You’ve taken a shot of a friend. It looks good, but you want it to look gorgeous, like something out of a magazine.
Professionals use several techniques for transforming a simple photograph into a glamour shot. The dirty little secret of Photoshop is there is often one simple technique that will work 90% of the time to achieve the results you’re after!
In this tutorial, you will learn the simple way to add a soft focus glow to your images, using the following techniques:
– Duplicating layers
– Layer opacity
– Layer blending modes
– Gaussian Blur filter
– Erasing with a brush
1. Open your image and duplicate the image by dragging the layer down to the “create a new layer” icon in the Layers palette. Shortcut: cmd-J (ctrl-J in Windows).
2. In the Filter menu, scroll down to Blur and select Gaussian Blur. For this image, I chose a blur of 10 pixels. Blur as much or as little as you like.
3. In the Layers palette, lower the opacity to 50%. You may adjust the opacity to suit your tastes. Already, you can see the soft effect this technique has on your photo. Now it’s time to fine-tune. (Hover over the image to see the blurred/50% opacity state.)
4. In the Layers palette, click the dropdown menu in the palette that says, “Normal.” A long list of options appears. You can experiment with any that you like, but for the soft glow effect, the main ones to consider are Soft Light, Overlay, and Darken. These will be covered in the next three steps.
a) Option One: Soft Light. Soft light really enhances the contrast in the image, making light areas glow and dark areas intense. In practice, this is actually a pretty subtle adjustment. Use this option if you want your image to look amazing without people knowing why. Normally, I’m a big fan of subtle enhancements-most of my professional work is of the “make this look really good” sort, not of the “make this look really cool” sort. However, I’m in the mood for some strong changes, so onward to Option Two!
b) Option Two: Overlay. You’ll notice that the Overlay effect is similar to Soft Light. The visual difference is in how the color is bumped up. Everything becomes more saturated with even more contrast than Soft Light. Use Overlay when you desire a dramatic effect.
c) Option Three: Darken. Darken adds a sculpted look to your image. It’s one of my favorite “glow” modes because it’s soft and not in-your-face with its contrasts. However, right now it looks a little dingy, doesn’t it? Her eyes are dark, and her lips lack definition.
The next step is optional, especially if you are using Soft Light or Overlay. If you are going for the sculpted look of the Darken blending mode, however, you definitely want to do it.
5. Optional: erase portions of the blurred layer. The model’s eyes and lips in the blurred layer are hiding the layer beneath too much, so we’ll simply erase those bits in the blurred layer. Who ever said you couldn’t be a mad scientist? Select the Eraser tool in the Tools palette, or type the letter “E”. Choose a soft brush. For size, I usually select one that’s about two-thirds the height of the eye. Click and erase the blurred layer in the areas you wish to bring into focus, in this case the eyes and lips. Don’t worry too much about going outside the lines; if it’s noticeable (and it probably won’t be), you can simply Undo or go back in History.
And there we go!
For quick reference, here’s the shortcut instructions:
1. Open image.
2. Duplicate image (cmd-J)
3. Gaussian Blur 10
4. Opacity 50%
5. Blending mode Soft Light, Overlay, or Darken
6. Erase eyes or other blurred areas as needed
7. Play with opacity and blending modes and have fun!