Monday, July 23, 2012

Photoshop or soft focus filter? Which is best?

The unsoftened image can be found here.

Back in the days that I shot film for the local newspaper, I played around with soft focus images. Soft focus does not mean out-of-focus. A true soft focus image is a blend of sharp image and a soft one. Soft focus images glow, the highlights may bleed into the surroundings, but these images have a sharpness that gives them the punch missing from simple blurry shots.

Some photographers used to try and produce the soft focus effect in the darkroom. This method didn't work well. One works with a negative in the darkroom with the result that the shadows bled into the highlights. For instance, bright teeth (high key areas in an image) were darkened by the bleeding of colour or tone from the surrounding areas.

I found that a Nikon Soft Focus No. 1 filter screwed onto the front of a lens worked best. These filters were perfectly clear with a pattern of diffusing dots scattered over the filter surface. The result was a Nikon sharp image with a soft glow. It was a very nice effect.

Now that I am shooting digital, I thought I'd like to try recreating the soft focus effect using Photoshop. I searched the web for ideas and tried a lot. They all, for one reason or another, failed to deliver the look I was searching for.

Then I found one site that had a method that was pretty good. I felt it produced a fine look that one could confuse, if one didn't look too closely, with the results achieved using the old Nikon filter.

Not one to rip off another blogger, here is link to the site with the soft focus effect instructions. Enjoy.

Link --- Soft-Focus Emulation in Photoshop

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