Digital Darkroom; Blur Gallery Iris 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, Field Blur and this week Iris 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 looked at using field blur to isolate areas of an image. This was done by building up the field blur pins in the blur gallery.
The Iris blur can create a similar effect although the design of the blur is to simulate a shallow depth of field no matter what lens you use. Unlike with the field blur, you can manipulate how much of a fade there is between the area which is sharp and the area what you are blurring by using Iris blur. With this transition you can create a more natural blur for your image.



With this image, the bee feeding on the blossom is sharp and is the focus of the picture. However all of the blossom are on the same focus plain and are also sharp creating a distraction from the Bee. In using the Iris blur I can create a natural blur for the blossom, bringing the focus solely to the Bee itself.


The Iris blur has three areas; the sharp area, fade area and blur area. Within the blur gallery tool the centre is the sharp area and its boundary is shown by four handles (white pins) inside the blur tool. These handles can be moved in and out to make the sharp area bigger or smaller. If you make the sharp area smaller, you increase the size of the fade area. The fade area is the transition from sharp to blur. On the outside of the fade area you have the four handles to increase and decrease the size of the blur gallery tool. There is also a fifth handle which controls the shape of the blur area; from being oval to more square.


For this image I created a large area for the transition with a medium blur this allowed me to create a nice depth of field effect. The sharp blossom is now less distracting and the overall image has a natural feel.

Multiple Pins

As with the field blur you can build up multiple pins to create a more dynamic blur which you wouldn’t be able to create in camera.


In this image I have used two blurs to create a blur effect. Using a more rectangular shape for the blur selection tool around the cottages with the stairs, I was able to isolate them and apply a blur to the rest of the image. Although this was ok the blur didn’t feel right as your eye wasn’t naturally drawn to the cottages, it felt more forced. Using a second pin this time more circular I could isolate an area in the road, roughly where the road curves, to create a natural point for the eye to be drawn up to the cottages.

Using multiple pins can lead to many creative possibilities, even having two people in focus who are far from each other with the rest of the image blurred.

Iris Vs Field Blur

The Field Blur works by blurring elements with a similar depth in the image. However the Field Blur loses out to the Iris Blur when the area you want to isolate is at the same depth as elements that you want to blur. The Iris blur allows you to manipulate the image creating a perception of depth.
You can also do this with the field blur, but you will need to use either a filter mask or layer mask depending if your image is a smart object or not to create the transition from the blurred to the sharp areas. Since the Iris Blur does this as part of the filter it is a much better contender for creating faux depth of field.

I find that field blur is good for building up a blur and isolating a subject. Iris blur is better for simulating a perceived depth of field and especially good if you have been shooting with a high aperture and you want the feel of a lower one.

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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