Technique #50. Soft Focus
This technique adds a nice, soft focus (or dreamy focus) to a photo.
Here's the original photo I used.
Press Command-J (PC: Control-J) to duplicate the Background layer. From the Filter menu, choose Blur>Gaussian Blur and enter a Radius that's high enough to blur the details (use a number that's a little higher than you think you should use).
Lower the opacity of the blurry layereven changing the opacity to 90% will have an effect. Of course, it will vary with the photo, but somewhere in the 5065% range is pretty typical.
You could stop at Step Two, but if there are details in the photo that look a little too blurry, you can add a layer mask and hide some areas of the blurry layer. Here I clicked on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette to add a mask to the blurry layer, and pressed D, then X to set my Foreground to black. Then, I got the Brush tool (B) and painted with black over her eyes, lips, and hair. You could also paint with gray to slightly lower the opacity of the blurry layer.
As an optional step, click on the Background layer and then press Command-Option-~ (the Tilde key, right above your Tab key) (PC: Control-Alt-~) to load the highlights in the photograph. Then Press Command-J (PC: Control-J) to duplicate the selected pixels.
If the highlights keyboard shortcut doesn't work in Mac OS X Tiger, you'll have to go to System Preferences>Keyboard & Mouse and turn off the shortcut for Move Focus to Window Drawer. Here are the results with the highlight pixel layer first below the blurry layer, and then above the blurry layer.
Highlights below the blurry layer
Highlights above the blurry layer
In this example, I used the Surface Blur filter rather than Gaussian Blur, lowered the layer opacity, and painted on the layer mask.
Variation 1: Surface Blur filter
Okay, so this isn't really a variation, but I wanted to show you that this technique works on more than just portraits. On this photo I used the Surface Blur filter, lowered the opacity of the blurry layer, and painted with gray on the layer mask over the areas of the flower that I wanted to be sharper.