Depth of Field

If you find yourself asking what in the world is “depth of field,” don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Even if it sounds like something professional photographers use while they fire up their big bad expensive cameras, depth of field is something all photographers can use.

Here is an example. You are taking pictures of your daughter at the Eiffel Tower (if you happen to be in France!) while on your vacation, but the constant movement of crowds in the background stops the picture from gaining the impact it should have in that moment. Worry not! When you get home, you can fix all of that right up. If you’re interested, read on.

In the picture above, you can see the girl in a red cap who seems to be lost or waiting for someone. However, the impact of the moment in the picture is lessened by the group of people surrounding the girl. What we need to do here is put the entire focus on the girl.

To do this, normally you would have to know what aperture to use on a camera. However, you can also artificially lower the depth of field by using Photoshop. (Good ol’ Photoshop!)

First, open the image in Photoshop and create a duplicate layer of it.

So, now we have two layers with the same image on it. On the duplicate layer, apply a Gaussian blur filter. (Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur).

The amount of filter varies according to the intensity you desire. Play around with it to get your desired effect. Since the other people are close to our “target,” I have used a Gaussian blur setting of 3.3. Your image should look blurry now.

Now, let’s add a reveal all layer mask on the duplicate layer. To do this, go to Layer, Add Layer Mask, Reveal All. Go ahead and select the brush tool and choose a soft brush, but one that is big enough to paint the girl.

Next is the key part. With the layer mask selected, use the paint brush to paint black color on the part of the picture in which you want the focus (in this case, the girl with the red cap). To make the depth of the field more realistic, you can change the opacity of the paint brush so the effect easily blends in.

It is also a good idea to zoom into the picture so you can get the edges with perfection. As you continue painting the focused image, the object (the girl) will reveal itself. This is the image that I ended up with.

As is obvious, the girl has a more cemented place in the picture and the eyes of the viewer can focus on the girl without any direct interference from the people in the background. As is demonstrated, this technique works effectively in separating an object from the flurry of activity or other objects in the background.

Have fun!

~ Yogesh Bakshi