Alien Skin Bokeh 2

Selective-focus techniques can take a good photo and make it great by focusing attention where you want, softening background distractions. A fast lens set to its maximum aperture or specialty tilt/shift lenses allow you to do this in-camera, but you also can re-create this look using software like Alien Skin’s Bokeh 2.

Available as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X3, Bokeh 2 offers dozens of presets to get you started quickly, including ones that simulate the effects of popular lenses. Select a preset, and you quickly can change the point of focus and the feather amount by dragging and resizing targets on your image. You easily can tweak these presets with just a few slider controls to tailor the effect to your image.

Bokeh 2 supports Photoshop CS5’s 64-bit workflow for Windows and Mac. List Price: $199. Contact: Alien Skin, (888) 921-7546,

These sliders offer all of the controls you need to customize the blur, including Bokeh (blur) Amount, Zoom and Twist settings to simulate the zooming motion of tilt/shift lenses; aperture shape and the amount of “creaminess” or smoothness of the Bokeh effect itself.

Bokeh effects easily are more visible when shooting scenes with bright light sources. These sliders allow you to increase the brightness of highlights to strengthen the effect, and to fine-tune the range of brightness values that are considered highlights.

When creating soft-focus effects in-camera, grain or noise will be consistent throughout the image, from blurred areas to sharp. Simulating these effects with software results in blurring out the grain or noise in your image, so Bokeh 2 lets you add it back in for a more natural look.

This tab is where you’ll find dozens of preset effects, including a variety of aperture shapes, lens simulators and more. Choosing these gets you going quickly as a starting point for your own custom settings.

New in Bokeh 2 is the ability to add multiple radial or planar blurs for precise control over what’s in and out of focus.

These buttons include tools for panning, zooming and selecting before-and-after viewing options, like the side-by-side split shown here—before on the left and after on the right.

Here you can apply a vignette to the image to further focus attention on your subject. Positive vignette values brighten the edges, while negative values darken them. Vignette effects can be tied to the blur area or independent of it.

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