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Bokeh 2: Adding Soft Background Focus

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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.
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Bokeh 2 deals exclusively with focus and detail in your photographs. That means as far as raw edits, you’ll want to avoid overdoing it with settings that impact perceived focus. For ACR and Lightroom, that means avoiding strong clarity or capture sharpening edits, and in Aperture, avoiding strong definition or capture sharpening edits.

Also, try to avoid any localized raw edits that enter the realm of “creative focus.” We can accomplish that more precisely and convincingly with Photoshop and Bokeh 2 than we can with local adjustments in our favorite raw editors.

Creating Selections

Creating a good selection in Photoshop is an important step in most Bokeh workflows, although it is not always required. Much depends on the composition of your photo and which parts you would like to blur, relative to your subject. If you want the pixels that are directly “behind” your subject to be blurred, you will need to work with selections. That is the type of workflow we’ll cover here.

For this example, I chose a large statue where the background was not blurred enough by the original aperture setting I chose in-camera. To make my selections I typically use the Quick Select tool in combination with the Refine Edge command in Photoshop. Here they were used to select only the statue and add a slightly soft edge, as seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Selecting the statue precisely in Photoshop CS5 will help to blur the background selectively in Bokeh 2.

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