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Selective Focus in Photoshop


Steve Bingham

Almost every decent photographer knows that opening the lens wide open produces selective focus (narrow depth of field) - especially with long focal length lenses. Sometimes, however, when shooting in bright light we either forget to do this or choose not to. In any case all is not lost. There is a way in Photoshop where we can duplicate this effect. For example, say you want your subject to be in focus but the background slowly receding out of focus. Well we can do this by producing our own tool. I will call it a Selective Focus Gradient Tool - because that is exactly what it is. I suggest you print this out before you start. These instructions are written for Photoshop 6 but can be modified for other versions.

1- Select your image. Then Window, open Layer.

2- Using the small arrow in the upper right hand corner of the Layer Menu Box click on Duplicate Layer.

3- Blur this Duplicate Layer using Gaussian Blur (Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur). Choose the amount of blur by previewing the maximum blur you want for your out of focus area.

3- With the blurred layer still selected, go to the Layer Menu Box, then add Layer Mask (itís the second symbol on the bottom of the Layer Menu Box. Your selected layer (blurred layer) in the Layer Menu Box will now show a thumbnail blurred image followed by a thumbnail of a white box (the layer mask).

4- At the bottom of the Tool Menu make the foreground color black, and the background color white. It is probably the opposite right now.

5- Now find the Gradient Tool on the Tool Menu. Click it on and use the selection box at the top of the page. You want to go from foreground to transparentIn PS 6 be sure to check the small box on the extreme upper right corner that says "transparency".

6- Select a circular, vertical, or horizontal gradient. Now (with the blurred layer still selected) click and hold on the area you want sharp. Drag into the area you want blurry. Release the mouse. Practice until you get the effect you want (Edit, Undo). Circular gradient blurs everything in a receding circle.

This is a wonderful technique that has many applications in addition to its use as a Selective Focus Gradient Tool.



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