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Depth-of-Field Effect

This is a digital way to create the classic in-camera depth-of-field effect, and thanks to Photoshop’s Quick Mask, it’s easy to pull off. Of course, for this technique to be effective, you have to start with the right photo, one that would benefit from a depth-of-field effect. (Close-up photos of people are ideal, as are product shots, as long as they’re not shot straight on or, if they are, they need to have a detailed background behind them.)

Step One.
Open the photo on which you want to apply a depth-of-field effect. Switch to Quick Mask mode by pressing the letter “q.”


Step Two.
Press the letter “g” to get the Gradient tool from the Toolbox, and press the Return key (PC: Enter key) to make the Gradient Picker appear within your image area. Double-click on the third gradient in the Picker (the Black to White gradient) to choose it.

Step Three.
Click the Gradient tool on your photostarting in the area you want to remain in focus, and then drag toward the area you want to appear out of focus. In this example, I want the hand on the right to appear in focus, and the hand on the left to appear out of focus, so I start by dragging from the fingers on the right over to the fingers on the left (as shown).

Step Four.
Since you’re in Quick Mask Mode, you see a red-to-transparent gradient appear onscreen.

Step Five.
Press the letter “q” again to leave Quick Mask and return to Standard Mode. You see the selection you created in Quick Mask Mode appear within your image area.


If the selected area in your image is the opposite of what is shown here, double-click on the Quick Mask icon just below the Color Swatches in the Toolbox to bring up the Quick Mask Options dialog. Under Color Indicates, choose Masked Areas. Click OK to enter Quick Mask Mode and then redraw your gradient.

Step Six.
Go under the Filter menu, under Blur, and choose Lens Blur. When the dialog appears (shown here), move the Radius slider to choose the amount of blur you’d like for the farthest point in your image, then click OK. Although you see a hard selection within your image area, it’s actually a smooth blend from full blur to no blur. When you apply this filter, you’ll see what I mean because the left side of your photo should be blurred, and progressing to the right, the photo becomes less and less blurry.

Step Seven.
Go under the Select menu and choose Inverse, which switches the selected area from the blurred area to the in-focus area (as shown here).

Step Eight.
Now, to exaggerate the effect, apply an Unsharp Mask filter to the area that’s supposed to be in focus by going under the Filter menu, under Sharpen, and choosing Unsharp Mask. When the dialog appears, try 85 for Amount, 1 for Radius, and 4 for Threshold, then click OK.

Step Nine.
Deselect by pressing Command-D (PC: Control-D). As you can see, the final effect (bottom right) has the area closest to the lens in sharp focus, and the depth-of-field effect increases for the part that appears farther away.





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