In this quick Photoshop Elements tutorial we show you how to blur water using simple Photoshop effects to recreate the classic slow shutter look.
Shoot moving water using a slow shutter speed and you risk over-exposing the shot and losing detail, especially in strong daylight. You could use a neutral density (ND) filter to reduce the amount of light entering the lens.
Alternatively, you can capture a healthy exposure using a relatively fast shutter speed (we used 1/60sec for our start image) and then add more blur to the water in Photoshop. Here’s how…
How to blur water in Photoshop Elements
01 Select the water
Download our start image, water_before.jpg from http://goo.gl/gZnrn. Go to Window>Layers and drag the Background layer onto the Create a New Layer icon. Grab the Magic Wand tool, set Tolerance to 30 and untick Contiguous. Click to select the whitest water. Hold down Shift and click to add other sections of falling water.
02 Add a layer mask
Click on the Background copy layer’s thumbnail, then on the Add Layer Mask icon. The selection marquee is converted to a black and white mask attached to the layer. Alt-click on the mask. The white areas will enable you to blur the water. The black regions will reveal the sharp landscape details from the layer below.
03 Apply motion blur
Click on the Background copy layer’s thumbnail. Go to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Click on the left of the image to preview the closest part of the waterfall. Set Angle to –79 to make the water blur in the direction that it’s flowing. To increase the blur (and mimic a slower shutter speed), set the Distance to 52 pixels. Click OK.
04 Tidy the mask
Some of the background sea and sky may look blurred, but it shouldn’t. Grab the Brush tool and choose a soft round brush. Set Size to 300 and Opacity to 100%. Click on the layer mask. Set the foreground colour to black. Spray over the sky and sea to hide these blurred areas, revealing sharp pixels from the layer below.
05 Stay still
Some of the foreground plants and rocks have been affected by the filtered motion blur. To prevent this, reduce the brush tip’s Size option to 125. Click on the layer mask to target it and spray a black brush over these blurred rocky areas to hide them on the top layer, revealing white water from the layer below.
06 Finish off
Duplicate Background layer and drag Background copy 2 to the top. Go to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Set Blur Angle to –62 and Distance to 84. Click on Add Layer Mask. Press Ctrl+I. Target the top layer’s mask, grab the Brush tool, set the foreground colour to white and Opacity to 67%. Spray over the water on the right, as above.
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