Recipe 7.2. Soft focus and selective depth of field

Soft focus is the classic way to create romantic portraits. In camera this is achieved by the use of special softening filters, but the same effect can be achieved very simply in Photoshop. Soft focus is not simply blurring an image, as we need to preserve the detail while adding an overlay of romantic softening that creates wonderful halos around highlights.

Selective focus, on the other hand, is a recipe we can use in Photoshop to recreate convincing depth-of-field effects, where there is an increasing fall-off of focus in front of and behind the main subject or focal point.

This wonderful pictorial device has great power when it comes to directing the viewer's attention. There are two ways of achieving this in Photoshop. We can simulate selective focus manually, with the Gaussian Blur filter and a layer mask, which can do a pretty good job. Alternatively, in Photoshop CS3, we have the new Lens Blur filter, which can simulate selective focus with stunning accuracy and realism. We'll be looking at both methods here.

Soft focus

1 Open the image and duplicate the background layer by dragging it to the "Create a new layer" icon in the Layers palette. Blur this duplicate layer, using Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use a Blur radius of anywhere between 30 and 50 pixels. The higher the setting, the more pronounced the effect will ...

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