HOW TO GET A LOCALIZED BLUR IN LIGHTROOM OR ADOBE CAMERA RAW
I recently ran across an article on how to get a nice depth-of-field effect using the localized tools (Graduated Filter, Adjustment Brush and/or Radial Filter) in Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw) without going into Photoshop to apply a Gaussian Blur or Field Blur. This technique is so basic, but it is easy to forget that you can do this quickly to your image without the use of Photoshop! The image above of the Scott Monument as taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is a good example of how you can drive the focus of your image very easily by just using Lightroom or ACR.
I was reminded of this little trick in a short Martin Evening Peachpit article where he explained that by stacking the Sharpness and Clarity settings, you can increase or decrease your depth of field in an image. First do your regular Lightroom or ACR changes. To get the soft localized blurring as shown in the background and the foreground above, a Graduated Filter was opened using these settings – Sharpness set to -100 and Clarity to -30. By applying the Graduated Filter three times to the sky area, twice to left bottom corner of the image, and twice to right side of the image, a pretty nice blur was created leaving the center sharp. Since the spire of the monument was too blurred, the Adjustment Brush was opened up and the spire painted over with the Brush sharpness set to +100 and the Clarity to +30 using two different points to add the sharpness back to that area. Also some more localized blur was added with a new Brush mask to the background around the monument and the left foreground trees. All in all a pretty easy way to accentuate the focus point in an image. Martin does mention that after so many applications of the settings, there will be no change. Also he recommends viewing your image at 1:1 view to see the results accurately. After using the Graduated Filter on this image, it was opened in Photoshop and Topaz (see sidebar at Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle’s Dutch White Smog preset was selected to finish up the post-processing – thought it gave a pretty close representation to what Scotland looked like to me.
Hogwarts School at Universal Studios Orlando in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the image shown above. It used exactly the same principal as the first image with blurring the foreground area but sharpening the school to draw focus to that area. I am finding this technique seems to work best on landscape images. I tried it on a portrait and had trouble keeping the skin looking smooth – other techniques would work better in that case. In Lightroom some basic straightening and sliders were applied. Then 6 Graduated Filters were used on the trees in the image. Next Seim Effects PW4 Sampler Tint 81A Warming preset was applied before taking the image into Photoshop. Seim offers this preset sampler free at his website – I really like the presets he has created. This may seem counter-intuitive, but Topaz Detail 3 was used to sharpen up the the image – a black mask was added and only the school was painted back, therefore leaving the trees still slightly blurred. This step could have been done in Lightroom with an Adjustment Brush set to a large amount of sharpening. A Camera Raw Radial filter was added so the eye is further drawn up to the school, which could also have been done in Lightroom. Last step was adding my SJ Thin Double Edge Frame – this is the only step that would need to be done in Photoshop. The above is an interesting castle-like old building in the countryside of Belarus – I can’t help but wonder what this structure was years ago! This building drove me crazy trying to get it to look straight – I just don’t think it is a straight building but I did my best with the Adaptive Wide Angle filter (see my blog How to Use the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter). Clouds were added using my free Cloud Brushes 1 and 11 set to 32% layer opacity. Last step involved applying Topaz ReStyle Cream and Plum preset (my favorite preset for this plug-in).
This blurring effect is a great technique to use if you do not want to go into Photoshop to finish up the image. I believe the best way to do this is by applying the Gradient Tool several times and then going back in with an Adjustment Brush set to the opposite settings to remove the effect in localized areas, also several times if needed. And don’t forget the same settings can also be used with the Radial Filter and several areas can be selected. This is a great quick trick to add to your Lightroom (ACR)-Photoshop arsenal of tools to speed up your workflow. The same principles apply when using any of the localized tool settings. Give this a try and see what you think!…..Digital Lady Syd