Do you know how I often I hear a blogger proclaim “But I want to make my backgrounds blurry like The Sartorialist!”?, then attempt it in a variety of terrible ways that inevitably leave their pictures and their subjects looking like they’re residing in some weird alien environment.
In all honesty – the blur effect is not that important – if your pictures are well lit and in focus, then it’s all that really matters, but I understand that it’s a popular aesthetic in fashion blogs – one that I like myself.
There are two ways to achieve “the blur” – in camera and in Photoshop, below I will spell out those methods.
I’m sorry to break it to you – but you’re not likely to get a really great background blur, in camera, without an SLR, or at least a camera with a manual aperture.
What’s an aperture? A small hole in your camera that lets the light in, the hole can be made smaller, or larger and determines how much light is let through to create your image. It also determines your depth of field, or focus. This is what determines whether you have a blurry background or an in focus background.
The simplest way to put this method into action is to shoot in “Aperture Priority” mode – on my camera, a Canon, this is marked as Av. Within Av you can move your F-Stop (the aperture function) up and down, whilst retaining your other settings. The lower the aperture, the more blurry your background.
There are other in camera functions to aid in this effect:
- Using a lens with long focal length
- Using the “AF Point Selection” – marking exactly what point in your frame you want the focus to be on
- Setting your camera to AI Servo – which tracks your focus, a great setting for moving subjects – like models at a fashion show!
But what if you don’t have a fancy camera? There are ways and means! I strongly suggest, if you are a blogger, especially a blogger who wants to focus on photography, design and making “fancy spreads” – investing in Photoshop – it’s a great tool.
1. Open your image.
With this image, I actually probably wouldn’t bother with this technique – as most of it had already been done in camera, however, for the purpose of this exercise…I shall!
2. Duplicate the layer.
4. Select the Magnetic Lasso tool and select the outline of your subject.
5. Fine tune your selection.
The first time round you’re going to miss a bit and cut off a bit here and there, especially around the shoes and hair. To fine tune your selection, hit shift to add to the selection and option to take away from the selection.
6. Create a Layer Mask
Staying on the Background Copy Layer – Hit Layer, Layer Mask and Reveal Selection.
7. Create a Gradient.
This is one of the more important stages for a realistic effect, that is often missed. You don’t always need to use it, but in a full length picture such as this, it’s very necessary.
Switch to the Gradient Tool and Create your Gradient guide – you want start a little ways from the bottom and stop just past the middle of the picture. This determines the direction and position of the blur, in a picture like this, the line would be vertical (below)
Switch out of Quick Mask mode back to Standard mode. Your selection will turn into a box – if the box is in the place you want the blur to be move on to the next step – if the box is is in the opposite place (i.e at the bottom of the picture) you’ll need to Inverse it by using the Inverse tool under the select tab.
8. Create Your Blur
Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
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