Wordy Wednesday #217 “Blurring The Lines”

Today let’s take a look at blurring an image that was inspired by an e-mail from reader Carol Baker. As a movie buff you gotta know that name got my attention. Carol told me she likes “the effect that blur and selective blur can have” and feels “blur and selective blur can add mystery and depth to an otherwise ordinary photograph.”


Well Carol, I hate to be the one to break the bad news but there is no rule about how much blur or soft focus to apply to an image. My best advice, as Emeril says, is to “season to taste,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a few Photoshop tricks up your sleeve.

  • First, don’t be afraid to yank sliders to the extreme ends to see what effect this produces. Even after you apply a filter, there’s always the UNDO command waiting in the wings and I promise you that no pixels will be harmed while performing this maneuver, especially when working with a copy of that original file.
  • Second, don’t forget the FADE (Edit > Fade…) option that appears when some filters are applied. Use the slider to apply the Filter at anywhere from 1% to 99% to create the desired soft focus or blurry effect.
  • Third, apply blur/soft focus to a separate layer and many plug-ins give you that option. With the effect applied to a duplicate layer you can lower the layer’s opacity allowing part of the bottom layer to show through, giving you the ability to control how much blur is applied.

Tip: For more control you can erase part of the duplicate layer allowing parts of the original file to show through. You can change Eraser tool opacity so it doesn’t erase everything and gently erase the blur/soft focus on a subject’s eyes to allow their sharpness to show through. This is an especially good trick for portraits because the sharpness of the subject’s eyes are critical in getting the viewer’s attention.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 9.13.43 AM


For some more tips, tricks and techniques on creating studio lighting effects without spending the big bucks on gear, pick up a copy of my book “Studio Lighting Anywhere” from Amazon or your local camera store.

Author: Joe Farace

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