Photog Chris's Blog

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Basics – Gradient Blur

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Cold Trail Fake DOF

One of the great things about about lenses with big apertures is that you can control the  DOF and get some nice blurred foreground, background or both.

Yes, nice when you have a large aperture lens. But large aperture lenses are expensive. An to be honest, it is difficult to get this result with a dSLR, cropped or full frame. This effect is best done on Medium or Large format cameras.  Or Photoshop.

This effect is not perfect, you need a picture with a clear foreground, no large vertical elements up front. The picture to the left is clear for about 5 feet (little sapling on the right side). But if your masking skills are up to par even this will not stop you.

Build Your Gradient

The first step is to build your gradient. You want a black to clear gradient…. Okay really any color to transparent gradient will work, I just used black.

Gradient Tool

After you have selected your gradient tool create a new empty layer and apply the gradient where you want the blur, generally on the bottom of the image.

Solid to Transparent Gradient

Now, while holding down the Ctrl key (command on Mac) click on the Layer Preview icon.

Layer thumbnail

You have now loaded the gradient as a selection! Good but before going on to the blur, duplicate your background to a new layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer while background is selected) The reason why it that you may change your mind, this original background is safe.

Onto the blur. If you have Lens Blur (Photoshop CS or newer) use it, Gaussian Blur if you have Elements. How much you blur it will vary on the size of the image. This is where your artistic vision comes into play.

Lens Blur

Gaussian Blur

After Class Notes

Normally when you apply an effect or blur to an image and want to control it with a gradient it is more common  to use a layer mask. The problem is the blurred top layer interacts poorly with the solid background. Applying the filter directly to the layer with a selection is the solution. Too bad you lose the flexibility of layer masks. So remember, copy merged and paste or  duplicate your layer before using this effect.

Chris

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Written by photogchris

January 3, 2010 at 10:38 am

Posted in Basics, Tutorials

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