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Isolate Your Main Subject

Sometimes a picture just has too many places for the eyes to focus on. On a trip to Canada's Wonderland, I took a picture of the lifeguard watching the children (including mine) having a blast on the water slides. In modifying this photo, I had two goals in mind: 1) I wanted to isolate the lifeguard and focus the attention on her alone, plus 2) I wanted to give the impression of swirling motion (for that is really how it felt).

Sony DSC-V1 Cyber-shot
Program AE, Multi Pattern, Auto WB
7mm, 1/250 sec., F5.0, +0.7EV, ISO 100

In this One-Pager tutorial, we'll explore how to use the Radial Blur action of Photoshop Elements to accomplish both goals.

Work in Photoshop Format

The picture is in jpeg, so the first thing to do is to open it up in Photoshop Elements and then Select - All, followed by Edit - Copy. This copies the picture into memory (or the clipboard, if you want to be more exact). Close the original picture since we never ever want to muck around with it.

Now, we open up a new file to work on: File - New... - Contents=Transparent - OK, followed by Edit - Paste. The picture is pasted unto our new file.

[Of course, though we are specifying the menu bar options (in bold), feel free to use the icon shortcuts instead.]

Save this file as a Photoshop file (.psd) with a new name. It's a good idea to save your work each time you reach a milestone -- or before you try a major change: File - Save - give it a name [e.g. watchfulCare.psd].

Work on a Copy

If your Layers window is not opened yet, click on the Layers Tab and drag it into the main window. It will now stay open. If necessary, drag the bottom edge down to be able to see more than one layer at a time.

There will be a Layer 1 already in the Layers window with the picture we're working on. Double-Click on that layer and rename it to something more appropriate, such as "original".

Now, make a copy of this layer by dragging it to the new layer icon (the middle icon) at the bottom of the Layers window. A new layer (called original copy) appears above the original layer. Click off the eye icon beside the original layer. You should end up with something like this:

Select Area To Keep In Focus

Now comes the tricky part. First, ensure you are working with the copy by selecting it (click on the original copy layer). Using the Lasso Tool and Magic Wand Tool, trace the outline of the lifeguard and any other part of the picture you want to stay in focus.

If you make any mistake along the way, Edit - Undo or Step Backward will safely undo your mistake(s). Also, remember that you still have the original layer if you mess up real good and want to start all over. For example, if you want to delete the original copy layer because you messed it up, position your cursor on the layer and do: Right Click - Delete Layer. Then make a copy as described above.

Once you have selected the part of the image you want to keep in focus, do Select - Inverse to inverse the selection since we want to apply Radial Blur to that part.

[Of course, you can opt to do the reverse: select the area to blur. Up to you, and depending on which area is smallest and/or easiest to select.]

Apply Radial Blur

Now, do Filter - Blur - Radial Blur...

Experiment on Amount, Blur Method, and Quality to achieve the effect you want. Click OK.

And there you have it! The radial blur amplifies the swirling action of the children sliding down and running back for one more go at the water slides, all under the watchful care of the lifeguard in sharp focus. Try the Radial Blur action of Photoshop Elements. Have fun!

Photoshop Elements Radial Blur Effect


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