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Photoshop for Beginners: How to Blur Backgrounds in Images

An easy step-by-step tutorial on how to create beautiful bokeh during post-processing
Thumbnail fo Photoshop how-to video on blurring background

Photoshop can be intimidating for beginners. The editing tricks that look so easy to perform when demonstrated by a Photoshop expert can take a software novice hours to figure out on their own. That’s why the below tutorial from the Photoshop Training Channel (PTC) is such a great resource.

In the video, Jesús Ramirez of PTC answers a common editing question from new photographers: how to blur backgrounds in images. Yes, if you have a “fast” lens that can shoot at an aperture such as f/1.4 or f/1.8 you can create pretty background blur – aka bokeh – at the point of capture.

But if you don’t have a fast lens – they can be expensive – or you just want your photo to have more extensive bokeh than you were able to capture in camera, you can significantly blur a background during post-processing. In the tutorial, Ramirez teaches you about selections, Layer Masks, Smart Objects, and the Tilt-Shift Blur in Photoshop to create bokeh and draw more attention to your subject.

“Obviously the best way to get a blurry background in your photos is to do it all in camera,” Ramirez says. “But if you don’t have the right lens or you’re working with photos that you didn’t take, then the next best way to blur that background in your photos is to use Photoshop. The method that I will show you today will give you realistic results without halos or ghosting and, best of all, this technique is completely nondestructive. You can always come back and edit your adjustments.”

Here is the step-by-step background blurring process that Ramirez demonstrates in the tutorial:

#1 Duplicate Your Original Image

#2 Make a Selection Out of the Main Subject

#3 Expand the Selection

#4 Remove the Main Subject with Content-Aware Fill

#5 Remove the Background from the Model Layer

#6 Contract the Mask with the Minimum Filter

#6 Fine-Tune the Layer Mask

#7 Paint Hair Back into Your Image

#8 Final Adjustments with Camera Raw

Check out the easy Photoshop tutorial below and when you’re done, go visit the Photoshop Training Channel to see all of PTC’s excellent Photoshop tips and how-to videos.

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