Join ePHOTOzine, the friendliest photography community.
Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more for free!
Soft focus portraits - Duncan Evans explains how to give your portraits a quick and easy soft focus fix.
The trouble with compact cameras, and indeed SLRs left to their own devices, is that they produce far too much depth-of-field so that everything in the background is in focus. Now, we've covered creating a shallow d-o-f by using software previously, this is quick fix alternative to that. The idea is to create a soft focus portrait with rich colours, that also hides any flaws at the same time. Traditionally, you would use a soft focus filter, but this can be done retrospectively to any image.
SCREENSHOTS AND IMAGES
Because this is a webpage, the screenshots are reduced in size to fit on. If you click on them, the full size screenshot will appear. You can also download the original image to follow the tutorial through, though as it's quite easy, you should be able to apply the technique to your own pictures without undue trouble.
|STEP BY STEP|
1. Firstly load in your original photo and then go to Layers > Duplicate. This creates a copy of the background layer that the blur effect will be applied to. You will now see two layers in the layer palette. If you can't see the layer palette. Go to Window > Layers (shortcut F7). The new layer is the top layer in the pallete. Ensure that this layer is selected by clicking on it.
2. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and enter a value of 30 pixels which will make the top layer completely diffuse.
3. Set the opacity of the top layer at anything between 50% and 75%. It depends on the quality of the original and what is in the background. Simply keep adjusting until you get a soft focus effect you like. For the image here, 75% was just about right. Don't worry about the colours faded at this point.
4. Now, ensure the top layer is selected and click on the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers Palette or call up from the menu Layer > Layer Mask. Select the Paintbrush tool with black as the foreground colour. Now set the brush opacity to 25% and paint inside the subject, without going over the edges. The idea is to just bring enough detail back into the face and body so that it looks good, but isn't sharp. One paint of the brush might be enough, or it might take a second.
5. Select the background layer (bottom one in the layer palette) and go to Image > Adjustments > Curves. Enter a typical S-shape curve to enhance the contrast. Pay attention to the subject, rather than the background. The reason for applying this to the background layer is that the figure will receive more of the effect than the background of the picture.
6. Now go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and increase the Saturation by about 20%. Judge this by the effect it has on the subject. You want to give the person a healthy warm glow, not a perma-tan. Merge the layers and save to finish.