In this tutorial we’ll show you a really easy way to use simple Photoshop effects to create a sense of shallow depth of field in any image.
Shooting with an open aperture creates that lovely shallow depth of field focusing the eye on a subject while blurring out its contextual setting.
But while automated modes or simpler cameras, such as mobile phones, may not provide the luxury of aperture control, a little understanding of Photoshop’s Layer Masks allows even the longest f/22 exposure to look like it was taken at f/1.2.
Masks provide a non-destructive method allowing selective layer visibility depending on the mask content. Create a mask using the Add Layer Mask icon at the foot of the Layers Panel.
This becomes visible in the Layers Panel, linked and filled with white by default. Click to select it and paint or fill any areas with black to hide, or mask, areas from view.
This simple method allows us to duplicate and blur our image and simply paint into the scene the focused areas to complete our finished effect.
How to create shallow depth of field in Photoshop
01 Duplicate and blur
Duplicate your original image layer and blur the copy using the Filter>Gaussian Blur. The amount of blur you apply will depend on the content and composition of your image.
02 Create the mask
With your blurred layer selected, click the Add a Mask button at the base of the Layers Panel. Your mask appears as a white box next to your layer thumbnail. Click to select it.
03 Reveal sharp areas
Make use of the Brush tool as well as Photoshop’s various other selection and fill tools to paint black onto the mask to reveal sharp areas from the lower Background layer.
How to Photoshop wedding photos: get your digital workflow correct from the start
Photoshop Curves Tool: 6 techniques every photographer must know
Raw Editing: what you need to know about white balance correction
3 selective adjustment tools your raw files can’t live without
Photoshop Levels Tool: 6 tricks all the pros use