How To Blur a Photo Background in Photoshop (Shallow Depth of Field Effect)

Hello everyone this is Chris from Spoon Graphics back with another video tutorial for Adobe Photoshop Today I'm going to show you a nifty trick to create a faux shallow depth-of-field, blurred background effect, which helps give your photos that beautiful large aperture look that draws your attention to the subject while everything else is out of focus

Obviously to achieve the effect for real you would shoot with a fast lens with a low F-stop, but you can fake the appearance, or enhance existing depth of field in a photo using some simple Photoshop tools The image I'll be working with is this stock photo of a 'young beautiful stylish woman' by Dmitry Tsvetkov on Shutterstock As with most photographs, the background is naturally blurred slightly from the camera being focused on the model, but enhancing the depth of field effect will help blur the details of the background further to give the photo a softer appearance Begin by duplicating the Background layer, by dragging it onto the New Layer icon, or with the CMD (or CTRL on Windows) and J shortcut On this layer we want to separate the main subject from the background

I share a collection of selection methods in my video titled 'How To Cut Anything Out in Photoshop', but one of the best techniques for subjects set against a detailed background like this, is using the Select and Mask tool Activate the marquee tool, then in the top toolbar, choose Select and Mask In order to see what you're masking, choose one of the View modes in the Properties panel I prefer the red overlay mode With an appropriate brush size, begin painting over your subject

Photoshop will try to stop wherever it reaches an edge It does a pretty good job in most places, but sometimes you have to hold the ALT key to paint back in some parts of the mask Once you have the overall selection you want, choose the Refine Edge brush to perfect areas like hair or fur Paint over those areas to capture the fine strands You can play with some of the sliders to fine tune the selection

Contrast in particular is a handy one to clean up some of the fuzzy edges left behind from using a soft brush Click OK to make the selection, then add a layer mask to clip the subject If you turn off the original background you might see some untidily clipped areas Since we applied the selection as a layer mask, we can touch it up a little Hold the ALT key and click on the layer mask thumbnail to see its contents

Select the brush tool, then change the mode to Overlay in the top toolbar Overlay makes it easy to refine the mask because painting with black will only affect the black areas, while painting with white will only affect the white areas Reduce the Flow rate so you don't blow out the colours too fast, then paint over the fuzzy areas of the mask to sharpen up the edges Paint white over the inner portion of the mask, then black around the edges Make another duplicate of the background, then grab the Polygonal Lasso tool and make a rough selection around the subject, but keep pretty close to its outline

Go to Edit > Fill, then choose Content Aware in the options Toggle off the visibility of the subject layer to see it has been magically removed from the background This step prevents the subject in the original image being blurred and becoming visible around the edge of the clipped version of the subject Before adding the blur effect, right click and convert the layer to a smart object You'll then be able to edit the blur settings if necessary, rather than them being applied permanently

To create the actual blurred background effect, go to Filter > Blur Gallery Depending how your photograph is cropped and framed, you might be able to use Field Blur If your image has some perspective to it, where the background recedes into the distance, you'll want to use the Tilt Shift option to make the focal depth change gradually The lines of the Tilt Shift blur show where the focal area starts and ends Between the two solid lines will be crisp and clear, but the blur will gradually increase as it gets to the dotted lines

Beyond that, everything is at maximum blurriness Click and drag the tool widget and place the clear centre area at the feet of the subject If the subject is far away from the camera you might see the foreground being blurred up to that point, but in this image only the upper portion of the blur area is used Drag the dotted line to determine how far the focus gradually increases Adjust the Blur amount to find the the ideal depth of field effect

I opted for around 35px You can also adjust the Distortion slider, which I feel gives the effect a little more realism like you would see straight from the camera lens Under the effects tab there's a cool setting for adding Bokeh effects, which brightens the highlights in the background to produce the sought after blurry circles often associated with shallow depth of field photographs This effect works best on darker images with lots of lights in the backdrop In my example it just blows out the sky, but the couple of highlights near the centre give a good idea of the kind of effect it produces

Ok the blur gallery settings to apply the blurred background effect, which retains a natural looking appearance To finish off this image, let's add a couple more special effects Add a new layer at the top of the layers stack, then sample a bright warm colour from the highlights Set up the brush tool with a soft tip And don't forget to bring the Flow back up to 100%

Press CMD+T to Transform, and scale the layer up to act as a bright radial glow coming from where the sun is shining in the photograph Change the layer's blending mode to Soft Light to add a nice warm glow to the image Download and open one of my free Light Leak Overlays, which you can find linked in the description area below Use the shortcut CMD+A to Select All, CMD+C to Copy, CMD+W to close the document, then back in the main photo document, press CMD+V to Paste Set the blending mode of this light leak layer to Screen, then press CMD+T to Transform

Make any adjustments to position, rotate, scale or flip the image so it fits nicely into the composition If the light leak glow is too intense, use the CMD+L shortcut to bring up the Levels adjustments Drag the sliders to darken the shadows, which makes it less visible because we're using the Screen blending mode, and increase the highlights to boost the brightness The final result is a soft and dreamy looking portrait that draws your attention away from the background and onto the subject By gradually increasing the blur amount with the Tilt Shift blur tool, it retains a realistic appearance that replicates how a wide aperture lens naturally creates a shallow depth of field effect

So if you enjoyed the video or learnt any new tricks be sure to give the video a Like Subscribe to the channel to be the first to see my upcoming videos, and don't forget to head over to my Spoon Graphics website to grab my other free design resources Thank you very much for watching, and I'll see you in the next one

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