Ob­ject, so that the blur doesn’t af­fect the bridge edges.

3 Smart Ob­ject By right-click­ing a layer in Pho­to­shop and se­lect­ing Con­vert To Smart Ob­ject, you can place it in a pro­tec­tive bub­ble, so that any changes you make to it re­main non-de­struc­tive. You’re free to re­size up or down, add tonal changes like Lev­els or Curves, or ap­ply fil­ters to the layer while still keep­ing every­thing ed­itable. Any fil­ters that are ap­plied will ap­pear as Smart Fil­ters be­low the layer name. Sim­ply double-click a Smart Fil­ter to re-en­ter and ex­per­i­ment with set­tings later.

4 Qual­ity There are three qual­ity set­tings to choose from. Draft can leave un­sightly noise and break up pix­els, but it pro­cesses much quicker than Best. It makes sense to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent blur amounts and blur cen­tres while in Draft mode (ide­ally us­ing a Smart Fil­ter so you can change set­tings); once you’ve set­tled upon the di­rec­tion and strength of blur, you can set the qual­ity to Best to com­plete the ef­fect.

5 Blur Cen­ter The Blur Cen­ter box lets you set a cen­tre point for the ra­dial blur. Drag around the box to set the cen­tre. It’s not al­ways ob­vi­ous where to po­si­tion the cen­tre point, es­pe­cially as it’s a square box and most images are rec­tan­gu­lar, so it may take a lit­tle ex­per­i­men­ta­tion to get the re­sult you want. If you need to re­set the cen­tre point to its de­fault, hold Alt and click the Can­cel/Re­set but­ton. (This works for all di­a­log boxes in Pho­to­shop.)

6 A mount As the name sug­gests, this slider lets you con­trol the strength of the blur ef­fect. The higher the value, the fur­ther the blur stretches out. As with the other set­tings in the Ra­dial Blur di­a­log, you usu­ally need to ex­per­i­ment to come up with the right amount for your im­age. A fairly low set­ting of 18 lets you gen­tly blur the clouds here. It sim­pli­fies the de­tail in the clouds, sug­gest­ing a long ex­po­sure.

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James Pater­son With a decade as a writer and pho­tog­ra­pher be­hind him, James knows ex­actly which Pho­to­shop and Light­room tools and tech­niques mat­ter most.

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