How to Blur Background in Photoshop (Video Tutorial)
Surely more than once you have seen some of your portrait photographs and you have thought that the background takes away the prominence of your model. It is true that if we play with the depth of field can blur it, but it is not always that easy. Many times, especially in wide frames, it is not possible to blur background in photoshop as much as we would like. On other occasions, to take certain photos we may need to have a very expensive lens that we cannot afford, with a longer focal length or a larger diaphragm opening.
However, with Photoshop we can quickly and easily blur the background of our photos. And as always, you will not need to have advanced knowledge of the program, because I am from photo editing services going to explain it to you step by step in text and video.
Why can’t I blur my background?
As I was telling you, it is not always easy to play with the depth of field to blur our background. It is not that we do not know how to do it, or that we have made a mistake when choosing the parameters in our camera. Sometimes it is simply impossible to blur background in photoshop as much as we would like because the parameters we want to use for our photography do not allow it.
On other occasions, we may need to have fixed focal lengths that allow very large apertures, or very bright telephoto lenses with very long focal lengths. These lenses are excessively expensive and we may not be able to afford them right now.
In the following photo, we have a clear example of this problem, which I am sure that all of you will have come across more than once. Its parameters are the following:
- 35mm focal length: Photograph shot with a fixed focal length lens, which is brighter.
- f/2.5 aperture: The lens was capable of opening up to f/1.8 but I didn’t want to risk taking my model out of focus as it’s a wide-open plane. Still, f/1.8 wouldn’t have blurred the background much more, so it would still have been insufficient.
- Shutter speed at 1/500 sec.:To be able to freeze the movement of hair and dress
- ISO 100: I did not need to raise the ISO to expose correctly because the day was very sunny.
To get my model out of focus under these conditions, I could have done it in two different ways, both of which were unworkable:
get closer to her, thus reducing the focal length and making the depth of field smaller. However, I wanted to take an entire shot, to capture the entire trunk, and the dog, and to show the dress in its entirety.
Zoom out a lot and use a bright telephoto lens to be able to blur the background like that. However, I do not have such a lens.
Due to these inconveniences, many times we find ourselves with portrait photographs that we do not quite like because the attention does not fall completely on our model due to that background that steals the limelight. That is why for these occasions we can simulate this blurred background effect thanks to editing programs such as Photoshop. A professional photo editor will explain how to blur background in photoshop step by step.
Background Blur in Photoshop Step by Step
1. Retouch the Photo as You Like
Normally the blurring of the background is going to be the endpoint for our photography, so it is recommended that before starting the process you make sure that the entire photograph is retouched to your liking. It is not that it cannot be retouched later, but since we are going to separate the photograph into layers, it may be more cumbersome to proceed to retouch it later.
So, my advice is to first leave the photography to your liking, especially when it comes to retouching in general. In the end, you will be able to give it the final touch in matters of light, color, eye color change and other adjustments or effects that you want to add.
For this example, I’ll use this photo from the same session as the one we’ve seen before. In this photo, we ran into the same problem: by using such a wide frame, we weren’t able to blur the background as much as we wanted.
2. Select the Subject
Next, we are going to start with our background blur. The first thing we are going to have to do is separate our subject from the background so that the blur does not affect him too.
The first thing we will do is duplicate the layer from the Layer/Duplicate Layer menu or with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J (or Cmd+J on Mac). This way we will be able to have in this new layer separate the subject of our photograph.
There are plenty of selection tools that you can use to cut out your model from the background. Specifically, I have used the Quick Selection, which is a very useful selection, especially when the person and the background are clearly differentiated. If you are not familiar with selection tools, you can consult one of the following articles:
So, on this new layer we’ve created, select the way that works best for your subject. If it is more comfortable for you, instead of selecting the subject you can select the entire background, when it comes to separating them it will not matter.
Then create a mask to cut it out from the menu Layer/Layer Mask/Hide Selection if what you have selected is the background, or Reveal Selection if what you have selected is the subject. You can also use the quick icon in the layers window to reveal only the selected part and hide everything else, or if you press it while also holding down the Alt key, what you will do is hide only the selected part and show the rest.
3. Fill in the Subject Gap
Now that we have separated our subject from the background, we will have to blur that background. However, even though we have separated the model into another layer, it is also still in our background layer. If we blurred the background layer, we would see that the model is also blurred, creating a strange halo around it that will be excessively noticeable.
How can we avoid this halo around our model? We are going to have to fill in the background so that our model disappears from it. To do this, select your model again. Don’t worry, you won’t have to do it again. just pressingCtrl+click (or Cmd+click on Mac) on the layer mask that we have created before, we will select it again.
Now we will fill that area with an automatic tool provided by Photoshop. However, it does not usually work correctly with selections that are too tight, so to make a looser selection we will go to the Selection/Modify/Expand menu and give it a few pixels, depending on the size of the photo. I have given it a 20px expansion.
Next, we will go to the Edit / Fill menu or we can also use the keyboard shortcut Shift + F5. Make sure you have the background layer selected. A window will open and in it we must select the drop-down menu-content drop-down menu: According to content. What this will do is fill the selected area taking what is around it as a reference. Normally it works well in small areas, but in such a large area it will probably leave us with a rather ugly background.
However, it will not matter to us, because we remember that we are going to put the layer where we have our cutout model on top. The only thing we achieve with this is that by blurring background in photoshop, that was created by blurring the model is not created because it will no longer be there.
4. Blur the Background
Now yes, the time has come to blur our background. Personally, to simulate a small depth of field, I really like the blur that we find in the menu Filter / Gallery of effects Blur / Tilt Shift, because it makes a gradual blur. Before applying the filter make sure you have the background layer selected.
In the window that will open we can place the circle in the area where the feet of our model will be, so that point appears fully focused and the background blurs from there, both in front and behind. By touching the slider that appears around that circle you can make the blur more or less accentuated. You can also move the lines above and below to decide the area in focus and to make the blur more or less gradual.
In the options on the right, you will also find a slider to create a bokeh that is usually very nice and realistic, especially if there are areas of highlights in the background.
Finally, when you have your background blur ready, click the OK option that appears at the top of the window and you will have your background with a small depth of field. The more accentuated this blur is, the more noticeable the retouching will be, but this is already a matter of taste. Maybe we want to give it a realistic look, or maybe we prefer to give it a more fantastical touch. It’s all a matter of trying until you find the blur that best suits what you’re looking for.
5. Adjust the Final Photo
As I told you at the beginning, now that we have the photo retouched, we can give it a final touch in terms of color correction settings… This is already completely to your liking, there are no parameters to follow.
The Camera Raw Filter can come in handy to adjust the photo to your liking. If you are not sure how it works, I recommend that you take a look at our article ” Adobe Camera RAW (ACR): The Complete Guide “.
Blur your backgrounds the easy way with Photoshop!
As you have seen, by following a few simple steps you can get to blur any background, to adjust the photograph completely to your liking. Unfortunately, we can’t always get a perfect base photo, so in these cases, Photoshop will help us to finish by giving it the final touch we need.. You can always get help from professional photo editing services to get faster results.
Do you dare to try this effect and show us the results? We would love to see you!