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Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Fix Soft Focus

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by Erin Peloquin on November 17, 2011 · 4 comments

I love this shot I got of a bride at the best photography workshop I’ve ever attended.  However, the focus was a bit soft.

The focus isn’t terrible – in fact, for a 5×7 or 8×10, it might be just fine.  But look what happens when you zoom in to those eyes and her hair:

That’s just softer than I like.  After some experimenting in Photoshop Elements, I decided this photo would look nice with a romantic glow added to it, so rather than trying to repair the blur with heavy sharpening (which wouldn’t make it perfect anyway), I decided just to go with it.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Ran MCP Magic Skin.  I changed the layer mask that Magic Skin created for me so that it lightly softened the dress as well as the skin.
  2. Ran Magic Clarity from MCP Bag of Tricks.  Those two actions got me here:
  3. Added my favorite vignette.  Stamp the visible layers by typing control+alt+shift+e (command+option+shift e on Mac).  Use the marquee tool set to a high feather to select the area that you don’t want to be darkened by the vignette.  Delete this area and change the blend mode of the layer to Multiply.
  4. Used Stamp Visible again.
  5. Went to Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur and set the radius to about 15 pixels – more or less depending on your image.
  6. Changed the blend mode of this layer to Soft Light.  Isn’t it awesome how that gets rid of the major blur?
  7. So, at this point I’m thinking, yeah, I like this, so I need to clean up the undereye circles.
  8. Flattened the image, duplicate the background layer, set the clone tool to 70% with the tool blend mode at Lighten, and wipe away those dark circles.
  9. Finished with the free MCP High Definition Sharpening.  That’s it!

 

Here is the final:

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This is a great example of how I don’t stress about workflow order too much.  I wasn’t sure exactly where to take this photo when I started.  I would normally recommend removing under eye circles first, for instance, but I wasn’t sure it it was worth the time for this image until I added the blur.

Also, I would normally add a vignette towards then end, just before sharpening.  I guess I did it earlier this time because I was thinking perhaps I was finished with my edit but decided otherwise?  I honestly can’t say for sure.

The point is that the photo looks fine, right?  Don’t stress over workflow order!

Also, I hope that you’re wondering why I used Stamp Visible sometimes and Flattened others!  Because that’s a great question and I want to tell you about it.  I used stamp visible until I was sure that the edit was on the right path.  I didn’t flatten because I thought I might need to go back and adjust the Magic Skin or Magic Clarity layers at some point.  It’s easier to undo a stamp visible than it is to undo all your edits and start over.

That’s my tutorial for the week.  I love this Gaussian Blur at Soft Light method in Photoshop Elements.  If you try it, I’d love for you to post it on my Facebook page.  See ya there!

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