Photoshop SIG October 2016

More breaking news!
Bill Ellemore is returning as the presenter to answer any and all questions/problems that you have been bothering you.

Please email me ( or just tell me any questions/problems at the start or end of the SIG meeting on October 8, 2016. This will give Bill a head start on what to prepare for.

If the notes in this post do not match up exactly with the previous post (what to expect in the October SIG), This is due to the deadline for the article for the AUSOM News being the week before the actual meeting. So everything that you read here is sort of a guess!

The three topics for the October SIG are:
(1) Explanation of the Vibrance tool and how, why and when you can use it.
(2) Adding a  bokeh background to your snapshot.
(3) Using the PS blur filter to create a soft out of focus background.

So let’s make a start.

Part 1

The Vibrance tool
Here is the photo that I am  starting with in camera raw format:


Click on image to see in full size.

What is the difference between saturation and vibrance?
The simplest answer that appealed to me was from our friends at the Digital Photography School ( here in Melbourne:

Vibrance is a smart-tool which cleverly increases the intensity of the more muted colors and leaves the already well saturated colors alone. It’s sort of like fill light, but for colors. Vibrance also prevents skin tones from becoming overly saturated and unnatural.

Read more from the same article at

Another way to describe it is that saturation will boost all the colours in your image until it looks bloody awful and your grand child looks at it and says, “It’s been Photoshopped and looks awful!” So go easy on the Saturation slider.

The vibrance slider is a lot more useful in that it leaves the yellows and orange tones alone and subtly (Note the word – subtly) increases the other colours without it being too obvious. “Gran, what a great photo. How did you do that?” The reply might be, “Just lots and lots of patience, Little Grasshopper.”

So go back to the link above and look at the three variations of the shot of the married couple. Vibrance – good. Excessive saturation – bad!

So here is the image that I started with after a bit of adjustment. I did my usual steps –  renamed it, saved as, duplicated the layer, played with blend modes (multiply) and opacity 55%), added a hue saturation adjustment layer (clipped to the  duplicate layer), added a frame and did a Save As in jpg format.


Final image after enhancement with the Vibrance too (and a few others as well!). Click on Image to see in full size.

Well that wraps up the last two months discussion of five PS tools to use to enhance your favourite snapshots. Or go back over the discussion from

Part 2

What is bokeh?
This answer is kind of reverse engineered. By the time I almost completed this article I was thinking in term soft, out of focus backgrounds with soft circles of light. How wrong could I be? Really wrong.

Near the end I searched the Digital Photography School website for “bokeh”. I got 15 hits and some beautiful images to look at. Here is my favourite. The effect can be achieved by using the brush tool in Photoshop. I hope that you will have as much fun with this idea as I have.

Adding bokeh (soft background with light effects) to your photo
Putting this part together has been a big help to me.

Before I started I did not realise that there was a difference between bokeh and a softly blurred background. Now I know a little bit more and I hope that I can pass it on to you.

Using Photoshop to create bokeh
The first question is how do you pronounce it correctly? We can find the answer to that at this website –

Sarah Hipwell explains that:

Bokeh is the term that refers to the aspect of light sources that are blurred in the background or foreground.

Here is an example of a back ground image with bokeh lights.


Click on image to see in full size.

Now let’s use PS to create a back ground. Here is the image that I am starting with. You can download this if you want to follow along.

Starting point for creting a bokeh background

Starting point for creating a bokeh background. Click on image to see in full size.

(1) Open an image of lights that you have either taken yourself or downloaded from the Internet. I am working in PS.

(2) Duplicate the layer (Control +J).
(3) Click on Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur.
(4) Move the slider across to create a blurry image that is hard to figure out what it is when you compare it to what you started with. Here is what I have:

Click on image to see in full size.

Apply a Guassian Blur to the duplicate layer. Click on image to see in full size.

(5) Add a new layer by clicking on Layer/New/Layer.
(6) Press B for your brush tool.
(7) Click on the drop down menu to open the Brush Preset picker.


The red arrow shows you where to click for the Brush controls – size, opacity (100%) and hardness (100%)

(8) Choose a round hard edged brush and set the opacity to 100%.
(9) Set the foreground colour to white.
(10) Press the F5 key to bring up the brush dialogue box.
(11) Tick the Scatter to 100 %, Count to maybe 3 or 4 and jitter to 50%

As you make each adjustment you can see how the brush will be affected by looking at the line at the bottom of bottom of the dialogue box. Here is what my screen shot looks like:

Showing the brush and scatter controls.

Showing the brush and scatter controls.

(12) OK Here goes. Drag your brush diagonally on the image. You should have a scattered layer of white dots on it. Yippee! Arghh. That looks awful.


First try at creating dots.

So here is the plan. I am going to make one layer of large circles. Then I’ll set the Blend mode to Overlay. Then I will run a Gaussian blur (Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur) as we did before.  This will give me fuzzy, coloured circles.
(13) Set your brush to 90 pixels.
(14) Swipe your brush once or twice across your image. You can always use Control + Z to undo it if you don’t like it.
(15) Play with the scatter, Jitter and Count controls (F5).
(16) Like it? Good. Choose the Overlay Blend mode.
(17) Now click on Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur and set the radius to about 10. Here is what I have now:

Click on the image to see in full size. Second try with larger brush, overlay blend mode and a Gaussian Blur.

Second try with larger brush, overlay blend mode and a Gaussian Blur.

(18) Now repeat steps (5) to (17) using a smaller brush size, and a blur radius of about 5 this time.
(19) Repeat Step (18). This time set the blur radius to about 2 or 3.

Here is how mine finished up:


Click image to see in full size. Two more layers have been added with smaller diameters for the brush size and the blur radius has been decreased with each one to give a sharper circle.

(20) Flatten the image.
(21) Run a curves adjustment layer on it. Just a slight tweak. The Lighter preset was enough for me.
(22) Thank you WordPress for Auto Save.
(23) Press F5 for your Brush dialogue and untick the Scatter box. Otherwise some very strange things happen the next time that you use your brush.
(24) Here is the picture that I am going to use the bokeh background that I just created to replace the blue sky. This opened in Camera Raw. I used the shot in daylight and the auto commands before importing it into Photoshop.


Photo shot at the Balwyn Fruit and Vegie swap back in May by myself for once. Click on image to see in full size.

(25) Do the usual – rename the image, do a Save As, duplicate the layer, try some blend modes and change the opacity if you want to.
(26) OMG. What is wrong with my brush? Oh. Forgot to change the brush blend mode back to Normal. How did that happen?
(27) Second try. Added the bokeh to the blossom image. Settled for a Blend mode called Color. Dropped the Opacity down to 45%. That looks OK. I’ll stop there for tonight.

Final image

Final image – da, da!

Part 3

Creating a soft background with your camera.
My limited experience has been in taking close up shots of various items with a Canon G12 fixed lens camera. By using Aperture mode and a setting of f2.8, I get a snapshot that is focused on the object but leaves the background as a blur. This helps to draw the attention to the object. So this is a deliberate choice. It took me awhile to get used to comments such as, “It’s out of focus! Go back and try again.” Here is what I was trying to do with a shot of a flower in the image below.


Click on image to see in full size.

I have had some success doing something similar with my iPhone 5C using the Camera+ app which gives me some manual control. You will need to play with it for a while before you get the results that you want. It’s also too easy to hit the Delete button when you were aiming for the Edit button. I wonder if that is a valid excuse to trade up to a newer iPhone. Brad, where are you when I need you!

Some of the things to consider:
(1) Use an aperture as low as possible. My camera only gets down to f2.8. But you work with what you have!
(2) Or you can alternatively just zoom in.
(3) Or just get close to your subject and focus on it. This will make the background look soft and out of focus.
(4) Or try to put some distance between the foreground subject and the background.

Here is an example of a portrait taken in a similar way to give a blurred background.


Example of a portrait with a blurred background to make the person stand out more. Source:

It is also possible to use a filter in PS/PE to blur the back ground. For more information on this method, you can try these websites:

October Challenge
Use one of your own still life floral images as the basis. Then carefully follow each step in this tutorial –

Send your before and after jpgs to me to post on to the website. My email is

Hopefully the session on Saturday, October 8, 2016 at the Photoshop SIG has given you a few things to try with your images (Vibrance tool, creating a bokeh background, and using a PS/PE filter to create a soft out of focus background).

I would love to receive some of your before and after shots to put up on the website  so that we can add them to the discussion for the next SIG.

That’s all, folks!


About woldham

Concise! Retired and loving it!
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