Using the lens blur tool to its full potential

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  1. #1
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    Using the lens blur tool to its full potential

    Ever seen those photos with the perfectly blurred out backgrounds, and no matter how hard you may try to replicate them, you open your aperture, push in tight, you still can't get that longed for look. Well thats where photoshop comes in!

    Take this image


    As you can see, there are loads of distractions in the background, taking your eye right away from the subject.

    Now with the lens blur filter applied, we get this!




    Of course with photoshop, nothings ever simple, this is how to get from A-B with the lens blur filter.



    First, lasso your subject (Personally I like to use the magnetic lasso, others may use the pen tool, others will use the normal lasso)







    If you have photoshop CS5, I heavily recommend you use the refine edge tool, this will really help out in making the lens blur look real, especially around the hair.







    Now duplicate the selection (ctrl+J)







    Duplicate your background layer as well.






    With the background duplicate layer selected, go to Filter>Blur>Lens Blur, and add your desired blur effect.





    Once you've applied the lens blur filter, you'll see that the originally duplicated subject is still in focus, but notice the really bad 'halo's' around the subject, well fortunately there is an incredibly simple way around this!



    With the background duplicate layer selected, select the clone tool, then, alt+click on an area outside the edge of the halo and simply clone in that bit where the halo lies, and, as you have the selection of your in focus subject in its own separate layer, it wont be affected in the slightest!

    It should now look like this


    Notice how the halos around the subject are almost totally gone!

    Jobs a good un'


    Of course though, sometimes it may not be as easy as this, if for example there is an area between the foreground and background, you'll have to use graduated masks and the like to get that looking as it should, which can be very tricky.
    Last edited by R0B; 10-23-2011 at 03:04 PM.
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    NME Under 21's music photographer of the year runner up.


  • #2
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    Awesome tutorial! Thanks Rob!

    Now I'll have to go try this.
    Tim Campbell

  • #3
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    Ok, so here's what I came up with:

    Before:




    After:




    I'm not entirely certain I did this correctly. As stated previously... I do 99% of my adjustments in Aperture and then just occasionally use Photoshop for something. It took several tries to get this result.

    I did make the selection (sloppy job, but used 'Q'uick mask to refine the selection.) Cloned the selection (command+J aka control+J).
    Cloned the background layer.
    With the background layer copy selected, I ran the lens blur filter (I backed off the blur slightly... I have another food photo that I took with natural bokeh at f/4 and I wanted this photo to roughly match that photo.) I found that by setting the radius to 70 is was perfect match.

    Ok... now here's where I got lost...

    After apply the blur (and waiting for Photoshop to process it), I then tried to figure out what you meant by "clone" the halo. What I really did was to select the background copy layer (now blurred), used the paintbrush tool, selected a soft brush of approx 100px, then changed the painting mode from to 'clear' (instead of 'normal'). This had the result of clearing out the 'blur' on that layer so that the sharper edges of the original background showed through (so not technically a clone.)

    The above is the result.

    Thanks Rob for that awesome tip! I always wanted to learn to do this in Photoshop (Aperture does have a "blur" tool that allows me to "paint" the blur into the photo but I've never known how to do it in Photoshop.)

    BTW, if you look in the Food forum, you'll see the other food shot I took during the same session. This "other" shot is the one I was trying to match (in that shot the background bokeh is natural -- created with an f/4 aperture). It's located here: Lake Perch on crisp and mashed potatoes
    Last edited by TCampbell; 10-21-2011 at 04:43 PM.
    Tim Campbell

  • #4
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    PHOTO EDITING NOT OK
    Yurp you got the idea with regards to the halos, I meant clone out the halo with other out of focus areas, its kind of hard to explain lol

    Looks really good what youve produced
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  • #5
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    That's a really cool post Rob! Lots and lots of detail and step by step for newbie editor like myself. I appreciate you sharing what did and how you did it! This adjustment makes a world of difference for your subject.
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  • #6
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    PHOTO EDITING NOT OK
    Thanks, kruser Figured I could only keep that sneaky little lens blur technique to myself for so long, after all, sharing is caring
    500px.com/robellis
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    Sony A77, A200, Grips for both, 16-50 f/2.8, 50mm f/1.8, 18-70 f/3.5-5.6, 70-210 f/4-5.6, 2 flashguns.

    NME Under 21's music photographer of the year runner up.


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