We all love a good bokeh effect – that dreamy, out of focus background, created by shooting with an open aperture – but unless you’re shooting with an expensive lens, the bokeh in your images might not be as extreme as you want it. Thankfully, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on top of the line lenses to get this nice bokeh effect in your photography. All you need to do is follow a few simple steps in Photoshop and you can create your own perfect bokeh in ten minutes.
Start by opening your picture in Photoshop. This effect works best with an image that already has some bokeh effect, even if it’s not much. Try this out with a portrait of someone placed against a background that’s not completely in focus.
Click on the small paper icon in the bottom right corner to create a new layer of the background. Select the brush tool on and open the brush panel by clicking on the folder icon with three small brushes, located in the top left corner. At the bottom of the brush panel, change the spacing to about 150 percent. Then, select Shape Dynamics, and change Jitter to about 40 percent. Keep everything else at zero. Play around with these settings until you have a brush size and distribution that you think will work well for your image.
Select Scattering and make sure Both Axes is checked. Set Scattering to about 250, set Count to 1 and keep Count Jitter at zero. Then, click on Transfer and set Opacity Jitter to about 50 percent.
Save the brush by clicking on the paper icon in the bottom right corner of the editing box. Now, start adding the effect by clicking and dragging across the image. Use the [ and ] keys to change the size of the brush tool. Add more of the effect to the areas you want to appear more out of focus.
Once you’re happy with the first layer of your effect, right click on the brush layer and select Convert to Smart Object. Click on the drop down menu next to the Opacity setting and change the Blending Mode to Overlay. You’ll notice the brush effect should blend into the image.
Now we need to blend the effect even more. Go to Filter>Gaussian Blur, and change the radius to about 1.5
You’ll notice the brush effect will look less sharp. Now, create another layer and apply the effect one more time. Change the size of the brush and focus in on the areas that you want to look really out of focus. Repeat the last set of steps again – convert the new layer to a smart object, change the blending mode to overlay and add a Gaussian Blur with a Radius of 1.5
Then, click on the fx icon in the bottom right corner, and select Blending Option.
Click on Inner Glow on the left side panel. Make sure the small colored box located under the Noise setting is white. Change the Source setting to Center, and click OK.
Continue adding more bokeh effect until you’re happy with the outcome. If you think the brush effect is too drastic, change the opacity until it blends in more with your image. Now you can add bokeh to any of your images, and save yourself thousands of dollars in expensive equipment.
Or, let a lens do all the work for you! Check out our array below, and our full selection of lenses here.