Soft focus is not blur or “slightly out of focus”. If you think you can get the same effect by intentionally turning the lens out of focus during shooting, you will be disappointed. True soft focus should still have the important subject areas in focus while having a sense of softness.

To achieve the soft focus, you could spend anywhere between 20 to 100 US dollars to buy one of the soft focus filters. Fortunately, the soft focus effect is one f the most simple special effects to achieve in a capable photo editor such as Capture NX2.

Soft focus effect step-by-step:

Step 1: Open the photo and edit it to your taste. If you have turned off in-camera sharpening or only have moderate in-camera sharpening, you can run a more aggressive unsharp mask (USM) sharpening since the soft focus effect will add quite some softness. For this demonstration, I will use the photo shown in the following screen capture.


The original photo

The original photo

Step 2: Add a new adjustment step in Edit List by clicking on the New Step button, select Focus->Gaussian blur as the adjustment. Radius value between 15 and 20 works well for high resolution image. Reduce the radius for low resolution image. Drop the opacity to ~50% to allow some sharpness through the top blur layer.

Below is how the photo looks after this step.

After Gaussian blur

Note: If you like the effect you get now it is perfectly fine to stop here. Continue with the next step if you prefer some extra saturation and warmth in the photo.

Step 3 (optional): Add a new adjustment step and select Color->Saturation/Warmth. Experiment with the Saturation and Warmth sliders until you have the result you are happy with.

This is the final result.

The final image after Saturation/Warmth adjustment

The soft focus effects creates a dreamy and heavenly scene. It is good for baby/kids/female portraits, and some landscape photos.

Posted in: Tips and Techniques, Tutorials on November 17th, 2008. Trackback URI
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