Digital Darkroom; Blur Gallery Field Blur

The Digital Darkroom is a series of posts aimed at beginners and those interested in Digital Photography and Editing. In previous weeks we have looked at basic adjustments, curves, editing colour with the HSL/Color panels, black and white toning, split toning, local adjustments, sharpening, noise reduction and Lens Correction and Camera Calibration in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. Moving into Photoshop we have looked at the program’s layout,basic adjustments to light, basic adjustments to colour, basic black and white adjustments, Basic Sharpening, Basic Noise Reduction, Creating Presets and Actions, Basic Masks, Making Selections, Refining Selections, Using the Pen Tool, Clone Stamp, Heal Tool, Patch Tool, Content Aware, Smart Objects, Basic Blur Filters and this week Field Blur.
If you wish to check out previous posts in the series you can do here.

In last week’s edition of The Digital Darkroom, we looked at using the main blur filters in Photoshop and some ways that we can use them to increase image quality. With Photoshop CS6 a new filter menu was introduced called Blur gallery, this is a collection of creative blur filters. These filters have streamlined some workflows to create a certain look in an image. Field Blur is one of those filters.

Filed blur allows you to add or exaggerate the depth of filed to an otherwise flat image. You do this by using the pins to build up a blur.

Basic Field Blur

The basic idea behind the filed blur is pins that blur a specific area of the picture. By clicking on an image you place a pin and state the amount that area of the image will be blurred. By adding more pins with the same or different amounts of blur you can build up an overall blur for the image. You are also able to add pins with 0 blur amount which will preserve that area from being blurred.


With this picture I set pins with a strong blur in the background with three pins, the blur amount was about 40. In the foreground I used a smaller blur, about 15. To make the foreground even I had to use more pins as the blur was smaller. In the middle of the beach I used an even smaller blur and on the subject I used a blur of 0 to preserve that area.


The blurring area is not always precise and it can be the case that you need to have a blur over the edges you are looking to preserve. To clean up the blur I used the smart filter mask to isolate the subject from the blur.

Field Blur with Selection

Using selections with field blur is a way to create a custom blur while protecting your subject. With the previous method I used a pin to stop the blurring of my subject. Using a selection is similar idea but more accurate and doesn’t need extra masking after the blur is applied.

To use Field Blur with a Selection I duplicate my layer (and set the new layer as a smart object) and simply select the area of the image I don’t want to be blurred and invert the selection. If you want to read more about selections you can do so here. I enter the field blur filter and build up the blur with a mixture of soft and strong blurs.


On exiting the filter the selection will already be set as a mask if you have used a smart object, if not you can use the selection to erase the unblurred areas (which is preserved in the layer below).


Field blur Vs Gaussian Blur

The field blur allows you to isolate a subject by creating a false depth of field. This is a trick that you can do with the Gaussian Blur using masks and selections, so which is better?
For me the field blur is more versatile as you can blur areas at different rates creating a smoother transition and gradient. The one strength blur of the Gaussian blur means that the image can still look flat even if you have used a mask or selection to isolate the subject. You could create a few layers, each one with a different strength Gaussian blur and mask it all together; however the field blur does this quicker and with one layer.
This is not to say the Gaussian blur is not good as if you are need to blur a whole area this would be filter. The Field Blur though, is more dynamic and can help create a more natural gradual blur.


If you have any questions or comments please use the comment box below, all are welcome as this series is designed to help people learn how to use Photoshop and Lightroom.

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