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You may be familiar with the concept of shallow depth of field from shooting with your digital camera. When you shoot a photo with the aperture wide open, only part of the image is in focus, and the rest will be blurry. Even if you don't shoot a photo with the shallow depth of field, you can simulate that look after the fact here in Elements, by following the Depth of Field Guided Photo Edit. I have selected and opened two photos into the Guided Photo Edit workspace. Their thumbnails appear down here in the project bin. I am going to start by working on the photo on the left, so I will double-click its thumbnail in the project bin and that opens it into the document window for editing.
So with the Hand tool or the Zoom tool selected in the toolbox, I will click Fit Screen in the Tool Options bar. I'd like to have this photo of me and some of the reflections in focus, but throw the rest of this image out of focus. So I'll go over to the Guided Photo Edits in the Task pane on the right and down to the Lens Effect category, and I'll click on Depth of Field. The instructions tell me there are two methods for stimulating a shallow depth of field, the Simple method and the Custom method. I will start with the Simple method, selecting it here. I will scroll up to the top and as with all guided photo edits, I'll follow the steps spelled out here.
The first step is to knock the entire photo out of focus by clicking this Add Blur button. Step two is to bring some of the photo back into focus, defining that area with the Gradient tool that's provided in the Guided Photo Edit. I will select the Gradient tool, and then I will move into the image and I will click about where I think my face is in the photo, and I will drag out a line. The length and direction of this line will determine which part of the image will be in focus. If I want to add more to this focal area, I can just drag out another line.
I can do that as many times as I want. I will scroll down to the third and last step in this Guided Photo Edit, which is to increase the amount of blur in the unfocused parts of this photo. To do that, I will click on the Blur slider and drag to the right. If I don't like the results, I can click Reset and start again from the beginning, or if I do like the results, I will click Done to close this Guided Edit. At this point, I would save and close this changed version of the file. Now let's take a look at the other way to simulate shallow depth of field.
I will use the other image in the project bin for that, double-clicking on it and then making the photo larger by clicking Fit Screen in the Tool Options bar. What I'd like to do here is have only this red boat in focus, with everything behind it and in front of it out of focus. So again I will click on the Depth of Field Guided Edit, and I'll choose the Custom method this time. Step one of the Custom method is to select the area that I want to keep in focus, using this Quick Selection tool.
I'll click on the Quick Selection tool, and then I will move in to the image and I'm going to click and drag over the red boat. If I go a little too far and select part of the green boat too, I can remove the green boat from the selection, by going up to the Tool Options bar for the Quick Selection tool and choosing the Subtract from selection option here, and then coming back into the photo and clicking and dragging over the green part of the boat. This technique works best with a relatively small brush tip, so if your brush tip is too large, you can press the left bracket key on your keyboard to make the tip smaller.
Now that I have selected just the area that I want to be in focus, I will go to step two of the Custom Shallow Depth of Field Guided Edit and click the Add Blur button, and that blurs everything except for the red boat that I'd selected. I will scroll down, where I find a slider that I can use to increase the amount of blur in the unfocused parts of the image. Again, if I don't like this result, I can reset and start again, or if I'm happy with it, I will click done to close the Guided Edit, and I would save and close this changed version of the photo.
Simulating a shallow depth of field with either the Simple or the Custom method is a good way to direct attention to the most important part of the photo or to obscure a distracting background.
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