Cre­ate Artis­tic Blur in Pho­to­shop


Maximum PC - - R&D - –IAN EVENDEN

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PHO­TOG­RA­PHERS SPEND A LOT OF TIME en­sur­ing their pic­tures are sharp—thou­sands of dol­lars’ worth of aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem will help you out, but there’s slightly more to it than that, just as crank­ing open your aper­ture may de­crease your depth of field, but also in­tro­duce some soft­ness to your sub­ject, un­less you’re using the lat­est lenses, which can be mind-blow­ingly ex­pen­sive.

Blur is an aes­thetic is­sue, and as such, is sub­jec­tive. Where one per­son may see the beauty of a small sub­ject en­hanced by a blurred back­ground, oth­ers see a missed op­por­tu­nity to show us what’s there clearly. This is where post-pro­cess­ing comes in. Pho­to­shop has many tools to add blur to your images—some sub­tle, oth­ers less so—and even one to se­lect ar­eas of your im­age de­pend­ing on how sharp they are. You can get enor­mously artis­tic with them, cre­at­ing a mas­ter­piece of blurred col­ors and de­tails, or just en­sure your sub­ject pops out of a photo by blur­ring a dis­tract­ing back­ground away. The choice is yours.

1 FIND YOUR FO­CUS Se­lect­ing the sharp parts of your im­age is achieved with the Fo­cus Area tool from the “Se­lect” menu. This is a largely au­to­mated tool, with just a cou­ple slid­ers to fid­dle with, and se­lec­tors to add and re­move ar­eas from the se­lec­tion. Open your im­age file, and choose “Se­lect > Fo­cus Area.” It gives your CPU fan a quick blast of speed, then set­tles down to show you the sharp ar­eas of your im­age. You can choose how this is dis­played from the “View Mode” drop-down on the “Fo­cus Area” pop-up win­dow, with the red of a Quick Mask or the checker­board back­ground of an empty layer avail­able, along with other op­tions. 2 IN A SNAP The Add and Sub­tract tools to the left of the pop-up win­dow are for adding to or re­mov­ing ar­eas from your se­lec­tion. We left the two slid­ers on “Auto”—there’s a check­box on the right of them—and used “Add” and “Sub­tract” to fine-tune the se­lec­tion [ Im­age A]. You can out­put the se­lec­tion in a va­ri­ety of ways, but we’ve cho­sen the tra­di­tional se­lec­tion with the march­ing ants out­line. Hit “OK.” You can then re­fine the se­lec­tion fur­ther with “Se­lect” and “Mask,” per­haps soft­en­ing the edge with a lit­tle feath­er­ing, or turn­ing on “Smart Ra­dius” edge de­tec­tion to snap the se­lec­tion more tightly to the edge of your sub­ject [ Im­age B]. 3 GO POP-EYED In­vert your se­lec­tion with “Se­lect > In­verse,” and you now have the un­sharp ar­eas se­lected. To make the sharp sub­ject pop out, we can blur the back­ground as if we’d used a larger aper­ture set­ting on the lens when we took the photo. This is use­ful for cell phone cam­eras whose depth of field ca­pa­bil­i­ties are lim­ited by tiny sen­sors and short fo­cal lengths, even though some have pretty good light-gath­er­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, with lens aper­tures of f/1.8 or wider. 4 PIN POINTS From the “Fil­ter menu,” se­lect “Blur Gallery,” then “Field Blur.” This fil­ter uses con­trol points, or pins, to dif­fer the in­ten­sity of the blur in dif­fer­ent ar­eas of your im­age. We’ve started at the top with a strong blur, then light­ened it as we pro­ceeded down the side of our flower, be­fore strength­en­ing it again at the bot­tom , but you can do what­ever suits your im­age best. Use the slider on the Blur Tools pal­ette to in­crease or de­crease the in­ten­sity. You can move your pins by drag­ging them with the mouse, or delete them by se­lect­ing one, and hit­ting Backspace. 5 GET BUSY WITH THE BLUR As we made a se­lec­tion be­fore ap­ply­ing the fil­ter, you can place a pin right on top of an area you want to re­main sharp, and as long as it’s out­side the se­lected area, the blur has no ef­fect—what does hap­pen is that the ef­fects of that pin are felt in the area be­tween it and

the next pin, any­where that was se­lected. You can even place a pin out­side your im­age if needed, to draw the right amount of blur across the cor­ner of the photo. Hit “OK” at the top when you’ve fin­ished blur­ring, and a progress bar ap­pears while your blur­ring is ren­dered and fi­nal­ized. 6 EYE-CATCH­ING EF­FECTS An­other of Pho­to­shop’s blur tools that’s worth look­ing at is the Iris Blur, which is found in “Fil­ter > Blur Gallery,” just un­der­neath “Field Blur.” It’s use­ful for blur­ring the edges of an im­age, so at­ten­tion is drawn to the fo­cal point or sub­ject. In this way, the eye of the ob­server is guided to where you want it to look, rather than catch­ing on some in­signif­i­cant detail else­where. 7 ADD IN­TER­EST WITH IRIS Iris Blur places an oval over your im­age, and blurs ev­ery­thing out­side of it, plus a lit­tle in­side, as de­fined by a se­ries of drag­gable spots. There’s only one con­trol slider, for the in­ten­sity of the blur, so it seems there’s not a great deal of depth to this tool—un­til you dis­cover that you can place more than one oval. Th­ese are po­si­tioned using a pin sys­tem, just like Field Blur’s, each with an oval sur­round­ing it, which can be ro­tated, re­sized, and repo­si­tioned as you like. 8 NAT­U­RAL BEAUTY The outer ring of the oval marks the point at which the blur reaches 100 per­cent of its in­ten­sity, as set in the Blur Tools pal­ette [ Im­age C]. The in­ner ring marks 0 per­cent, and there’s a smooth tran­si­tion be­tween the two. This means you can have a sharp tran­si­tion or a longer one, de­pend­ing on the look you’re try­ing to achieve [ Im­age D]. It’s easy to cre­ate some­thing un­re­al­is­tic here by using too much blur, or mak­ing the tran­si­tions be­tween blurred and un­blurred too sud­den. To keep it nat­u­ral, try com­bin­ing both Iris and Field Blur, to gen­tly soften the back­ground of a photo, while main­tain­ing the sharp­ness of the sub­ject.

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