Blurring the background of a photo is a very effective way to make the main subject of an image really pop off the page. It’s possible to create this effect in the camera or during the editing process, and today’s tutorial involves the latter.
This technique has a variety of applications for giving images a professional touch, like when shooting outdoor portraits with cluttered backgrounds, or landscape scenes full of distracting elements in the distance. This episode from British pro Robin Whalley demonstrates how to get the job done with simple tools in Photoshop.
Whalley is a prolific author, educator and photo-editing specialist who says, “achieving a beautifully blurred background is easier than you may think,” and it takes him barely five minutes to explain the method.
While Whalley uses Photoshop 2023 for this straightforward lesson, the technique works seamlessly with any version of Photoshop that includes the Select Subject feature that you can find within the Select menu atop the screen.
Step one is separating the subject from the rest of image by using the Select Subject tool to create a new Layer Mask. This ensures that only this subject remains visible on the screen—while the background becomes transparent
Whalley then creates a separate layer for the background, Here he uses Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill feature to automatically remove the main subject. With the main subject out of the way it’s really easy to blur that background with the Gaussian Blur filter. Whalley shows you how to control the intensity of the blur to create exactly the effect you’re after.
The step-by-step process you’ll learn is simple enough for Photoshop users of all skill levels, and even those with experience will discover how this technique can simplify their workflow.
As Whalley says, “By implementing these techniques you can further enhance the visual impact of your photographs. So whether you’re just getting started, or consider yourself a Photoshop wizard, give this a try.
Be sure to take a look at Whalley’s instructional YouTube channel after watching the lesson for more shooting and editing tips and tricks. We also suggest you check out the tutorial we posted earlier from another notable pro, explaining how to shoot unique landscape photos with a telephoto lens. This is an effective in-camera technique for isolating the main subject in a scene.