As far as I remember, I have always thought that photos with a blurred background looked much better than when every single element was in focus. To me, clear background was a distraction and what I wanted to achieve was that blur background that really gives a whole new dimension to a photograph. Back then, I did not know how to blur backgrounds in Photoshop nor that the lens of the camera played a huge part in how much depth of field a photo would get.
I have had cameras in the past. However, I got my very first “proper camera” back in 2016 when I was studying at the university of Edinburgh. It was not a DSLR nor super fancy, but back then, I was just starting out with blogging and Instagram so it worked out anyway. That’s when I turned 24 that I received the camera. The lens was not detachable, the focus not precise and it did not have a macro mode. In truth, the portrait mode was the best way I could get a blurred background, and only on product photos, when the said background was far away and the object really close. Furthermore, it wasn’t even that precise and most of the time. Not so great after all.
How To Blur Backgrounds In Photoshop
I used that compact camera for everything relating to my blog, whether it was food, product or outfit photos. Yet, never achieving that blurred background nor getting depth of field. Then, I got an iPhone 8S, which has an amazing portrait mode. Thus, I started to use it for product and food photos. But it did not work that well for outfit and full-body photos.
That’s why I carried on using my compact camera for outfit pictures. The automatic settings worked well enough and the quality was decent. And yet, still not depth of field nor blurred backgrounds! Thus, still not good enough for me. Unfortunately, I could not afford a much better camera with a powerful lens back then. So I had to find another way to blur backgrounds on my outfit photos.
I searched the internet, I watched videos and I learn how to blur backgrounds on photos using Photoshop. The more I practiced, the fastest I became. And now that I have found a way to blur backgrounds, I am going to teach you. Sure it may take some time to get along with the technic but at least, it’s gonna be cheaper than investing in a super expensive camera.
How to create a faux depth of field with Photoshop
Tutorial 1 – Creating a faux depth of field
Step 1 – First step on how to blur backgrounds in Photoshop. Open a photo in photoshop. Unlock the photo in the layer tab. Select the “quick selection” tool and adjust intensity of reach (in red on the photo). Select the zone you want to work on, here the body, to create a silhouette. Zoom in and out and adjust the tool’s radius to correct the outline of the silhouette so that it fully embraces the body shape and all details. Ignore hair in the wind or any rebel hair when drawing the outline.
Step 2 – At the bottom of the layer tab, select “new fill layer” (circled in red). Create a new fill layer in “solid color” (circled in yellow) and choose the color black (code 000000).
Step 3 – Then, create a second new fill layer (circled in red) in “gradient” (circled in yellow) and choose the color white (code ffffff). The gradient will allow the background to gradually blur out for a more natural look. The further away, the more blurred out. Drag the solid color layer above the gradient layer. Select both layer with Ctrl then press Ctrl + G to merge in a group.
Step 4 – Go into the “channels” tab (“couche”, circled in yellow) and unselect all channels. Pick any one of the channels (circled in blue), click right and duplicate. Name it “depth map” (circled in green). Unselect the newly created channel and select back all the others. Go back to the layer tab. Unselect all layers BUT the original photo (selection is shown by the little eye as circled in orange on the photo). You’re half-way to knowing how to blur backgrounds on Photoshop.
Step 4 – Click on the “filter” (filtre) menu at the top of your window and select “blur” (flou) then “lens blur” (flou de l’objectif). That’s when you actually add the filter that will blur backgrounds. But I think you had guessed it.
Step 5 – A new window opens. Change the radius (rayon), circled in green, and shape (forme), circle in yellow, to your liking. Both shape and radius help determine how blurred the background will be. The intensity and where the blur starts on the photo. Click “OK” when you’re happy with the result.
Step 6 (optional) – Edit lighting, colors, exposure, saturation, etc.
Et voilà! You now know how to blur backgrounds in Photoshop when the backgrounds is far behind with an horizon.
Tutorial 2 – Creating a faux focus
We learnt how to create depth of field to a photo with a far back background. Now, it is time to learn how to blur backgrounds that are much closer to the subject. I am a firm believer that the background does not matter that much. Indeed, as long as the foreground is interesting, and most important of all, in good focus, you should be good. Of course, a good background does make a picture more attractive. However, when it is blurred out, what we grasp from the photo are the colors rather than the elements.
Blurring a close background or creating a faux focus works better on mid-shots or portraits. It also depends on the angle of the photo. But selecting the silhouette and blurring the areas around it, you basically “move forward” the body, which gives the impression that it is in the foreground. Although all elements of the photo are technically on the same level. The steps to follow to create a faux focus are basically the same as the ones for a faux depth of field. Except that, after creating a solid color layer in black for the silhouette, instead of creating a gradient layer, you will choose “solid color” again. When doing so, choose white (code ffffff) for the background.
Drag the black silhouette layer above the white layer. Press Ctrl + G to join in a group. The following steps are once again, the same as a faux depth of field. However, when choosing the radius, I’d make it higher (around 50) to really mark the difference between foreground and background
And, voilà! You can now blur backgrounds when they are very close to the subject.
I hope you will find those two short tutorials useful. You now know how to blur backgrounds on Photoshop! Do send over your work! I’d be interested to see what you get from it! I know Snapseed has a focus option but it is imprecise. Basically a big oval around the person in the photo.
Do you use Photoshop to edit your photos? What do you usually do? Have you already blurred out a background photo with Photoshop? What other tutorials would you like to see?
Are you following me on Instagram?
Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope you liked this post.
See you soon, love, Corinne.
Wow this is such a detailed post Corinne! I don’t use Photoshop and I don’t really take outfit photos either but I’ve only recently bought myself a new camera and still figuring out how to use it!
Ahhh this is such an amazing tutorial! I love how you’ve made it so easy to follow!
Love, Amie ❤
The Curvaceous Vegan
I’m not very good at photography and still use my iPhone, but my god this is so helpful! You’ve made the whole thing so easy to follow, and it’s so informative. This must have taken you so long to put together, thank you for sharing xx
Hannah | luxuryblush
I have been so out of touch with Photoshop lately. This is perfect! I love that you put in a lot of good work for that extra depth. The end result definitely looks like DSLR material. I used to blur out the background manually but that too much work. You do a great job! Thanks for sharing!
Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me
This is such a helpful tutorial, it’s grear that you went into so much detail. I don’t have a camera at the moment but I’m saving up to get one! Will be keeping this post in mind xx
I don’t think I’ve read a techy post on your blog before, but they’re really good and you should do more of them! I just bought a lightroom package in an effort to up my photography, and it comes with Photoshop! So I will have to give this a go! My camera does blur the background, but it doesn’t have the strongest depth of field, so this will help until I can afford a new lense!
Jas xx | https://thoughtsfromjasmine.co.uk
This is such an amazing post! I know that techy stuff isn’t what your blog is about but you did such an amazing job with this post, I’d love it if you did more. I’m the worst at editing so this is pretty much all new to me. I used to use photoshop a lot but it was mainly just to sharpen the images up. Great tips, I love that you did this step by step with images too x
I’m sure this post will help a lot of bloggers out there. So detailed and stepwise. It’s always good when someone takes the pain to help fellow bloggers.
This is a great tutorial on using Photoshop to get a bokeh effect just in case your camera does not have the perfect lens. Thanks for sharing.
This is such a helpful post, Corinne! I love playing around in Photoshop and discovering new features. I never knew about this so thank you for sharing the tutorial, I’m going to give it a try sometime! Your photos look fab, I love the blurry background effect, it really makes a photo stand out <3 xx
Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com
This is so detailed, thank you so much. I don’t have PhotoShop any more but I have been considering repurchasing it instead of a new camera, which I don’t have time to learn to use. For the moment I use my Samsung Galaxy S6 for photos and then play around with Color Pic and sometimes Snapseed. But I’m bookmarking this post for reference because I think PhotoShop is a game changer! x
Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com
I don’t have photoshop anymore but this is such a great tutorial and I bet will be super helpful for bloggers who do have it! Really informative!
What an excellent, detailed tutorial! Thank you so much for sharing it. I tend to take most photos with my 45mm lens but I’ve always been disappointed when I’ve forgotten my camera as my old iPhone 6s just isn’t the same (I really need an upgrade haha). This guide is absolutely perfect for improving photos – I’m honestly in awe of the faux focus picture in particular! You really saved it. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂
Beth x Adventure & Anxiety
Wow, this is such a useful and detailed post! Such a great tutorial, I only have photoshop on my phone at the moment but seeing this makes me more tempted to gather together the money to purchase it on my laptop because the results are amazing! A really useful post and tool for editing!
This is just the post I needed to read Corinne as I’m desperately trying to up my photography game at the moment! Photography is one aspect I really struggle with and I don’t actually currently use Photoshop but I always hear so many people praise it so I might have to give it a go! xx
These are such good tips! I will be favouriting this so I can follow the next time I edit my photos. I would love to buy a new camera where I can get the effect, but this will help to achieve it in the meantime.
Thanks for sharing!
I started using adobe photoshop again since I finally got a new laptop so I can finally step-up my Instagram now all I need is a good camera and a bamboo tablet to go back with my digital art xx
this is perfect, i’ve been looking for a way to change my photo’s
I have to learn how to do Photoshop. These tips are something that I need to do to my photos.
Wow! The details in this step-by-step are amazing. I have never played around on photoshop because I get so confused, but I think I will give it a try now. Thanks for this!
Thank you for this! I have been wanting to try out Photoshop. I haven’t yet, but I want my photos to look better. You always have such awesome ones.
I completely agree that the iPhone cameras are amazing for depth effect, I use my iPhone for pretty much all of my photos! This is so handy to know though, I’ve never really had a play around with depth of filed in photoshop but I definitely want to now- your outfit shots are lovely!
Soph – https://sophhearts.com x
I actually get this effect with the lens that I use. I find that it looks more natural than a forced blur.
This will be so helpful for bloggers who don’t have professional cameras and yet want DSLR type depth of field. Thanks for the tutorial.
Those are good tips. I am yet to get a photoshop app and use the free version 😀 However, I do use by DSLR for photos where I want to create depth
My photography skills go as far as using my iphone and instagram to edit the photos. This post has opened my eyes to a snippet of possibilities that photoshop can offer. Love the before and after photos! Thanks for such a detailed post!
I have been wanting to get better at photoshop and photo editing. This is really helpful for adding depth and I will be playing more with my photoshop to try to get better this year.
This is also what I used to do, But then I got so tired. At most, I will highlight contrasts and make colors more vibrant. Too tired to edit photos already.
Great post! My photography still leaves a lot to be desired but these are really great tutorials. Once I’ve mastered the actual taking of the photo, I’m definitely going to try these out. I’ve got Photoshop Elements – do you think these will work on there as well as the full one?
Thanks for this lesson!! I’ve neglected my photoshop for the past months, but I’ve realized that my skills are already getting rusty, this is a new lesson for me in photoshop and will try to incorporate it in my photos!
What an amazing tutorial! I didn’t know that you can do this on photoshop, definitely got to try it especially on all my photos where I want to draw attention to something on Instagram
Photoshop is my favourite software. Earlier I used multiple layers, masks and Gaussian blur to achieve certain effects. In the latest one I was so excited to find path blur and so many more options that get the same effect in fraction of the time.
I’m going to have to get photoshop. You do amazing work. But I always know you do amazing work. Thanks for the great tips here.
I am terrible at editing photos!! Thank you for this wonderful tutorial!
Great tips! I love doing Photoshop. Definitely try this on my photos. Thanks for sharing.
This is such a great tutorial! I’ve been trying to learn Photoshop for a long time but I haven’t enough time to do that, so I’ll keep your tutorial to the time I decide seriously learning Photoshop
This looks so simple. I’ll have to give it a try. These photos look great!
I think you’d have to know something about photography and/or Photoshop to really appreciate this post. Sadly, I know very little about both.