“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” - Ansel Adams
Blurring certain parts of a photo is a popular photo editing technique. This effect allows you to increase the focus on a certain part of the photo by blurring part of the photo that focus shouldn’t be on.
Imagine a photo where you need to put the focus on the model or a photo where you need to blur the faces of subjects that need to remain anonymous. In just a few clicks, you can increase the apparent depth of focus and give the image a completely different feeling.
Similarly, the blur effect is one of the 6 biggest mistakes that amateur photographers make. There’s a big difference between professional blurring and amateur blurring. A misplaced blur can completely ruin a photo.
So how can you blur a photo in a photo editor to make it more beautiful? How can you take the focus off certain parts of the photo to make other elements more interesting?
Here’s how to use one of the most common photo editing techniques!
Blurring a Photo on an Apple Device
Whether you’re using an iPhone or an iPad, you don’t need to have a computer to effectively blur your photos. There are solutions online that you can get the most out of!
You can use an app like Skitch which will allow you to blur a photo almost magically.
Firstly, you need to download the app onto your device. Then, head to your iPhone or iPad photos app. Click the settings buttons on the photo. Skitch should then appear. If the app doesn’t appear, you’ll need to find it in others.
On the bottom right, you should have a small arrow. Click on it. Click on the icon with the small squares. You can now right-click on the part of the photo you want to make blurrier. Confirm and your image will be transformed!
The advantage of Skitch is that you can always undo the blurring if you don’t like it.
Not bad, is it?
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Blurring a Photo on a PC
When using a Windows computer, blurring an image is quite simple and there are multiple ways to do it. There are two really easy ways to do this.
On a PC, there’s the Photos app that will allow you to retouch photos and make sections or all of an image blurrier. This first technique is good for blurring distant parts of the photo.
Once you’ve imported your photo into the programme, click on “Draw” at the top of the screen. You can colour in the part of the photo where you want to hide something. For example, you could use this technique to cover up a cigarette end on the pavement. This technique also works in programmes like Paint, for example.
The second technique is more professional and involves using a programme called “Evernote”. Much like “Skitch”, this programme is useful for quickly and effectively editing photos.
In this programme, which is free, you just need to drag your photos into the programme window. Then you just need to select the photo you want to blur. You’ll see a small “@” symbol in the top right of the photo.
Click on this symbol and you’ll be taken to the blurring tool. Much like in Skitch, the photo will open in the left and you just need to click “Pixelate image” to blur.
You can save the image once you’ve got the results you’re after into the folder of your choosing. In just a few steps, you can blur or cover up part of an image.
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Blurring Photos in Photo Editing Software
Retouching a photo can be also done in a software package. Adding Gaussian blurring to a snap with photo editing software can be done to the whole photo or a specific area.
So what is Gaussian blur?
Don’t panic! Let’s have a quick look.
Gaussian blur is a common type of blur tool available in photo editing software. It allows you to achieve blurring using a Gaussian mathematical function. This technique works on every individual pixel in an area.
You can use Gaussian blur to make an entire image blurry, blur out a photo, or add depth to a photo.
To achieve this blurring, we’re going to look at two different programmes: Adobe Photoshop and GIMP.
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- Open a new layer.
- Choose “luminosity” mode.
- Click on “Filters”, “Blur”, and “Gaussian Blur”.
- You can then choose just how blurred you want your photo.
- You can save the results once you’re happy with them.
- Open the photo.
- Choose the area you want to blur.
- Choose how much blur you want.
- Apply the blur through “Filter”, “Blur”, then “Gaussian Blur”.
- Again, save your image once you’re happy with it.
These are two very simple ways to produce good results. You can also use these techniques to hide car registration plates or add depth to photos.
There's plenty of different types of blur, too: motion blur, lens blur, radial blur, and you can choose the amount of blur, the blur radius, etc.
Photos taking up too much room?
Make sure you reduce the file size.
With a Camera
With a Lens and a Camera
With a good digital camera, you can get a good blurring effect on your photos by having a shallow depth of field.
Don’t hesitate to give this a go. You can blur the background while retaining the sharpness in the foreground, especially if you’re taking photos of tiny objects like a drop of water.
To get the most out of your background blur, you should ensure the background is far from the subject. When we say “far” we mean at least 2 metres. If it’s closer than this, you’ll struggle to blur the background.
You’ll need to use a telephoto lens with a 200mm-500mm zoom. An aperture between f/1.8 and f/2 is recommended. The depth of field is useful for getting good results.
Do you know what the bokeh effect is? This term of Japanese origin means “blur”. It refers to the artistic choice to blur part of an image.
Of course, unlike with blurring a photo, using a blur filter, or adding a tilt-shift effect, the original image will have the background blurred and out of focus and you won't be able to undo this in photo editing software.
With a Smartphone’s Portrait Mode
Even smartphones can be used to blur certain parts of a photo. This is a way to take even better selfies.
The blurring that occurs on the iPhone X is very effective but it won’t work for every photo. Humans tend to be better at achieving these results.
It might be worth trying this in-store before you buy a phone just for this effect. To use the portrait mode:
- Open the camera on your phone.
- Scroll down to “Portrait” mode.
- Take note of the advice as it pops up.
- Take a photo as you normally would.
- If you do it right, the background will be blurred.
It should be noted that most modern smartphones come with a portrait mode like the iPhone and a plethora of other functions. Not bad for free applications.
Whether you use a free app or pay for a programme, there are plenty of ways to add blurring to a photo. It can be used to improve the look of a photo when done right.
So why not give it a go?
If you need help blurring a photo or improving your photography, consider getting in touch with a tutor on Superprof. There are three main types of tutorial available on the site: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials. There are pros and cons to each and the best one for you really depends on your situation.
In group tutorials, there are several students and just one tutor. With all the students sharing the cost of the tutor's time, these tutorials are usually the cheapest per person per hour but each student won't get the bespoke tutoring or one-on-one time that they would in the other types of tutorials.
Face-to-face tutorials are the most personal and have you and your tutor working together for the whole session. Of course, this bespoke service comes at a cost, making it the most costly type of tutorial available. However, it's also the most cost-effective as every minute of the tutor's time is spent helping you.
Finally, online tutorials are similar to face-to-face tutorials with the main difference being that the tutor isn't physically in the room with you. Thanks to services like Skype, a tutor can teach you remotely using a webcam and an internet connection!