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Photographers have long found ways to add an ethereal glow to certain images, especially with portraits or dream like scenes. Would you believe it was actually common to smear a thing coating of petroleum jelly on a glass filter, not directly on the lens of course, in order to achieve such an effect? I'm grateful we now have Digital tools to aid in creating this effect. So I can have a choice between a completely sharp image, and one with a glow effect. In this lesson I'll show you how this effect can be added to any photo. Creating an ethereal blur effect of course involves blurring the image and I certainly don't want to blur the underlying image.
I want the image itself to appear sharp. And so I'm going to use a smart filter to apply this adjustment, this filter effect, in a non-destructive way. So I'll click on my background image layer on the Layers panel to make sure it is active, and then I'll choose Filter > Convert for Smart Filters from the menu. I'll click OK to confirm my decision with Photoshop, and as you can see, my background image layer has now been converted to a smart object. Now if I add a filter it will be applied as a smart filter. So I'll go ahead and choose Filter > Blur, and in this case I'll use the Gaussian blur filter. This is the filter that I use most frequently for this type of effect. And I'll adjust the radius in order to apply the desired degree of blur. Now, in most cases I'll apply an effect of somewhere around a ten pixel radius, but this will depend largely on the strength of the effect you're looking for.
The resolution of the image and a variety of other factors. But at this point, we don't need to worry too much about the final result, because we can always fine tune the adjustment later. In this case, I'll set the value at ten pixels and click OK. You can see that the Gaussian blur effect has been added as a smart filter. I can turn the effect off or on by clicking the eye icon to the left Gaussian blur filter. But I can also adjust the opacity of the filter. I'll double-click on the adjustment button at the far right of the Gaussian blur, and I can reduce the opacity value. I'll set this down at around 50%, and you can see that now I have sort of a hazy appearance over the image.
That's creating that nice ethereal glow. Notice that around the edges of objects I also have a bit of a halo effect. This produces a very nice dreamlike quality in the image. I'll fine tune that opacity to my liking, in this case maybe a little more than 50%, and I will click OK to apply the change. Now as I turn off the Gaussian blur layer you see the sharp image and then the image with that halo effect, that ethereal glow. Now the image doesn't look out of focus. I still have a sharp underlying image.
I've simply added an ethereal glow effect using that blur filter. And if at any time I decide I'd like to change the value for my filter I can simply double-click Gaussian blur under smart filters and fine tune the radius setting. So, for example, if I wanted a stronger effect or a more subtle effect, one with a smaller radius, I can certainly fine tune that in my Gaussian blur filter, and when I'm happy with the effect simply click OK. One of the key things to keep in mind when adding an ethereal glow effect to an image is that it doesn't take much to have a significant impact on the photo.
Generally speaking, you'll want to keep the effect very subtle. Be sure to evaluate the final result compared to the original to get a better perspective on just how strong the effect really is.
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