Modern cameras and smartphones have made it easy for photographers of any skill level to take interesting pictures. The ease of use is great, but it has come at the cost of truly understanding how a camera is functioning, as well as some basic practices for achieving an effective photograph. Here’s my tip on a quick Photoshop tip to enhance your photography editing skills.
The human eye needs help knowing where to focus when viewing photos. Most smartphones don’t give you the option to select what to keep in focus and what to have blurred out leaving you with a photo like the one below:
I found this photo on Creative Commons. It isn’t terrible, but there is way too much in focus making it difficult to know where the focal point is intended to be. Here is a way to artificially fix this after taking the photo:
Using Photoshop, open the photo you want to edit. Duplicate the layer (Cmd-J on Mac). While selecting the new layer go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
Adjust the slider to increase or decrease the blur of the top layer. Increasing it too far can make the image look unrealistic.
Next, create a layer mask (click the square with the circle inside located on the bottom right) on the layer you just blurred.
With the mask selected, choose the Brush Tool (B), and with black selected as your color begin brushing away the areas you would like to remain in focus. Black removes the spots you paint, and white adds them back in, so you are never permanently deleting the parts of your layer.
Some photos are more difficult to fix than others because of the distance covered in them or the amount of things that need to share the same space in focus. Try utilizing pen tool path selections, varied brush weights and different opacities of your brush to create believable post-camera blur.
Here is my final photo. It isn’t perfect yet, and could still use some lightening, darkening and color correction to be stronger, but the subtle blurring of foreground and background information helps lead the eye to the intended subject. See what you can come up with on photos you already have using this simple trick!