How To: Blur the Background of a Photo
If you really focus, you can do this with ease!

Design Master

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The background of your photos can be distracting, their details competing for attention with your subject in the foreground.

If you want to eliminate the source of distraction in photos, you can set your camera to have a shallow depth of field. You also can apply a blur effect to the background after taking the picture.

In this tutorial, we will show you how to recreate a shallow depth of field effect after taking the photo.

In this tutorial, knowing some of the basics of photo editing in Photoshop will be very helpful. If you need a quick reminder, check out this great article.

Open the image in Photoshop. If the image is too messy and the subject is not prominent, you can adjust the composition with the crop tool. Select the crop tool, click on the image and drag the all over it. Resize and move the rectangle to frame the subject properly and then confirm the crop.

Step 1. Prepare Your Image

Before proceeding, you will need to duplicate your image layer. To do so, select the layer of your image and right click on it. Choose Duplicate Layer from the menu. To distinguish this layer from the background, you can simply name it Foreground.

Step 2. Duplicate The Background

You now need to mask the background in the upper layer. Use the pen tool to select everything you want to be in focus. You also can use the lasso tool if you want, but the pen will allow you to make adjustments for a more accurate selection.

After completing your path all around the subject, right click on it and choose Make Selection. Apply a one pixel feather to make the edges less harsh.

Invert the selection (Selection>Invert) and add a layer mask to hide the background (Layer>Layer Mask>Hide Selection). Now you have a layer with only the visible foreground on it.

Step 3. Foreground Selection

Go back to your background layer. Choose Lens Blur from the filter library (Filter>Blur>Lens Blur). When the blur panel appears, adjust the various settings and check the preview to see how your background will look before actually applying the filter.

The degree of blur you need to apply depends on the look you are after, so try a few combinations. You can choose one of the other blur effects, but Lens Blur is especially good if you want to imitate the type of soft background you usually achieve with camera lenses.

Step 4. Apply Lens Blur

If you want the image to look more organic, you can use soft black and white brushes on the foreground layer’s mask to adjust slightly the contours of your subject or blur areas you overlooked in your original selection before flattening your layers.

Making your image look vintage is also a popular effect and can look really neat when paired with the blurred background.

Step 5. Final Touches

Shallow depth of field, which is usually achieved in-camera by adjusting aperture, can be simulated in programs like Photoshop to get rid of clutter and bring the viewer closer to your subjects. This technique can be used with any photo, but it will work best with images that have a strong composition in addition to an interesting foreground.

Good luck, have fun and always make sure your focusing on what really matters when taking great photos!

Edited in Photoshop CC. Sample image by ssjtoma.

About the Author
Kristi Maddox is a master of graphic design, on-site design and ordering, and is the go-to for template and design tool usage.
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  1. thought this could only be done in the camera side. nice effect.

  2. this was exactly what I needed for my project. thanks so much guys