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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Simple Photoshop Softening Technique

We had a warm day in Connecticut today, it reached the mid 50s and I'm not sure how they know how warm it is outside, but the kitties requested that I let them out to the porch first thing. Later I took a break from a retouching assignment to go and check on them and found them in this sweet pose. I had to run and grab a camera, change lenses and hope they were still cuddled up when I got back. Thankfully they were.

The porch had plenty of light, but I wanted to use flash to brighten it up a bit more. I put the flash of my D90 into the "slow sync" mode so as to catch some of the daylight around them but the flash was still a bit too harsh. Normally I might just toss a Gaussian blur on to soften the look a bit, but lately I've been experimenting with the median filter (Filters>Noise>Median) and that's what I used for this shot. Prior to playing with the median, I did my basic adjustments: crop, a curves correction and some minor color corrections (using hue/saturation mainly). Then I applied the median filter, as follows:

  1. Duplicate the background layer (Command J on a Mac).
  2. Apply the Median filter (again, Filters>Noise>Median) and choose an amount. In this case it was arbitrary, but I used a pretty heavy setting of around 25. At this setting the image is barely recognizable but don't worry about that. You're going to use the opacity setting to bring back detail from the original background layer.
  3. I then adjusted the opacity of background copy to about 40%.
  4. I made some tweaks to color balance and saturation and that's it.
 I think this would be a nice technique to use for portraits, too. The effect kind of reminds me of some more complex softening methods, but this is so fast you can do it in a few seconds.

1 comment:

Frank Kautz said...

Hi Jeff,

Considering how much I seem to focus on sharping my pictures, it never occurred to me to soften them a bit. Yet, as you said, some of the best portraits are a bit softer. Thank you for making me think about it.