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Bokeh 2: Adding Soft Background Focus

Article Description

Photoshop expert Dan Moughamian explains how Alien Skin Software’s Bokeh 2 provides intuitive and powerful options for selectively blurring your digital photos. Common uses include blurring unwanted background details, creating the “bokeh effect” behind a close-up subject, and creating faux miniature cityscapes and landscapes.
Customizing the Blur Settings

Customizing the Blur Settings

The next step is to tweak the actual lens blur settings in the left panel area. For this process, I zoomed in to 50% and clicked the Hand tool to pan the image down so that I could view the entire area to be blurred. This makes it much easier to see the subtle changes that arise from changing the Bokeh Amount, Rotation and Blade Curvature.

For this shot, I felt the Bokeh (or Blur) Amount was slightly high, so I reduced it to a value of 10. I did not apply any Zoom or Twist, as those are more special effect than part of a traditional photography workflow. Because I was simulating a lens with a known number of lens blades, I did not change the Blades setting or the Rotation, either.

The Creamy setting defines how clearly you can see the “shape” of the bokeh in the background. Reducing the value makes the bokeh shape more obvious; increasing it will smooth the shape out. I reduced the value here just far enough that I could detect a change (Figure 12). Reducing the Blade Curvature setting (here I reduced it to -14) will make the bokeh shape more “star-like”; increasing it will make the shape more rounded. Both of these settings are subjective, so some experimentation is required.

Figure 12 Use the Creamy setting to define how pronounced the “bokeh shape” effect is.

The Highlights controls allow you to selectively boost the highlights (and therefore overall contrast) in shots that require it. Threshold defines how much of the image will be brightened, while Boost Amount determines how strong the brightening effect is. For this shot no Highlight boosts were needed. Similarly no Grain Matching (which adds some simulated grain to your blurred areas) was needed, as adding it to the plants would’ve also added it to the sky (an unwelcome addition).

Once finished with my edits, I clicked the Hand tool to hide the Focus Region and then chose one of the Split Views from the pop-up menu to create a before-after comparison (Figure 13). This is a final way to check and make sure I haven’t gone too far with the blur effect. As noted, I don’t typically work with the Split View turned on.

Figure 13 Finishing your workflow with the Split View is a good way to make sure you’ve maintained a realistic look.

Once you’re done, click the OK button, and Bokeh 2 will process your image and output the results to a new layer in Photoshop. The final shot is shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14 The finished result from Bokeh 2 helped to add a bit of style to the image and focus the attention where it mattered most.