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?
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Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope you liked this post.
See you soon, love, Corinne.