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Creating blur in Photoshop

From: The Elements of Effective Photographs

Video: Creating blur in Photoshop

So you've tried the pan or zoom techniques and you just can't get them to work for you--at least not yet. Or you might have an existing shot that you think would look really good with motion added. Well, there is another option. You can recreate blur in Photoshop using the blur filters. I'll go over a couple techniques that I find practical in my work. But as you know, if you've ever used the software, there are a million other ways to do this too. So let's head over to the computer and check it out. The very first thing I do is to create a new layer in Photoshop.

Creating blur in Photoshop

So you've tried the pan or zoom techniques and you just can't get them to work for you--at least not yet. Or you might have an existing shot that you think would look really good with motion added. Well, there is another option. You can recreate blur in Photoshop using the blur filters. I'll go over a couple techniques that I find practical in my work. But as you know, if you've ever used the software, there are a million other ways to do this too. So let's head over to the computer and check it out. The very first thing I do is to create a new layer in Photoshop.

I'm going to name this blur. It's important to name your layers so you can remember what you did with them. Now let's go up to the Filter and go down to the Blur and down to the Radial Blur. Now you'll notice it's on the Spin Blur Method. I want this to be Zoom, so I'll click that. And I want to change the Amount of zoom that I get in this effect, so I will move the slider until I find one area that I think will look kind of cool.

And I think it will be right there. You can also move the center of the zoom, that is, where the zoom starts. And I think I'm going to try to make it right where the main front flower is. All right! That looks good, and there it is. So I've got the effect. But I want to have this foreground flower to be in focus, and so I'm going to make a mask. And the purpose of this mask is that everywhere I paint with black, I will let the bottom layer show through.

So I'll go over and get a brush, check to make sure the Opacity is at 100%. I'm going to make the photograph a little bit bigger by hitting Command+Plus so that I can see a little bit better where I'm working. Isn't that great? You can see the flower is being revealed underneath where I am brushing black on the mask. Okay. So I did a little bit too much in one area. It's easy to fix when you're working with masks. I'm just going to change the foreground color to white and go back in, and you can see when I go back in that the photograph becomes blurry again, that the effect of the zoom blur is coming back.

Very easy to fix your mistakes when you're working with a mask. Okay, now I'm changing back to a foreground color of black. I'm going up here to the Opacity because I want to pull back the opacity so that the sharpness is not abrupt. I want to create kind of a soft edge. I'm increasing the size of the photograph, so I can really see what I'm doing. And I'm coming in here with an Opacity of 58 and just pulling in some of the detail around the edge of the flower, something like that.

I'm going to lower my Opacity even more and go out and make that transition a little bit smoother out in this area. All right! Command+Minus to get it back to where I can see the total effect, and I think that looks pretty good. So I'll go back up to the layers and we'll flatten the Image. I'm going to do a Save As and I'll put an identifier on here saying radial.

Save it, and there you go. Next up we're going to look at motion blur on a photo of an athlete. So here we are with a photo of Trishana running. I made a pan shot by using a slow shutter speed. I also shot ones where I stopped the action. Now I'm going to demonstrate how to put the motion into your photograph in Photoshop. So the first thing you do is to make a layer. I'm going to title that layer blur.

Then go up to Filter, go down to Blur, and down to Motion Blur. Now the Distance can be affected depending on how much blur you want in there. You can see the preview in both the photo and the Preview box. And I think about that is where I want to go today. Now the Angle I'm going to keep at 0 because it's a pan shot. I want the motion to go across horizontally and not any kind of up or down motion in it.

Click OK. I'm going to increase the size of the photograph so I can see what I'm doing, and I will make a mask out of this. I'm going over to the brush. I'm checking to make sure that the Opacity is 100%, and I'm going to go down and change the foreground color to black. You can do that by clicking on the arrow or hitting the X on the keyboard. Still, I'm going to make it a little bit bigger, and this is so I can really see what my edges are doing.

I'm going to make my brush smaller by hitting the left bracket key. So I don't want to get too far out into the background. Just bring this down. What you're seeing is the layer below this one coming in nice and sharp. That looks pretty good to me at this point. Maybe a little arms, again make the brush a little smaller by doing bracket, and just bringing it in anywhere that I want to kind of have the photograph sharp.

We'll go into her face and do that the last. In a natural pan caught in camera, not everything is sharp when you're in your subject. And so I'm leaving a lot of it kind of blurry just for that reason, just to make it a little bit more believable. Now I've lowered my Opacity to about 39%, and this will allow me to come in and do a little bit less intense sharpening of the image. And with this, I can start bringing in a little bit more of her arm.

What I'm trying to do is not going to the background too much, because that would really destroy the effect if the background is sharp, like down here where I made a mistake. The nice thing about masks: very easy to correct this mistake. I'm just going to change the foreground color to white by pressing the X. I'm going in there and just restoring that area. Now I'll press the X to bring it back to black because I want to have some of her shoes sharp, and little bit more on this shoe on this side. There you go! So let's see how we're looking now.

It's looking pretty good. I'm going to go in and just touch up a little bit more here. But overall I think it's getting there. All right! So let's take a look at what happens when I take off the blur layer. We're totally sharp. Put it back on and you really are beginning to have that sense of motion. Let's look at the original one that I captured in camera and see how it compares. Bring this up a little bit so you can see it, and let's compare them side by side.

So you're getting to see a little bit of that motion that replicates the real motion in the photograph that I did in camera. So I'm sure you're wondering why I still do my pans and motion in camera, if I can do them so easily in Photoshop. The answer is simple: I love the challenge of mastering these techniques and getting it right in camera. To me, photographing is the fun part of being a photographer.

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The Elements of Effective Photographs

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Natalie Fobes
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