Previously we showed you how to pan the camera for more dramatic action photography. Now that you’ve had a chance to practice that panning technique we thought we’d show you how you can fake perfect panning photos.
Panning in-camera to record a sharp, moving subject against background blur is incredibly rewarding, but the panning technique can be impractical and tricky to perfect. So if you’ve tried, but failed, to get it right, all is not lost. Here we’ll show you a simple photo editing technique where you’ll learn how to get a life-like panning effect in Photoshop CS5 using a sharp image taken at 1/3200sec. We’ll isolate the car from the background with selection tools and add a layer mask to fine-tune the cut-out. We’ll then use filters to apply different types of blur.
The devil’s in the detail here – while it’s a simple matter to apply blur to the crowd, it takes time to refine the effect by creating realistic blur in parts of the image where the background shows through the car, such as in the windows and between the gaps in the spoiler. In a genuine panning shot, a longer exposure would be used, therefore the camera would capture parts of the scene that are behind the car and record these areas as blur.
Simply add blur to the whole image and you’d get unrealistic ghosting around the edges of the car. So it’s necessary to clone a rough and ready background around the edges with the Clone tool, which gives you more of an area to blur.
It’s also vital to keep it realistic. A common mistake when adding motion blur is to include the car’s shadow, which is a giveaway. In a real panning blur, the shadow would be as sharp as the car. So without further ado, here is our start image:
Photoshop Effects: how to fake perfect panning photos
Step 1: Select the car
Open start image, then select the Magnetic Lasso tool from the Tools palette. Click to start the selection, then move the cursor carefully around the edge of the car. If the tool strays from the edge, hit the Backspace key to delete a point. There’s no need to be too precise at this stage.
Step 2: Tidy up the selection
Grab the Quick Selection tool from the Tools palette. Use this to add to the selected area for a cleaner edge. Use the [ and ] bracket keys to resize the brush tip as you work, and hold down the Alt key to subtract from the selection over gaps in the car and any stray background areas.
Step 3: Refine the edges
Click Refine Edge in the Options bar. Press F to cycle through the views until you find one that gives the best contrast. Check Smart Radius and set Radius to 2, Smooth to 5, Contrast to 20 and Shift Edge to -20. In Output To, select New Layer with Layer Mask.
Step 4: Select a brush
Go to the Layers palette and click the mask thumbnail of the newly created layer to highlight it. Select the Brush tool and press D to reset your colours to black and white, then select a soft-edged circular brush. Use the [ and ] bracket keys to resize your brush.
Step 5: Perfect the mask
Zoom in close to inspect the edge, and use the brush to fine-tune the cut-out. Paint with black to hide any visible background, and paint with white to reveal the car. You can flip between colours by pressing the X key. Pay close attention to the windscreen wipers – you’ll need to get a precise edge here.
Step 6: Duplicate the background
Rename the top layer ‘Cut Out’, then click the adjacent eye icon to hide it. Highlight and reveal the Background layer, then press Ctrl+J to duplicate it. Name this layer ‘Blur’. Next, hold down the Ctrl key and click the layer mask thumbnail of the Cut Out layer to load it as a selection.
Step 7: Expand the selection
Hide the Background layer, then choose Select>Modify>Expand. Enter 5 pixels and click OK. This will allow a little extra room around the car for the next step. With the Blur layer highlighted, press Backspace to delete the pixels within the selected area.
Step 8: Fake a background
Next you’ll need to add fake background detail around the edges. Choose Edit>Fill, select Use: Content-Aware, then click OK. The resulting fill may look a bit messy, but it’s a useful way to start building in fake edges around the car.
Step 9: Clone the edges
Press Ctrl+D to deselect, then grab the Clone tool. Choose a soft-edged circular brush for the tool, then zoom in, hold down Alt and click to select a source close to the edge. Paint with the Clone tool to tidy up around the edges where the car used to be.
Step 10: Extend the window
Use the Clone tool to paint extra background around the gap where the window was. The blur will work on a horizontal plane, so pay more attention to the areas on the left and right of the space and don’t worry about fixing level surfaces such as the roof.
Step 11: Hide the spoiler
Now clone around the space where the spoiler was to tidy this up and add more fake background. Sample different areas often as you paint. You don’t need to be too precise because we’ll be blurring this later, but colours and shapes should match the scene.
Step 12: Make a Smart Object
When you’re happy with the cloned background around the car edges, choose Filter>Convert for Smart Filters. This will turn the Blur layer into a Smart Object so you can apply the blur non-destructively, and tweak the amounts whenever you like.
Step 13: Add the motion blur
Now you’ve done the hard work by selecting the car and cloning the background, you can add the blur. Choose Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Set Angle to 0 and Distance to 150 pixels, then click OK. Reveal the Cut Out layer at the top of the stack.
Step 14: Select the wheel
Click the Cut Out layer, then grab the Elliptical Marquee tool. Move the icon over the centre of the front wheel, then hold down Shift and Alt and drag outwards to form a circular selection. Press Ctrl+J to copy the selection to a new layer.
Step 15: Add radial blur
Name the layer ‘Front Wheel’, then hold down Ctrl and click the thumbnail in the Layers palette to load the shape as a selection. Next, choose Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Set the Amount to 20, the Blur Method to Spin, and the Quality to Best. Click OK.
Step 16: Copy the rear wheel
Highlight the Cut Out layer and grab the Elliptical Marquee tool. Select the other wheel in the same way, then press Ctrl+J to copy the selection to another new layer. Name this layer ‘Rear Wheel’, then hold down Ctrl and click the thumbnail of this new layer.
Step 17: Blur the wheel
Choose Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Keep the same settings, but this time tweak the central position of the blur in the preview box. The angle of this wheel is slightly different to the front, so move the centre point up and to the left slightly.
Step 18: Perfect the look
You may need to experiment to perfect the position of the blur, so try it once, then if you think it could be improved, press Ctrl+Z to undo then re-apply the radial blur with a different centre point. When finished, press Ctrl+D to deselect the wheel.
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