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In the current issue of one of my photo magazines Rick Sammon shows a very fast and simple way to create a soft-focus look. We all aim for properly exposed and tack sharp images but, in portraits a softer focus is usually more pleasing. Studio photographers have used special lenses or filters for years to do this.

Here is an example:

1. Make all of your PSE adjustments. I ended with a B&W conversion. Flatten the image.

2. Ctrl-J to duplicate the background layer and run the High Pass Filter (Filter > Other > High Pass). The higher the resolution of your imager, the bigger the number you want for radius. My image was a 5x7 at 500ppi and my High Pass strength was 10 -- much higher than I use when using High Pass for sharpening. It's better to go "too much" rather than "too little" because you can always lower the opacity of that layer to lessen the effect but you can't do anything to increase it.

3. Change the blend mode of that High Pass layer to Overlay. It looks very sharp and contrasty doesn't it. Ctrl-I to invert the image; shazam! Now it is soft.

4. Add a mask to that layer. You can hijack an adjustment layer or use an add-in as I did (Graffi's Handy Actions). If you don't wand to use a mask, you can simply use the Eraser Tool. The Eraser is destructive; if you screw up you'll have to delete that High Pass layer and start over. You want to bring back sharpness detail to parts of the now soft layer. I worked on the eyes, mouth and a few other spots. Here is what your layer stack looks like:
Soft Focus How.jpg
Soft Focus How.jpg (140.54 KiB) Viewed 2308 times

You will probably need to tweak the image with a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer.

Here is my finished product.
Soft Focus.jpg
Soft Focus.jpg (104.62 KiB) Viewed 2308 times

This is not just for repair of skin wrinkles or blemishes. You can get some nice effects on young, beautiful skin as well ... a nice glow:
Soft_Focus.jpg (124.41 KiB) Viewed 2308 times

There are plug-ins that will do this in one click (Nik Color Efex Pro or Topaz Adjust) but using a masked High Pass filter in this way gives you individual control over what's soft and what's sharp.

There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness" - Dave Barry

If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough. - Robert Capa
Rusty , oh thank you i can not wait to try this. I so enjoy doing things myself even if there is a plug in for it.
I can not find the shazam! menu option. :?

Heh, heh. Good tutorial Rusty and Rick! I like your results.

I can't find the shazami options, either! Time to upgrade !

I'll be away for a few days. However, I will use the info & submit my results next week.
Thanks, for the tutorial Rusty.
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Thanks for the tutorial, Rusty; you did a great job at applying it. Rick Sammon is a very imaginative image creator. I like his philosophy: He does not take photos ... He creates images! He has some very nice photography instructional videos on Kelby Training. You can find him at the link below. It does require a subscription fee, however, either yearly or monthly. With a one month subscription, you would have enough time see all his classes.

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I also like Rick a lot, Joe.
He has a knack for explaining things in a way that I always understand what he's talking about.

Digital Photo is one of "my magazines"; he has something in every issue. Sometimes it's a multi-page tutorial; other times it is a real shortie called 'Quick Fix' (as was the case here).

There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness" - Dave Barry

If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough. - Robert Capa
I masked the bubble. I really do like the softness in the subject's faces from using this technique.



That is really a nice effect. I have a couple of photos I'm working on that I think I will have to try this later. Though sadly I do have to admit a lot of times photos look soft to me when I don't have my glasses on. :rotfl:
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