While soft focus effects are utilized today to infuse images with enhancements like a soft-glowing atmosphere, these effects actually have their roots in a defect! Originally, soft focus was viewed as a flaw in the lens because spherical aberration created images that appeared blurry.
It’s important to make a distinction between an out-of-focus picture and soft focus effects, which will appear blurry while still retaining relatively sharp edges.
Because of the dreamlike image quality that soft focus effects produce, they’re naturally used a lot in advertising and fashion photography. Conversely, soft focus effects are not that common or popular for landscapes. That’s not to say, though, that these effects can’t help a landscape. Sometimes, landscapes can benefit from these effects, especially if there are backlit subjects as well.
If you want to finely alter your images to treat the viewer to a desired and specific interpretation, then soft focus is one of your best bets. There are a various ways in which you can achieve these effects in your pictures.
The Photoshop Methods
Guess what? Photoshop has really serious uses, too (it’s not just for tomfoolery and immature edits)! Its usefulness in achieving different soft focus effects is a major illustration of this point. Below, we take a look at the best ways that you can take advantage of Photoshop’s power to make your photographs all dreamy and atmospheric.
The use of a blurring filter—specifically the Gaussian blur or Gaussian smoothing—is both the most efficient and effective approach to incorporating soft focus into your images. With the blurring filter, you have the power to fade this filter through the combination of low opacity and a suitable blending mode. Even though this approach is a straightforward one, it’s not without its issues.
This procedure will work directly on the photograph. As such, it can be extremely tiresome to fine tune; in addition, you may also encounter some issues when you try to save such an image. So what can you do as an alternative to this option?
Why… just utilize overlays instead! Overlays will permit you to still produce a desirable soft focus effect, yet they won’t manipulate your underlying picture. As a result, you get to achieve your intended soft focus effects without any of the aforementioned hassles.
Getting to Know the Soft Overlay Method
Arguably the simplest effect when it comes to this technique, the soft overlay utilizes a duplicate picture layer when the blending mode gets adjusted to overlay. Incorporating your Gaussian blur and then manipulating the picture’s opacity permit the effect’s intensity to be changed as you please. This helps in finding an intensity that is appropriate to your image.
Be aware, though: This particular method will eventually produce a resulting picture whose saturation and contrast are greater than those in your original photograph. This is due to the dependence on the overlay blending mode with this approach. However, the upside to this is that it can frequently produce results that are very pleasing to the eye from an aesthetic point of view.
Understanding the Soft Filter Method
An alternative to the above is the soft filter method. As its name implies, it imitates the consequences of utilizing a soft focus filter on your digital camera.
Here’s what happens in this approach: a blurry as well as desaturated version of the photograph gets overlaid right on top of the image’s original color. This is achieved via the lighten blending mode. Intensifying both the monochrome layer’s opacity and the blur creates the exact, same effect as relying on a more powerful camera filter.
Historically, soft focus effects were actually created manually, without the aid of time-saving technology such as Photoshop. Soft focus effects were the results of special filters; during capture, the effects were created. Soft focus effects via filters could range in extremes from just subtle effects to various mist or fog effects created by specific filters.
Becoming Familiar With the Soft Focus Method
The final approach we’ll talk about here is the soft focus method, which is just another way of getting from point A to point B. In general, this specific approach is reserved mainly for either advertising images or portraiture. The soft focus method will not intensify either the saturation or contrast of an image.
Here is how this method works: It relies on the use of two, blurry images right over the original image. It also makes use of darken and lighting blending modes simultaneously. As a result of this approach, the changes of the intensity that are incorporated by the layers will end up being canceled out. Once more, any intensity coming from the effect can be changed around by simply manipulating the degree of the blur, as well as playing around with the opacity of the two layers that lay over the base of the image.
Soft Focus: It’s All About Mood Adjustment
When you’re planning to add soft focus effects to any picture, always realize that you’re toying with the mood that your viewer will experience when glancing at your shot. That is exactly why these kinds of effects are popularly used in things like advertisements and portraits…that’s when you want pictures to be highly evocative.
These days, with the plethora of options that are at your disposal courtesy of handy tools like Photoshop, you needn’t be working on an advertising campaign to really experiment with soft focus effects. That’s the good thing because you’re allowed a great degree of freedom when you’re using a photo-editing tool to infuse your pictures with soft focus effects. So try the various approaches to incorporating these types of atmospheric effects into your images, and be prepared to learn about your creative boundaries.
Now, it’s your turn. Have you ever experimented with any soft focus effects in your photographs before? If not, how open are you to playing around with Photoshop to add some neat, soft focus effects into your images? Don’t be shy to sound off via Twitter or Facebook, and, as always, keep reading Contrastly regularly for a roundup of the most interesting photography topics on the web!