DPP Home Technique (R)evolution Controlling Blur Effects

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Controlling Blur Effects

Guide the viewer through your images by controlling sharpness

This Article Features Photo Zoom

5) Screen Blend Mode
Stack multiple layers with different Blend Modes, filters or filter settings to combine them in precise ways. For a convincing soft-focus effect, start with one blurred layer set to a Blend Mode of Normal at a low opacity, then add another blurred layer set to a Blend Mode of Lighten at a medium opacity, and optionally consider adding a third blurred layer set to Screen at a low opacity.

Applying blurring effects selectively adds more magic to the mix. By adding layer masks to blurred layers, you can apply any of these effects nonuniformly and even customize the effect for select areas. Set each layer to the maximum opacity desired and then use a layer mask to reduce the effect further in other regions using a soft-edged black brush (vary the opacity, as necessary) or a gradient (Linear, Reflected and Radial are the three most useful gradients). You can make a case for keeping each layer at 100% opacity and reducing the effect globally and/or locally with a layer mask.

6) Lighten and Screen
Often, you'll find that you like one filter setting for one region of an image and another setting for the same filter for another region. You can get the best of both in one image. Use two layers, and apply different filter settings to each. Then mask them to reveal the optimal effect for each region, hiding the other layer's effect, either entirely or partially.

Like double-pass sharpening, it's entirely possible to perform double-pass blurring, applying first one blur filter and then applying another filter on top of the already blurred image, which will create an entirely new effect. Double-pass blurring is less flexible and so more challenging to test and resolve. It's more than likely that you'll have more than enough control with the hybrid blurring provided by multilayer techniques using multi-pass techniques sparingly.

Before masking shadows or highlights, consider using a layer's Blend If sliders; double-clicking a layer will activate the Layer Styles window and allow you to access them. By moving the sliders of This Layer, you can remove the blurred effect selectively based on tonal values in the image. Split each slider (hold the Alt/Option key) to feather transitions.

7) Final image
If you want to exert ultimate control over blur in your images, add out-of-focus exposures. To do this, shoot subjects at least twice, both in and out of focus. While Photoshop's filters may be able to convincingly simulate "the real thing," in-camera blur often has unique characteristics that are impossible to duplicate exactly. You don't have to limit yourself to either analog or digital blurs. You can have the best of both with a few simple modifications of your exposure and postprocessing practices.

With blurring and sharpening techniques, in addition to modifying the mood of an image, you can prioritize some image elements over others, and control the course and speed the eye will take while exploring an image, deflecting attention and quickening the flow of the eye in softer image areas and drawing attention to and arresting the flow of the eye in sharper image areas.

You can be the conductor that orchestrates the quality of details and their relationships in your images. And you have extraordinary control, the likes of which haven't been seen in the medium of photography—until now. Seize the day.

John Paul Caponigro, author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution, is an internationally renowned fine artist, an authority on digital printing, and a respected lecturer and workshop leader. Get access to a wealth of online resources with his free ennews Insights at www.johnpaulcaponigro.com.


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