Shop Talk

Bokeh Photography Tutorial: Working in Photoshop

Before we get started, check out our post on 3 Ways to get started with Bokeh photography (if you haven’t already). We’ll wait.



Now, below are some very easy tips on additional ways to add that oh-so-glow-y Bokeh effect to your photos in post-production. With Photoshop (or similar software) and an image with lights in the background, you can fake your way to Bokeh-goodness in a matter of minutes. These tips are a great way to add some extra pop to night shots you have saved away.

Please post any success (or failures, we love them too) in the comments below when you’ve had a go at Bokeh in post-production.

1. Go Filter>Blur>Tilt Shift 

Make a duplicate layer of your image so you can easily fix errors and backtrack (Layer>Duplicate Layer). Then under the Filter menu, find Blur and then Tilt Shift. This opens the Tilt Shift menu on your right hand side. This is the menu from which we’ll work.

2. Play with positioning your grid lines and focal point.

4 sets of lines (2 dotted, 2 full) will appear and break up your image. You can play around with pulling these up and down, and at varying degrees to manipulate your focal point and blur range (so you can determine both what’s  in and out of focus, and when that happens). The image below shows what will automatically appear when you boot up the Tilt Shift menu.

3. Hit the M key on your keyboard and watch as your screen appears to enter a “Blair Witch Project” hell cave.
Welcome to Mask Mode. 

In Mask Mode you can see your changes in black and white, without distraction, so you can figure out exactly where you’d like your change of focus to appear. You can still drag and move like usual, except this way you can get nice and exact with blurring differentiation. Just lift your finger off the M key to see your image appear magically, and swap between the two modes for comparison. This is a great tool to use when you have specific features in the image such as architecture or horizon lines that require precision to achieve optimal Bokeh nuance.

4. Bump “Bokeh Colour” to bring a warm effect to your Bokeh’d lights

Then they won’t look scary and white or possibly burnt out.

5. Experiment with the “Blur”

Your blur can be manipulated by the centre wheel of the grid lines by rolling it clockwise, or by the sliding “Blur bar” on the menu. Too much blur looks dated and like a bad engagement photograph (we’ve all seen them) so go easy on the blur. We settled at 6 pixels.

6. Manipulate the “Light Range” sliders

Bring down the white end of the light range so you’re not Bokeh-ing and subsequently blowing out white or light colors in your image. If you have too much white in your light range you can get a nasty burnt out glow, and it’s more preferable to have a mid-tonal range-colored Bokeh. And in opposition, bring up your dark slider to eliminate the extreme darkness in your image for a desirable, middle of the spectrum range.

7. Check the boxes “Save Mask To Channels” and “High Quality” 

Before you finish, make sure you check these two boxes so you can see your Mask work in the channels menu later on, and obviously your image is of high quality. Stay classy!

8. Check out your Mask in the Channels menu

When you’re out of the Tilt Shift menu, check out your handy work in the Channels menu to see your mask and make any other adjustments that might tickle your fancy.

Have you had any success trying Bokeh or Tilt Shift in post-production? Have you got a favorite RB image that uses Bokeh? Who’s your favorite Tilt Shift artist on RB? Please share your work, and the work of others in the comments below. 

[Header image: “A Touch Of Magic” by ShotsOfLove]