Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blur It!

By Rick Sammon Published in Quick Fix
I don’t know about you, but when I look at a photograph on my monitor, I sometimes wish I had used a different shutter speed (to freeze or blur action) or a different aperture (for more or less depth of field). Well, in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, accomplishing that feat is sometimes possible—to a degree.

In this column I’ll show you how to do it, using two pictures from a recent trip to China. I used Photoshop, but you can do the same thing in Photoshop Elements.

Attention, pros: Because Photoshop Elements doesn’t offer Photoshop CS4’s or CS5’s Convert For Smart Filters feature, which basically lets you apply a filter as you would a layer and layer mask, I’ll share a very basic technique that works for both programs. Using the Convert For Smart Filters feature is a more professional method for applying the following techniques.


The opening image for this column was taken at a shutter speed of 1/320 sec. That shutter speed was fast enough to stop the action of the women who were dancing in a circle around the woman who was beating the drum in the center of the picture. I took the shot at the Sisters’ Meal Festival in Guizhou, a remote area in southwestern China. It’s a once-a-year event where Miao women gather with the hope of attracting a husband.

To add motion to the scene, I first duplicated the layer. Now, I had two layers exactly the same, one on top of the other.

Next, I added the Radial Blur Filter (Filter > Blur > Radial Blur) to the top layer. When applying this filter to an image, you can change the Blur Center (here, I placed it over the woman with the drum), the Amount, the Blur Method and the Quality. I selected a small Amount, chose the Spin Method and clicked on the Good setting.

If the blur effect is too pronounced, you can reduce it even after it’s applied. Look at the previous screenshot, the one showing the two layers. At the top of that screen grab, you’ll notice that I reduced the Opacity of the top layer to 49%. That reduction made the effect less pronounced and more pleasing, to me anyway.

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