De-focusing backgrounds... adding that magic blur.

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by yakky, Nov 28, 2013.

  1. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 1, 2013
    So I have a few lenses that don't quite deliver the out of focus background I'd like. I have to say I'm intrigued by Fuji's in camera pro-focus. I've never had a whole lot of luck with software choices, it always seems like quite a bit of work and then it never quite looks natural. Does anyone have recommendations on anything that has worked really well for them?
  2. My Sony WX300 has something similar... but it too never looks natural. Plus it requires the subject to be a certain distance in order to work... so its pretty limiting at times.

    This is one of my test shots with the effect set to high.. eh.. My son's arm definitely doesn't look right.


    I still think the best way is to utilize the shallow DOF offered by aperture, focal length, and subject distance w/ a quality optic as always... not in software. I'm also experimenting (just started) with using a longer focal length on a gigapan robot...
  3. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 1, 2013
    Your sample looks better than what I've gotten out of software (Nik, Elements and PSP).
  4. carpandean

    carpandean Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 29, 2010
    Western NY
    I use the adjustment brush in Lightroom to paint the entire background around the subject (it's set to -4EV exposure, so it's easy to see), and then crank the sharpness down (after setting exposure back to 0, of course.) For a shot like usayit's, I might run two or three, with one on the background and one or two on the arm with sharpness not set as low. It works well sometimes, but you do have to watch the edge of the subject to make sure that the transition isn't noticeable. I try not to overuse it, reserving it for distracting elements in the frame. Doing it optically is better, which is one reason why I'm thinking about switching back to primes.
  5. phl0wtography

    phl0wtography Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 15, 2011
    What carpandean does. Note that sharpness only starts to blur things once you hit -50 (documented by Jeff Schewe iirc). I usually use a brush with a mixture of negative clarity, negative sharpness, and positive noise reduction (-100,-100,100 and work from there) to achieve a somewhat believable oof background. Still, it will never look as good as optically achieved "bokeh", since you'll just smear, and smudge what the lens renders, and completely lose a lens' "signature" background rendering. It looks quite decent though on what is already oof to a good degree. To make it more believable you can use graduated filters instead of a brush towards your in focused on subject.

    Another thing that I like to do lately is to dial in a global negative clarity of about -30, and brush a mixture of contrast/clarity (10/50) over focused subjects to achieve more "pop". Looks more like the real thing.
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  6. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    There are some very affordable fast lenses - the Pentax version of the 85mm f1.4 is a fine example. One of the less expensive zooms, or even a legacy zoom, used at the longer end will achieve the DOF needed for a natural blur.
  7. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    No software is going to match the bokeh of a good lens. Still the software has gotten better and much easier than it was a few years ago. I imagine it will improve with time and maybe even match the average lens.
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