Got an expensive smartphone in your hand but can’t snap those cool images with blurred “out of focus” backgrounds? Blame it on the focal length of the lens and the natural phenomenon called “depth of field“!
There’s nothing you can do about that unfortunately, but I’ll let you in on a secret: you can mimic that blurred background effect in Photoshop with a single tool in two minutes flat.
How to Create a Blurred Background in Photoshop
In Photoshop, you can choose a focal point and blur the area around it. The Blur Gallery filters allow you to add different blur effects to your photos. The unique benefit of these tools is that they don’t just apply a blanket filter but let you control the extent of the effect. The Blur Gallery is available from Photoshop CS6 onwards.
For the purpose of this short tutorial, we will use the second filter in the Blur Gallery called Iris Blur.
- Open your photo in Photoshop.
- Go to Filter > Blur Gallery and choose Iris Blur from the Blur Gallery filters.
Iris Blur is displayed as an elliptical ring with four tiny dots on it and another middle ring surrounded by four larger dots in the center. Here is what they all control:
- The Pin. The middle ring has a “pin” at the center. The pin defines the (focal) point in the photo where you want the image to be sharp and clear. Move the pin around to the place where you want the eye to focus on.
- The Elliptical Ring. This controls the blur amount and the shape of the blur across the rest of the image. The blur effect reaches 100% as you move from the center to the outside ring. Everything outside of the ring has a maximum blur effect applied.
- The Four Dots on the Elliptical Ring. Hover your mouse over one of the small dots until your cursor changes to a curved double-ended arrow. Click and drag on them to elongate the blur ellipse or rotate it. Use the square handle to change the shape of the entire ring. Drag the line of the ellipse (and not the dots) if you want to keep the shape while tweaking the size.
- The Four Larger Dots Inside the Elliptical Ring. These four dots control the area from where the blur starts. Click and drag the white dots to adjust the size of the blur area. Move the dots closer to the pin to make the blur transition smoother, or, move the dots away from the pin to make the blur transition sharper.
- The Blur Dial. This is the smaller circle which surrounds the pin. Click and drag the blur dial clockwise to increase the blur, or, drag the blur dial counterclockwise to reduce the blur. You can also control the blur from the Blur slider in the Blur Tools panel on the right.
Apply the blur by clicking on the OK button at the top of the blur bar. That’s it, you just mimicked the shallow depth of field effect that needs a good lens and a wide aperture.
What are some of the other ways to use the Iris Blur filter? Tell us in the comments.