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Alien Skin Bokeh (Photoshop Plugin) – video Dailymotion

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Pros: Accurately simulates shallow depth of field. Gives much greater control over highlight appearance and apparent depth than Photoshop alone. Note that that limited use is not a deficiency in the product, but a reality of the difficulty in masking more complex images.

Rating: 7. On the one hand, photographers use lenses that deliver a fine degree of sharpness and advanced autofocus systems that ensure proper focus. For those times, you might want to create the effect digitally after taking the shot. This gives you an example of what true, optically generated shallow depth of field looks like. Click on all images to see larger versions. Figure 1. This image was shot at f1. Figure 2. Obviously, the background in the first image is much blurrier.

Yes, there is an aesthetic to blurriness, and once you start paying attention to it, you realize that some soft backgrounds are nicer than others. With a high-quality lens, out-of-focus areas in an image will soften in a particular way. For example, specular highlights — the bright highlights that occur on shiny parts of chrome, or on the surface of water — often appear as soft circles.

Sometimes highlights brighten and smear. But look what happens if I take the f11 image and use Gaussian Blur on the background: Figure 3.

While the background is blurry, it has a very different quality from Figure 1, shot at f1. Look at the tree in the background. In the optical 1. Figure 4. Photoshop provides its own Lens Blur filter for simulating shallow depth of field.

To get a software solution that accurately mimics shallow depth of field, you need to turn to a Photoshop plug-in. It goes beyond simple blurring to create a realistic bokeh, complete with shaped, brightened highlights. Look what happens when I run Figure 2 through the Bokeh plug-in: Figure 5. Alien Skin Bokeh does an extremely accurate job of emulating an f1.

Bokeh ships with presets that simulate particular lenses at specific apertures, so I processed this with the Canon 85mm f1. As you can see, the highlights and overall softening are similar to the image shot with the real 1. In addition to overall strength — which controls how much blurring will be applied — you can also adjust the shape of the simulated aperture. Aperture shape affects whether highlights will be perfect circles or have flat sides.

Boken can even change the highlights to a heart shape. Separate controls let you alter how much boosting is applied to highlights, as well as control how those boosted areas blend into the background.

In fact, Bokeh may provide more control than you need, but its sliders are simple enough that moving beyond the presets is very easy.

Tricky Selections The tricky part about using Bokeh is making a selection to constrain the effects of the blurring.

Just beware that your success with Bokeh may depend on your ability to make a good selection before launching the plug-in. For example, one of the most common applications for shallow depth of field is portraiture, and portraits usually make for some of the most difficult masking chores, because of the dreaded Wispy Hair Problem WHP. In an image with a bad WHP, or other difficult masking troubles, Bokeh might be of limited use. Bokeh provides its own linear and radial gradient selectors that solve some masking problems.

Figure 6. This activatesd the radial selection tool, which basically creates a radial gradient selection: an elliptical gradient with a smooth transition from the selected to unselected area. Bokeh automatically combined this radial gradient with the selection I made earlier in Photoshop. That allowed me to create a reasonably smooth transition around her hair. You can control the size and position of the radial gradient, and you can drag the outer ellipse to control the size of the transition.

Unfortunately, the radial selection tool can only be uniformly scaled. Figure 7. I solved the problem by duplicating my original layer Bokeh always places its results on a new layer , blurring it with the same settings, and then using a Layer Mask to patch the problem area. Also, though the background looks very authentic, the overall effect is still not quite right. Because depth of field at 1. With more compositing and layering, it would be possible to achieve this effect, but it would be a lot of work.

As handy as the Radial selection tool is, there are still some effects that are very difficult to achieve in Bokeh. If your subject is off-axis to the camera, for example, creating a realistic shallow depth of field across their face is going to be almost impossible.

More Selections Bokeh also includes a Liner selection tool that can be essential for getting realistic results. For example, consider this image: Figure 8.

I want to lessen the depth of field in this image. Figure 9. For the image to look real, the foreground should be unblurred and the Bokeh effect needs to gradually increase into the background. Your original selection is subtracted from this mask and the blurring effect is then applied. Figure With the addition of a linear gradient, you can create a more realistic transition. With Bokeh, you can lower the depth of field in this landscape to achieve a fake toy effect.

Our eyes automatically recognize shallow depth of field as an indicator of scale. Normally, you would never see a big landscape with depth of field like this, but if you were looking at a small model of Florence, it would appear very much like this.

So, by reducing the depth of field this dramatically, the city appears toy-sized. Excellent analysis. If each plug-in by itself is only marginally useful, then it might be something to pass on, but if at least 2 or 3 of the plug-ins are worth buying at full price, then the bundle would be a good way to go. Exposure is definitely a very nice product.

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