Tutorial – Subject Focus in your Photos – Background Blur

I really love how some photos draw you into exactly what the person taking the photo wanted to highlight. Those photos of a special person or moment that you take, and then you find there is a lot of background information you want to “fade – blur” or make less noticeable. I have a great tutorial today from, Chel – one of the fabulous Etc artists, on how to focus on your subject matter without distraction by blurring the background “noise” in a photo. This one you are going to LOVE ♥

Let’s talk first about what kind of photos would you use this technique on. Take this action shot, one of my favorite football players at the good old BAMA college my son attends. Can you imagine what having the background of the stadium not blurred would do to your subject focus?

Or maybe a fabulous home item you found and want to share it with your friends via social media without all the dirty dishes in the sink or pre-Christmas decoration completion showing up in the background:
One of the coolest ways to preserve memories of some of you favorite holiday moments or treasures would be to highlight those special ornaments and create journal pages for future generations. Sometimes even Grand-ma’s special gift can be broken, and we have no photo to remember it by:
No matter your reason, this tutorial will help you decide what you want the focus to be, a little or a lot, you decide. I am certain you could use this in your photo editing for most everyday photos.
Blur the background – Direct your Focus
Step 1. – Open your start image.
Step 2. – Create a new Adjustment Layer – go to Layer/New Adjustment Layer/Levels
Step 3. – Duplicate the Background – Layer/Duplicate Layer (should be above the adjustment layer)
Step 4. – Clip the Duplicated Photo layer to the Adjustment Layer – with the photo layer select hit CTRL+G
Step 5. – With the duplicated photo layer selected go to
Enhance/Un-sharp Mask. Set Amount to 85% and the Radius to 1 pixel.
Step 6. – Select a soft-edged Brush from the brush tool. I set the pixel size to 100 so I could go over a large area at once & left Opacity at 100%.
Step 7. Set foreground to black –
Step 8. With the Adjustment Layer selected – Brush over the part of the photo you want blurred
Step 9. Select both the photo layer and the adjustment layer – right click & duplicate both layers
Step 10. With the adjustment layer you just created – Go to Filter/Adjustments Invert or CTRL I
Step 11. With the top image selected go to Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur. Radius to 12.5 pixels. This is where you can play some with the Blur as well. Do your thing!

We hope you have enjoyed this simple little trick that is simple but really packs a punch in your photos. Please feel free to share how you used this tutorial technique, we would love to see them!

5 thoughts on “Tutorial – Subject Focus in your Photos – Background Blur

  1. Dinah, I have Chel going back over it since I was unable to clearly understand what you mean by your question. I had four layers left, with the ability to adjust the top layer, then I merged and I was good to go. She knows more about the tutorial, so I will let her answer you based on her experience, but either way…we will help you figure it out ♥

  2. Dinah, Chel and I went over it and she thinks you may be blurring the photo layer and not the adjustment layer. We were able to duplicate the tutorial without issues, so please try again and let us know. It could be a program setting that we are missing for you, and we would like to help. 🙂

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