Blurring the Background and splitting the screen

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A lot of photos that really stand out to us have a burred background.

Some of the best wildlife photography and also flower photos, shows a crystal-clear animal or flower against a blurry background. This is done by using just the right combination of lens, aperture, and shutter speed, and really helps to make the subject stand out. If a background of branches and leaves were as sharply focused as the bird in the foreground, it would be very easy to lose the bird in the background “noise.”

zebra orchid sign

australian terrestial orchid

You can use photo editing techniques to achieve the same effect.These are two images which show different amounts of blurring.

rusty spider orchid 407mm x 610mm mounted print

Rusty terestial orchid

Load your picture into your favourite photo editing program. Using a selection tool like a “Lasso,” select the foreground image, the “animal” that has to be set off from the “leaves and branches.” Once it’s selected, “Invert” the selection. Most photo editing programs have this option. In effect, it means “swap the selected areas for the unselected ones.” By inverting, you’ll select only the background of your image. If your program has the feature, you might also consider Feathering your selection. This helps to break up the outline of the selection, so that it doesn’t have such a sharp edge to it.

Once the background is highlighted, use a tool called Gaussian Blur. This is a specific type of blurring routine designed to imitate the blurring that happens in traditional photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the settings, but remember that a little bit of blur–leaving the background out of focus, but recognizable–is better than a lot.

A great tool for doing this if you have Photoshop is to have dual screen working so you can see what the changes look like in a live view. You go to the Menu that says “Window”, click on arrange, then go to the bottom where is says “New Window (Name of image)” Click on this. Nothing seems to happen, but it you now go to the top menu to the arrange documents ( a square with other squares in it) and chooses the two up screen (two rectangles side by side) and click on this and the image will appear. Then as you work on one image it also happens in the other window. So you can zoom in and work on small spots but still look see the overall effect

A related photo technique is called Panning. Focus on a moving object, like a race car, and keep the camera pointed at that object as it goes by. Done properly, the race car will be in focus, while the crowd behind it will be blurred. This kind of blur is called Motion blur, or sometimes Radial blur. Using Radial instead of Gaussian will make your subject appear to be racing past the background.