Hi & welcome to my PS blog! This blog is for full PS although some steps will also work in PSE. Most actions, unless stated are not PSE compatiable. I do try to make an action for PSE from time to time. I hope you have fun here and learn some things along the way. If you have any questions, just drop me a comment! :O)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Creamy butter Bokeh...

So I finally have something to talk about..lol! I've had several people ask me how I get such creamy buttery bokeh! I'm not a pro photographer nor a pro in PS. But this is how I approach the bokeh in my images.

First, it has to take place in camera! I shoot with a full frame and I shot only primes {unless I'm using my Tokina 16-28} and I always shoot with large apertures {unless I'm using my Tokina 16-28}. I use BBF and I toggle my AF points. I also keep in mind my distance to subject and the distance from my subject to the background. When I want more bokeh I get closer and do my best to have my subject as far from the background as possible. I also try my best to shoot in good light and all of these things play a part in the bokeh of my shots. So most of my shots almost always have good bokeh to begin with. But I usually want it a bit creamier and more smooth and more separation from subject to bokeh.

I do use actions that I've paid for. So I won't be able to go over all the steps by hand because then I would be sharing the details of the actions I'm using and that's not okay! :) Normally when I enhance the bokeh or pop the subject, I do it at the end when my edit, creative or clean, is done. So my before shots are my edits that I've already done. Normally I would not start with a flattened image, but for the purposes of this tutorial and discussing bokeh only and not the rest of the edits I did, I'm starting on a flattened file!

The actions I'll be using in this tutorial are...

TRA Boutwell Magic Glasses ~ this is my FAVORITE action of all time for detail shots and I use it on most of my detail shots unless I'm going for a true film feel to my images. I almost never use this action on people/faces.

Michelle Kane Bring on the Bokeh & See Things Clearer

*Masking tip... White reveals & black conceals. So where you see white on a layer mask, the effect of that layer is showing. Where you see black on a layer mask, the effect of that layer is not showing.

That's it...and it's all very easy and fast!

The first photo I'm sharing is how I usually approach editing detail shots that already have a lot of bokeh in them. On this image the bokeh is smooth enough and I don't want to touch it. But I do want the microphone to jump out of the bokeh a little more and be a little sharper.

Once I've edited my image and have it where I want it I run my TRA Boutwell Magic Glasses which will convert my 16bit image to 8bit {one of the reasons I run it at the end} and put it on it's own layer without a layer mask. This action will give a depth and a defog of sorts and when applied only to the subject and not the bokeh, it allows the subject to jump out while keeping the bokeh smooth. I rarely ever allow this action to touch my bokeh. Once it's ran I make sure I'm on that layer then hit q for auick mask and select my brush tool {b}, set my brush opacity at 100% and my foreground color to black. Then I paint where I want the BMG action applied. Where you see red is where the action will be applied. You'll notice the red arcross the image. On most images that I run BMG, I follow the focal plane as I've done here...

Then once I'm done painting where I want the action applied I hit q again to turn off the quick mask and I will now have my area that I painted selected with matching ants. Then I hold down my alt key and click on the layer mask icon and it will make my selection where I painted, white on the layer mask to show and where I did not paint will be black to hide...

Now all I want to do is sharpen. I obviously do not want to sharpen my bokeh. So I run Michelle Kane's See Things Clearer above the BMG layer. This action runs with a white layer mask so it shows on the entire image. But since I only want a the area that I ran BMG on sharpened, I'm going to click on the BMG layer mask, hold down my alt key and drag that layer mask on top of the MK layer mask and hit yes to replace. Now I have my sharpening applied to the exact same areas I ran BMG without having to paint the area again. Very fast and easy and now I've given the microphone more depth and sharpening all while leaving the bokeh nice & smooth...

And here is the before and after. This is my most used method when editing details that have good bokeh to begin with. It's fast, easy and just enhances that shallow DOF 3d feeling while still looking natural...

Now onto how I handle bokeh with my people shots. As I said above, I almost never run BMG on people shots. I do not like the defog type of contrast it adds to faces, skin, eyes etc as it turns the skin & face harsh unless used at very low opacity. So usually when editing people shots, I work on the background vs the subject to allow them to pop from the bokeh. Here is a shot of Avyree that I took on Monday. The bokeh is there, but I really want it smoother and creamier, which will help her pop a bit from it.

Again, once I have my edit done, I'm ready for the final touches. I run MK's Bring on the Bokeh. When this action runs a black layer mask is attached. So the bokeh is hidden and you paint with white where you want it. There are many times that I leave it black and only paint it in small areas. But on this one, the area is bigger and I find that I get a more natural look when painting larger areas by inverting the mask and painting the blur off of the subject. So I click on the black layer mask and hit ctrl i to invert it to a white mask and now the blur is over my entire image. I grab my brush with black as my foreground color and go around the of her hairline at 100% brush opacity. I stay on slightly on the inside of her hairline with a large soft brush so that it feathers nicely into the bokeh that is already there. As you can see below, I have removed the blur from the edges of her and now need to remove it from the rest of her.

I want to make sure I don't miss any because it would be really bad to have a small blurry spot on her face! :) So I hold down the alt key and click once on the layer mask. Now my layer mask is full screen and I can continue to paint the rest of her out of the blur with a black brush. Once I'm sure I've got all of her masked out I hold down the alt key & click on the mask again and VIOLA Avyree is back...

Last step is my normal last step, run MK's See Things Clearer. I can borrow the mask again from the Bring on the Bokeh layer like I did with the first image and the BMG layer. But I do not want the sharpen on her hair. So instead of borrowing that mask, then masking out off of her hair, I just invert the white mask to black, use a soft large brush with my foreground set to white & 100% brush opacity and do a few large clicks on her face & clothes making sure it doesn't feather out into her hair too much...

So now I've made the bokeh creamier and sharpened only her allowing her to pop from the bokeh just a bit more and make that bokeh buttery! Again, we want subtle and natural. Here is the before and after...

Now...lets say I have a shot where the bokeh is okay and the subject is sharp...but it's just not enough separation and I really want it the subject to stand out more! This usually happens when I shoot from a little further back, especially with my 35L.

Here is a macro shot I took. It's okay... but nothing exciting. So now I want to see what I can do to make it a bit more exciting or appealing and have the subject pop and the bokeh creamy butter. I've already decided that I want to keep it centered {which is of course a personal choice and depends on the shot itself}. I know too that for the most part, I'm going to keep my edit clean and a bit rich & deep. But for me the dandelion is just getting lost in the bokeh and the bokeh to me is harsh and has too much contrast. But I don't want to lose the color tones and richness in my edit. This method will allow me to keep it exactly as I edited it but to smooth out the bokeh and make the tip of the dandelion pop out.

Here is the before I'm working with {notice the right & bottom edge}...

So like I said, I do all three methods to get the look I want. Once my edit is done I run Bring on the bokeh {because I want to run this while still in 16bit} and I want it everywhere but the dandelion and a tiny bit of the top of the stem. So I invert the mask to white and start in the center with a smaller soft black brush at 100% brush opacity and start clicking. I want a nice smooth feather so by doing this and then making my brush a bit bigger and clicking a few times again and now going even a bit bigger and bring my brush opacity down to about 30% and a few more clicks over the dandelion, I've created a really smooth natural transition from the focus area to the bokeh. Now I want to pop that dandelion and give it some depth. So I run TRA Boutwell Magic Glasses and use my Quick Mask to mask it only on the dandelion {no stem} then once I'm out of quick mask, hold down my alt key and click on the layer mask. Now the BMG is only on the tip of the dandelion and has left the smooth butter bokeh alone. Final step is to sharpen only the dandelion. So I run MK's See Things Clearer and borrow the mask from the BMG layer which will only apply the sharpening to the area that the BMG was applied, again without having to do any more masking...

And here is the before & after. Again, pay attention to the right and bottom of the image. The plants that were coming up into the frame that were in focus, are no gone but the image as a whole still looks natural like it came from a marco lens!

So there you have it...this is how I approach bokeh in my editing workflow! I hope this was helpful and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Again, I will not be able to answer any questions as to the specifics of the actions that I run. You'll have to head over to the maker and buy them if you want to try them..lol! And they do not know that I am writing this nor am I getting any perks by stating their actions & sites. I actually use these in my workflow and cannot share my steps without sharing what actions I used! :)


Ashley Sisk June 30, 2011 at 6:54 PM  

Wow - what a great tutorial. I may need to come back to fully absorb this one. Great stuff!

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About my PS Blog

Hi, my name is Crystal and I am addicted to Photoshop. I have PSCS4 and it's my other half. I love photography, but sometimes I think it's a means to edit!

So I thought it would be fun to have a place to post the free action sets I record, tips and tricks that I learn in PS and tuts for various different types of photo editing.

I hope you enjoy and find my PS blog helpful and if you have any questions, leave me a comment with your questions and your email address and I will get back to you!

Happy editing!

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I am a stay at home to 2 great girls. My older daughter Haylee just started middle school and my younger daughter Avyree is in 1st grade! I have been married 11 years to my hubs Eric. I got my first DSLR June 31, 2008 and have been hooked ever since! My style is primarily Lifestyle! I like to take a natural and real life approach to my images! I want them to remind me of WHO my girls were when they were little, not just what they looked like. I love to edit and my editing style is always evolving and changing! I like variety and photography is a means to edit! I shoot Canon (full frame) and almost only primes. I pull out my wide angle zoom from time to time! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you like our story...
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