Creating Soft Focus

This effect goes by all sorts of names in the world of Photoshop: soft glow, soft focus, dreamy effect, glamor effect, etc. Whatever you might call it, here's my version of a subtle / barely there soft focus effect.

  1. Open your image in Photoshop. Remove any dust or distracting elements. Apply any necessary Curves adjustments.
  2. Duplicate the background layer. Apply a Gaussian Blur of 10 px (you might need more or less, depending on the image quality).
  3. Duplicate the blurred layer so you have two blurred layers. 
  4. Change the bottom layer's blending mode to Soft Light with layer opacity of 30%.
  5. Change the top layer's blending mode to Normal with a layer opacity of 30%. This is where I stopped for the flower photo.
  6. People images look best when features we expect to be sharp and in focus (eyes, eyebrows, lips, etc) are sharp. So, on the top blurred layer, add a layer mask. Using a soft paintbrush, paint with black to reveal the areas you'd like to be sharp. For this photo, since the little girl's bangs were so close to her eyes, I made portions of her bangs sharp too.
  7. If any areas of the photo are too dark, apply a Curves adjustment.

Thanks to stock.xchng users Egilshay and andreyutzu for the photos.

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