To Blur or Not to Blur. Bokeh with Photoshop

Sometimes a photo could do with a tiny tweak in the right direction to get the focus and atmosphere we want.  It could be brightness, contrast, saturation or we might want that fresh sunny morning bokeh effect.  We may want whoever looks at the photo to see and feel the moment and focus on that part of the photo that is our object and bokeh is another effect that can help us.

Bokeh is Japanese for blur in case you wondered.

Bokeh or that background that is nicely blurred with those twinkly faded lights can be achieved in about 5 minutes or so in Photoshop.

So let us go through this process.  The below image shows two photos, before and after Bokeh or blurring has been applied.

Bokeh Example

How to get Bokeh in a Photo.

The easiest and most common way is to reduce your aperture on your camera to as low as possible ie, F4 or lower.  The more distance between the object and background, the better the blur.

There are a million tutorials on Bokeh on the internet for this, but basically, the process is this.

  1. Set all image properties, contrast, saturation, brightness, vibrance and anything else that gets the photo as you want it
  2. Duplicate the photo.  ‘Layer > Duplicate Layers’
  3. Apply a Gaussian Blur Effect to the new layer. ‘Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur’
  4. Create a vector mask on the new and set to reveal all.  ‘Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All’
  5. Select the brush tool, set to black (white hides the back photo) and use a brush that is big enough that when you draw on the photo, it is not bigger than the object.  Now draw on the photo.  The brush makes the layer transparent so you see the original photo.
  6. In the layers panel, there is an option to set opacity amount, play with this to avoid over blurring

The basis of pretty much all effects on photos is adding layers and manipulating those layers then set opacity or masks on those layers to get that effect we are after.

Adobe do a trial of Photoshop.  Once you have tried this software, you will never look back.

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