Have you ever wondered if it was possible to fake a shallow depth of field? In the next few posts, I’ll show you three different methods for doing just that. While they won’t give you an exact representation of the blur a lens might offer, they should give you that spark you just might need to launch into some serious creativity.
In today’s post, I’m going to talk about some of the finer aspects of the Iris Blur filter in Adobe Photoshop. I know I already wrote a post that glanced at this particular filter, but today’s post will be a little bit different. In this one, I’d like to cover some of the controls that will really allow you to open up your game when it comes to something like this. Don’t worry, there aren’t very many of them and each control really is very intuitive. The whole thing is straightforward and easy to understand.
I think I have a pretty good photo to work with today. I tried to find one that had a lot of noise in it that I could calm down as well as one that also had an isolated subject. If you look at the image below, I’m sure you’ll agree that the girl is the subject and the city is the noise. This one should work nicely.
Creating a Smart Object
By now, you know that it’s important to convert any layer you’re going to apply a filter to into a Smart Object. I’ve written about this extensively in the past, so I won’t go into detail here. Basically, I’ll right-click on the image background layer thumbnail (in the Layers panel) in Photoshop and when the menu pops up, I’ll select Convert to Smart Object. From there, I can begin working in the filter workspace.
Entering the Blur Gallery Workspace
One workspace in Photoshop controls many different types of blurs. To access this workspace, I’ll head up to the Filter > Blur Gallery > Iris Blur menu item in the top menu.
Once I click this menu item, I’ll notice a few things change. First, the options bar for this item will appear up top, second, the left vertical toolbar will disappear and third, the right column will change and new, more appropriate panels will take the place of the old. I’ll be primarily dealing with the Blur Tools panel in this post. Inside this panel are a few different drop-downs; one for each type of blur. Since I clicked on Iris Blur earlier, that one is already opened up.
The Iris Blur Tool
For the remainder of this post, I’ll be discussing how to navigate the Iris Blur tool. Once I’m finished, you should have a grip on the majority of what needs to be known to effectively manage this type of blur in a project. To start off, I’ll show you what the iris looks like in the workspace.
If you look closely, you’ll see the radius of the iris, along with a few different handles on its edge. Towards the center is a dial, surrounded by further pins. I’ll cover what all these things do below.
Resizing & Rotating
Most people tend to resize and rotate the iris upon entering this workspace. Because of this, I’ve decided to start there. To resize the iris, all you need to do is to hove your mouse pointer over an edge of the radius, click and drag either towards the center or towards the outer edge of the photo. As you hover your mouse pointer over the outer circle, you’ll see that it turns into a double arrow. As an example, I shrunk the one I’m working on down a bit.
To rotate the iris, all you need to do is to hover your mouse pointer over one of the four small pins along the outer edge. When you do that, you’ll see the pointer turn into a curved double arrow. I’ve outlined one of the four pins in red in this next screenshot.
Repositioning the Iris
Another common task when using this tool is to reposition it all together. Basically, people like to move the oval around. To accomplish this, you can either nudge it with the arrow keys on your keyboard or you can simply grab the center pin with your mouse and drag it around anywhere you wish.
Changing the Shape of the Blur
This is a fun one that many people aren’t aware of. If you’d like to alter the shape of the blur from an oval or circle to something more along the lines of a square or rectangle, you can certainly do that. If you’ll notice the outer edge of the tool, you’ll see a larger, more prominent pin in the upper right quadrant. That pin controls the shape of the blur. If you click and drag that pin either in towards the center or out towards the edge, you’ll see that the shape changes.
Changing the Strength of the Blur
Obviously, somewhere along the lines, you’re going to want to change the strength of the blur you’re using. To do this, there are two readily available methods. First is the Blur slider that’s available in the Blur Tools panel over to the right. Pushing this slider to the right increases the strength of the blur and pushing it to the left decreases it.
Alternately, you can click on the broken line that surrounds the center pin of the blur oval. If you click and drag that line around in a circle, you’ll see the blur intensity change. Dragging the line clockwise increases the strength and dragging it counterclockwise decreases the strength.
Softening or Hardening the Blur Transition
The last aspect of this tool that I’d like to show you is how you can change the range of the blur inside the Iris Blur filter. Basically, I’m using the word range here to describe where the blur begins from the center of the iris and where its transition ends at the edge of the iris. This is what I’m talking about.
In the above screenshot, I included a red outline in the shape of an oval. At the point of this red oval, the blur begins. Anything between the red oval and the outer edge of the filter tool I’ll call the fade. The outer edge is where the change in intensity stops and anything outside the outer edge is consistent with that edge. It neither gets stronger nor weaker after that. I think this is fairly straightforward.
To change the intensity of the transition, all I need to do is click on one of the four white dots that sit inside the oval and drag it towards the center or towards the outer edge. Dragging towards the center will looses the transition and dragging outward will tighten (intensify) it. In the above screenshot, I have those dots hidden by the red outline I created. Here’s a better view.
Now, by default, those four white dots move in tandem when any one of them is clicked and dragged. If I wanted to break them apart and move one independently from the others, I could press and hold down the Alt (Option on Mac) key on my keyboard and drag from there. Check this out.
Do you see how the anchor pin that I circled in red isn’t in line with the others? You can also see how the blur is distorted because of this. To accomplish this, all I did was press Alt and then click and drag that pin towards the center. It’s that easy.
Let’s see if I can add a good looking blur to the demo photo.
I’d say that looks pretty good. It quiets down some of the noise created by the city in the background and keeps the girl in the photo crystal clear.
I hope I have given you some good background on how the Iris Blur filter works in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!