How to do Selective Motion Blur in Photoshop

7/12/2013 07:49:00 PM

Festivity in the Mountains : Roopkund Trek Himalaya

Last week on our twitter #travelpics chat, few of us had a query about, how I did motion blur on this image and in general. So i thought let me put up a short post w/ few basic steps and this image itself as an example.

As most of you might know, I do close to 70% of my shooting on the move, and that doesn't mean traveling but actually while I  am in a moving vehicle. i.e. I have,
  • very high shutter speed, or 
  • lots of images w/ original blur in 'em. 
  • less likely to shoot in low light
  • no time to change settings or lens, according to the scene or subject.
The Image above was shot in Himalayas during my trek to Roopkund ( the Skeleton Lake) in october 2009. After reaching Kathgodam by train, I was on my way to Loharjung in a 4 wheeler, and in my last leg of the journey around late evening, I spotted these little girls in a small procession in the corner of the road, perhaps ahead of Kasauli somewhere, a famous hill station in Uttarakhand. 

The Light was low to even see exactly what was going on, and no vehicle was slow but it dint stop, I looked out of the window, my camera in my hand, I was so attractive, they immediately looked back at me, all of them and I clicked the shutter. and when I saw the camera view all I got was this, the original image in jpeg format below.

original festival -poonamparihar
~Before Processing~

You can clearly see how awful that looks. so,

Why do you need to click shutter when conditions are not good?

The answer is simple. that special moment. the story. the thing about traveling is, I wouldn't get to see this moment  until I go back again, or I create emergency, stop everything,  just for the sake of my image. very wise, but not practical.

There are many issues in this image.
  • the light is bad.
  • the image is blurred in its entirety.
  • there are hundreds of distractions already
  • there is man's uppar half of the body that is blocking my cute little girl basically ruining my frame.
Basically its a BAD image but I still want it. because of whats in it is drawing me in.

So Now, how do I fix this image?

There is one thing you should note here. motion blur is not only to fix an erroneous image, It can otherwise be used to bring in more focus to the subject, or anything else depending on the image. 
The other point is what technique or combination of multiple photoshop tools can be best used on what image is totally photographer's choice and / or  MOOD. yup.

Its important that you shoot in RAW to have the possibility to work on image later on the processing table. I am in certain imaginative mood, when I pick and process an image, and If I have to redo which I do regularly, after months, often, I freshly pick up the raw file again, to do it all over. bottom-line, I do not save the workflow i.e. .psd files. so above workflow recreated here, is somewhat close to how I created this image.

Once I am done with regular enhancements like brightness/contrast, color, vibrance, and highlights, I have used the Motion Blur technique. To do that, you need to create a background layer. In the menu "filter", under blur you'll find multiple blurring techniques such as lens, motion and more. Under motion blur, you can find the setting for angle and pixel distance. remember you can not do these setting on the adjustment layer or you'd not see anything on the preview. I pick up an angle of 28 and about 480 pixels.

Once I am done w/ Blurring the layer, I need to create the mask on the layer to remove to apply the blur on only selective areas. I use the soft brush tool for that. on the left you can see the brush menu that I have used on the mask. in layers you can see, the black dots on the square block of background copy, those are the area where i have brushed off the motion blur as you can see in the image itself. ( Ignore the absence of workflow on the right, since I took this screen-shot by opening the raw image again and I didn't save the .psd of above screenshot workflow either )

One more important step to remember while doing this or any blending technique, is to create a smooth transition. i.e. there shouldn't be hard lines or hallow that is created around your subject. To achieve that, use the marque tool, select the areas to work on, and use feather. You can find it when you right+click on the selected area. you can feather up to 250 pixels, and also double it by right clicking again. when you are done with it. you can enhance the subject/s more while they will not look like they have been pasted on the image.

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments.

If you'd like to have a print of this image, you can order it here 

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Also Read : more on Photography -

              5Ws & H of Travel & Photography
              Creating Panorama with Hugin

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  1. And I've deleted so many of such photos thinking 'inka kuch nahi ho sakta". They are bad. :(

    You seem to be an expert in Photoshop.
    Thanks for sharing. Keep blogging about such tips.

    1. :)) One rule of photography, Never delete what you click. there are so many images that do not appeal instantly, and after months when you go back to your archives you feel those are special.

      about being pro in photoshp!! you should see my earlier images. all I knew was increasing contrast... :)
      We keep learning, as we grow.
      I am glad you liked the post. :)


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