How to Blur Backgrounds with Adobe Photoshop in a Few Easy Steps

By Timothy Brauning on January 10, 2022

The best way to get a blurry background is to do it all in-camera, but if you don't have the right lense or you're working with photos that you didn't take, then the next best way to blur the background of your photos is to use the blur tools in Adobe Photoshop.

This technique will give you quick realistic results, creating a portrait look without ghosting or halos, and is completely nondestructive. You can always come back later and edit the images.

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This will work on every image with a background, even if there are people or objects in front of the camera. This technique is handy for getting rid of distracting backgrounds and placing your subject on a plain, simple background, making the subject stand out. 

Table of Contents:

Choose Your Photo

The first thing to do is open Adobe Photoshop CC on your computer. Then click the File option on its menu bar. Select the Open command from the dropdown menu. Pick a photo from your gallery to modify.

Adobe Photoshop Edits

There are several ways to get rid of backgrounds from photos, and some work better than others. In this tutorial, I will be using a picture of a monkey on my shoulder for demonstration purposes.

Duplicate the Layer

Once you have your background image loaded into Photoshop, duplicate the layer by pressing Ctrl J on Windows or Command J on Mac. Rename this layer "foreground". 

Remove background from Main Subject

You will want to remove the background from the subject to avoid edge haloes from the subject when blurring the image. It also gives you more flexibility while you're masking your foreground element.

How to Make a Selection out of the Main Subject?

There is a lot of ways of making a selection of your main subject in Adobe Photoshop. In the newer versions of Photoshop, one of the easiest ways is by going into the Select menu and clicking on "Subject". This will use Adobe Sensei, Photoshop's Artificial Intelligence, to find the main subject in your image and make a selection around it.

Don't worry if it's not perfect right away; it’s simple to fine-tune it later.

Adobe Photoshop Edit Subject

What is Content-Aware Fill?

Zoom in on your image so you can see the next step. You can see that the selection goes around the monkey's body, and that's what we usually want, but in this case, we actually want a gap between the selection and the edge of the subject. Go to the Select menu, choose Modify, and Expand to create that gap. 

Choose 5 pixels and press ok. Once you have that gap, you can remove the subject from the image by going to Edit> Content-Aware Fill.

Learn more about Content-Aware fill in this past blog

Adobe Photoshop Edits Content-Aware Fill

In the preview window, you can see the fill. It doesn’t look perfect, but that’s OK. All we care about are the edges. We don’t care about the center part because the subject will be placed in front. In this case, the default settings look good. So go ahead and output the fill.

Adobe Photoshop Edits Duplicate Layer

Ensure that you have Output set to "Duplicate Layer" and press OK. Photoshop will generate this new background copy where the subject has been removed from the background. You can then enable the foreground layer and disable the two background layers. Notice that the selection is still active. You can apply it as a layer mask and to the foreground layer by clicking on the Layer Mask icon with that layer selected. 

We now have one problem. Since we expanded the selection, the mask now has a 5-pixel border around our main subject. We will fix this issue by using a technique to remove the fringe or edge halos. With the layer mask selected, you can go to “Filter” >“Other" > then “Minimum.

Adobe Photoshop Edits

This filter will contract the mask by the number of pixels you want. Since we chose 5 to expand, I'm choosing 6 to bring it in a little tighter.

Select your background copy layer, right-click on it and convert it into a “Smart Object”.

What is a Smart Object?

“A Smart Object is a container that holds one or more layers that allows you to apply editable adjustments, distortions, filters, and transformations.”

Adding the Blur Effect to the Background Layer

With the background layer selected, go into filter > blur Gallery, and depending on the photo you were editing, select one of the choices in your gallery. For this picture, I am choosing “Field Blur”.

Go ahead and play around with the different options and see what works best for you.

Adobe Photoshop Edits Blur Gallery

Refining the Mask

The final step will be to fine-tune the mask. For example, my forehead wasn’t looking very good. You can always go into the Layer Mask and use the Paint tool using white to reveal and black to conceal. Simple!

 

Adobe Photoshop Edits

Here’s the final image with a blur!

Summary

With Adobe Photoshop and some practice, you can add many different blur effects to any image. This tutorial shows just one of the simpler methods.

 

Social Media:

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Topics: adobe photoshop, photography, photo editing, Photoshop, photo retouching

 



Topics: adobe photoshop, Adobe, masks, Photoshop

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