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Add a Touch of Romance with Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur Filter

Posted By Jeff Wignall On January 27, 2009 @ 9:30 am In Art of Photography | 3 Comments

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Most of the time I try to make my photos as sharp as possible, and I go to considerable pains to be sure they are sharp. Occasionally, though, I like to soften an image in Photoshop just to give it a gentler, more romantic look.  

If you’re selling your images, you might try creating both sharp and soft versions of some images, since certain types of publishers (e.g., calendars, greeting cards) often have a use for softer images. Soft images also look nice on self-produced cards, scrapbook images, etc.

Softening Images with Gaussian Blur

If you’re editing in Photoshop, the simplest way to soften an image is to use the Gaussian Blur filter (although I’m sure that other programs also offer similar softening filters). Using Gaussian Blur is very simple: you just apply it to the image and adjust the degree of softness that you want. But there is a more sophisticated way to control the balance between sharpness and blur:

1. Call up the original image and do all of your color and exposure corrections.

2. Using “Command J” (Mac; Option J in Windows), duplicate that layer.

3. Go to the filters menu and apply the Gaussian Blur to the duplicate layer.

4. Go to the “Opacity” slider (top right of the layers panel) and adjust the opacity of the blur layer until you get just the degree of softness you’re after. The opacity slider lets you reveal the original image and blend it with the soft image according to the degree of opacity you’re using. At 100 percent opacity, none of the original sharp image is showing through. At 50 percent opacity, the image is an even mix of soft and sharp files. 

5. Optionally, experiment with some of the “Layer Blending Modes” (top left of the layers panel) and see if a different blending mode produces an effect you like more.

6. Save the file with layers open in case you want to play with the image again later; then, using a different file name, save a flattened version.

Chateau Chenonceau in sharp focus. I decided that the sharpness was a bit harsh for this romantic subject.

Chateau Chenonceau in sharp focus. I decided that the sharpness was a bit harsh for this romantic subject.

Chateau Chenonceau with a slight Gaussian Blur added to the image.

Chateau Chenonceau with a slight Gaussian Blur added to the image.

The use of a duplicate layer allows you to bring up some of the sharpness from the original image layer and have much more control over the degree of blur in the final image. In fact, I often use duplicate layers for adjustments so that I can blend them more precisely with original image.

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3 Comments (Open | Close)

3 Comments To "Add a Touch of Romance with Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur Filter"

#1 Comment By Terry Day On July 21, 2009 @ 11:07 am

Jeff, You might add...After creating the guassian blur layer you can then create a layer mask. You can then erase the blur in any area that you would like the sharper image to show through. This is especially effective in portraits where you would like the eyes and teeth or jewelry to be in sharper focus.
Thanks for the great articles, Terry

#2 Comment By Carl On July 26, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

i'm thinking you just pulled that frame out as an example for this technique because you said "this romantic shot.." Problem is this shot is far from romantic given it's flat light and lack of colors. it looks static, and the fuzz filter makes it look out of focus. sorry. you also totally blew out the tree limb as foreground because it looks so out of focus. perhaps at sunrise or sunset and with selective focus you might have made this work.

#3 Comment By Paul Wright On September 7, 2011 @ 10:06 am

More black on dark gray? I cant read this!

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