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-   -   Small Fake Depth of Field Tutorial (

TimvdVelde Feb 21, 2005 4:06 PM

I promised I would write you a tutorial. So here's a small one :)
I don't say this is the best technique to do this. But this is how I do it.

STEP #1.

We take a photo. I've chosen a really difficult one.. with flat colors and lots of details in the background.


Now the most difficult part to select,is always the hair. Go to channels (layer window), and pick the channel with most contrast difference between the hair and the background. In my case .. this was blue. Copy that channel.


Now we are going to give it more contrast by adjusting the levels. Adjust the handles so the hair will turn out the opposite color of the sky. Now the hair is almost black/white.


Pick a black / white brush (depends on what color the hair is). And paint everything of the subject that you see black / white). I've painted the whole subject black -> Now I am certain that no parts are partially selected. Now press CTRL + left mouse button on the layer.


Enter the quickmask mode (Q). Now your selection will turn out in a red layer over the photo. You canadjust this layer by painting light / dark. (white / black)


Invert your selection (outside quickmask / enter back) And paint the background around your subject red. The most difficult part, the hair, will already be selected properly. I have done this quickly with a soft brush. For good results, use a fine brush.


Exit quickmask. Now the subject will be selected. Copy the subject onto a new layer. Notice how the background is transparent.

Hide the new layer.


This may seem a little weird. But you have to clone, some of the background, over the edges of thesubject. If you don't do this.. and just use the selected to blur the background. The blur will take some of your object and an edge will appear around the subject. (see last picture).


This is only neccesairy if you want to graduately blur the background.

Enter the quickmask mode again. And use the gradient tool to graduately select the background. After that exit quickmask, and than you can blur the layer!. Do this anyway you like. I always use gaussian blur 4<-> 10.


Unhide the top-layer. And your picture is ready !!

What happends if you don't clone the background over the subject ?

See the edge around highcontrast areas?


@ really close-up portraits. You can blur the edge of the hair too, because normally with a dslr on f/1.8. The back of the head would be out of focus.


I hope you guys understand this tutorial. And learn something.. if not the technique.. maybe some tools in photoshop :G

Cheers Tim

Jaynah Feb 21, 2005 4:56 PM

Another great job Tim.
Thanks for sharing and please keep them coming.

jsiladi Feb 21, 2005 5:03 PM

This is fantastic!: I Always prefer learning to use what I have instead of buying other stuff... Thanks and keep them coming..



suze Feb 21, 2005 5:22 PM

Thanks for taking the time to prepare this Tim - it's very generous of you -You're a star! :dude:

boyzo Feb 21, 2005 6:13 PM

Amazing work Tim.

fmoore Feb 21, 2005 6:30 PM

Thanks for tutorial, Tim. Is this the same technique you used to blurr the backgound in the black and white of Girl with Earing? Could you show the proceedure developing on that one. There have been a few recent examples of attempts at bgband that is the only one that looks realistic. In all the others the backgound has been abused and there is nothing to hold onto. I thought maybe the Swinging Gnome worked but apparently the first shot was the realistic original. The backgound is too important to be treated so coarsely.In Nick's Man with Cap, the boy and the girl looking rather intensly at somethingand the car front ends through the window arepart of the shot. They should treated with a little more respect if you want a complete picture. I like the story that lies behind the picture (imagined of course). I'm a background kinda guy and you guys are mistreating it. Please dont tell me to do it right and then show you. I wouldn't have the faintest idea of how to do it. (I dont think it can be done.)

The Girl with Earing works. You can hold onto the cabinets and the windows while you puruse her and her earing. What does the original look like? I'm probably asking for way too much here. That's cool.

- Fred

JEDinNC Feb 21, 2005 7:12 PM

Very nice Tim. Thanks for taking the time to educate us M8t!



boyzo Feb 21, 2005 7:42 PM

I think I understand Freds point of view Re: DOF with an SLR
the background becomes increasingly out of focus the further behind the main subject which is in sharp focus.

If the background is on a nearly one plane behind the subject then it will be uniformaly out of focus with an SLR.

With digital blurr it makes no distintion of the various depths or distances behind the subject and makes all the background uniformally blurred.

Tim used with his last pic gradient blurr and this keeps the rocks more in focus than the distant horizon, more like the real thing.
For some subjects digital blur is still acceptable, but diff to true SLR blur.

fmoore Feb 21, 2005 8:17 PM

Thanks, John. I should qualify my statements by saying that I'm a relative novice at photography. I really dont know an slr(or a dslr) from a hole in the ground. I do feel like I know what these big zoom IS cameras can do and you can do alot with the zoom by backing up and decreasing the dof. Of course, this cant always be done to due space and lighting constraints. What is it with slr/dslr that allows it to get the close wa shot with a blurred background (ie, shallow dof). Could it possibly be done handheld in Nick's coffee shop shot for instance?

NickTrop Feb 21, 2005 8:55 PM

fmoore wrote:

What is it with slr/dslr that allows it to get the close wa shot with a blurred background (ie, shallow dof). Could it possibly be done handheld in Nick's coffee shop shot for instance?
Not sure if I'm understanding your question, Fred, but with a SLR or DSLR, the focal plane - 35mm film, and larger sized sensor, allows for a shallower depth of field close to the subject. It's quite a nice/striking effect for people pictures where you want to isolate the subject from the background, or provide added depth.

You could do this optically with the FZ by zooming out 12X, but it's not usually practical to shoot this way.
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Tim -

Thanks 1000 for this EXCELLENT tutorial!!! I will try your method. It looks great!


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