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Join photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long on location in San Francisco as he explores the creative options provided by the kinds of lenses and lens accessories that don't always make it into most camera bags.
The course begins with a look at several common and inexpensive lens attachments, from polarizers to neutral density filters. The course then explores ultra-wide angle and fisheye lenses as well as ultra-long telephoto and macro lenses. The course concludes with a look at tilt-shift lenses, which are useful for architectural photography and special effects, and at offbeat lenses, such as Lensbaby and Holga attachments.
The course also contains Photoshop postproduction advice and examples that illustrate the creative possibilities that an expanded lens collection provides. And because some specialty lenses are extremely expensive, the course also contains advice on renting gear.
You can replicate some of the Lensbaby's effects in Photoshop, and I say some because you're not going to get an exact Lensbaby simulacrum here. But you are going to be able to duplicate some of the smeary effects, and that's what we're going to do right here using a filter called Radial Blur. So let me tell you what I'm after here, so you can kind of follow my thought process. I want to create a Lensbaby-type effect where I've got an area that is in focus here, around Greg's head, with everything around that smearing outward in long streaky blurs.
So I'm going to do that with a single filter. Before I do that, I'm going to duplicate my background layer. I do this duplicate for a couple of reasons. First of all, if it turns out I don't like the effect, I can just ditch this layer and start over, because I always have a redundant backup there in that original layer. But also, it allows me to have a little more control of exactly where the blurring goes, and we'll see that after we get the blur set. So I'm going to go up here to Filter. Actually, before I do that, I'm going to make sure that my upper layer is selected here. Then I'm going to go up here to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur.
Now, this filter is a little bit different, in one very important way, from Photoshop's other filters, and that is that it doesn't show you a preview. So this is kind of a drag. We're going to have to do a lot of trial and error to get our blur settings set correctly. The first thing I need to do is set the Blur method to Zoom rather than Spin. That's what's going to get me that zoomy Lensbaby look. I'm also going to switch Quality to Draft, because right now I'm just trying to figure out what my setting should be. Our Amount scale goes from 1 to 100. We really have no idea where to start.
Let's just start in the middle. So I'm going to put it there around 50, or actually exactly on 50. And this is trying to get me a preview of how much streaking there is going to be. It's also showing me where the center point is going to be, and that center point is going not have any blur applied to it. So I'm just going to hit OK. I've switched to Draft mode to speed up the processing, because all I want is just a quick preview of what this is going to look like. It's not a preview; it's actually applied to my image, but a quick assessment of what this is going to look like so that I can go back and make changes. Okay, first of all, the blur is radiating entirely out of his stomach. That's not what we want, so we're going to need to move our blur point.
Second, I think it's maybe too much streaking, so I'm probably going to turn that down. So what I do now is undo that and then just go back and try something else. And because there is no preview in the blur filter, I just have to keep doing this. When I click here on the center point and drag it upward to where I hope it hits his head, and then I'm going to cut my Amount in half just because it feels like that's a reasonable way of trying to keep track of how much blur I've applied and how to control my changes. I'm still in Draft mode. I hit OK.
It's calculating another attempt here. Aha, that's looking pretty good. I feel like we've got the point okay. It might need to go a little bit to the right. I really want it just centered on his nose. I think maybe it's still too much blurring though. His foot has gone away completely. Now, of course with the Lensbaby, I can change apertures to get shallower and shallower depth of field. This is mighty shallow here, so I'm going to undo that. Filter > Radial Blur. Note that it always shows me the last filter that I used up here. If I just pick Radial Blur though, from here, it's not going to give me the dialog box.
It's actually going to apply the filter using the previous settings. So instead, I'm going to go back to Blur > Radial Blur, and I'm going to just pull this over to the right at tiny bit. And I think I'll cut my Blur amount in half again, down to 12. Hit OK. I'm still in Draft mode. Now, when we're done we will do a final high-quality one. That's looking pretty good. I've got a nice area of sharp focus around here. Let me zoom in so you can see that. He's a little soft, but that's actually kind of authentic to how to Lensbaby would look.
His foot is actually awfully blurred, so I think I am going to stick with this. I'm going to stick with 12. I could have split the difference and gone to like 16 or 18 or something, but I think I'll stick with this. That said, I'm going to undo it because I would like to do a better-quality version of it now. So I'm going to say Blur > Radial Blur, I'm going to leave this set to 12, I'm going to leave my center set where it was, and I'm going to switch to Best Quality. Now, the reason you don't leave it on Best Quality all the time is that it takes it longer to process. So when all we're trying to do is determine our center point and the amount of blur, it doesn't make sense to be sitting through this long progress bar if all we're going to do is undo it and apply different settings.
So Draft mode is a way that we can work quickly, but then when we're done we apply this final full-quality pass. Now, this is not going to create, as I said, a perfect Lensbaby replica. Lensbaby, if there were specular highlights or bright lights in the area, those would smear differently than they do here. They would bloom. They would maybe change shape, and you could even alter the shape further by putting in special irises into your Lensbaby. So optically, this isn't real accurate. It's not creating the types of halos and light flares that I would get from a true Lensbaby.
It is giving me that motion blur, which can be very dynamic, and which can serve to focus attention to one part of the image. So this is not a full substitute for a Lensbaby, but it is a startling simulation. It's like Lensbaby mania. So I'm just going to zoom in here. Now, you may go, well, what's the difference between this blur and the blur we had before? Before, this was a little bit noisier. This has just done a better job of creating really clean streaks and a really nice level of image quality overall.
Now, while this is not a perfect replica of what the Lensbaby would do, I do have an option to do something here that I cannot do with the Lensbaby, and that is to manually control blur throughout any part of the image. And here's what I mean. I have this layer here which has been blurred. In fact, I'm going to rename it Blur. If I click the eyeball to hide the layer, you see that my sharpened layer is sitting right beneath. So if I add a mask to this layer, I can control which parts of the image are going to appear blurry and which parts are not.
I can add a mask by clicking right here, on Add Layer mask. And now, anywhere I paint with black paint, that area is going to appear to sharpen up, because where I paint with black paint I am blocking out that corresponding part of the blurred image and revealing the sharp part that's underneath. So if I wanted, I could sharpen up his entire face. All I'm doing is using the paintbrush with black paint, painting into my mask, and you can see there's now that little black dot right there, and that indicates that this part of the blurred layer is masked, and so what's being revealed is the sharpened layer that's underneath.
Now, what's cool about this is if I paint with something other than black, like 50% gray, I'm going to get a little bit of both. So if I paint in here with 50% gray, I'm showing half of the blur layer and half of the sharpened layer. So I can, if I want, choose to kind of create my own controlled focus blur here, by painting into areas with different shades of gray, or using gradient tools to create ramped shades of gray in my mask.
So again, you can see the black area. It's showing fully or it's blocking completely the blurred area to fully reveal the sharpened area beneath it. The gray areas are changing the opacity of the blur layer so that I see a varying degree, or a varying mix, of blur and sharpened. So this is something I can do with the Lensbaby. I can create shaped areas of focus rather than the simple circular area of focus. So again, I'm not getting the cool lighting effects. I'm not getting the true optical qualities of the Lensbaby, but I am getting the ability to control blur.
Now, this area behind him should possibly be more blurred than it is. I can now add another blur layer and paint in some blur there and really build this up in a very controlled way. So you may not always be carrying your Lensbaby. If you see a shot that you think, well, this would be perfect for the Lensbaby, but I don't have it with me, you could still take the shot with a regular lens, apply this type of effect, and you'll not get a perfect Lensbaby simulacrum, but you would get something pretty close.
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