Elements may only cost a fraction of the price of the full-blown professional version of Photoshop, but it still contains some extremely powerful tools. However, amateur photographers may not always have either the experience or knowledge required to use those features correctly. With that in mind, Adobe has given Photoshop Elements a set of what it calls guided edits, which can be used to create sophisticated effects. Each edit breaks its chosen effect down into a series of simple steps, which can even be followed by beginners who don’t have much experience of photo-editing work.
The recently released Photoshop Elements 10 includes a number of new guided edits, including a powerful depth of field effect that can be applied in a matter of seconds.
Step 1: In depth
Depth of field refers to the distance between the nearest and furthest objects within a photo. If you exaggerate the depth of field, you can blur one part of the image so that it fades into the background. The rest of the image remains in focus and seems to jump right into the foreground – as you can see here.
Step 2: Getting organised
Let’s start by opening up Elements’ Organiser, which has also gained a few new features. We’ll use the Show All command to browse through our library of photos. We’ve got several similar shots of some young kids leaping up in the air, but we’ll click on the first one we see.
Step 3: Super search
There are five kids in the photo, which could make it a bit fiddly to work with. However, we can tell the Organiser to look for similar shots by using its new search options. As well as having a face-recognition feature, Organiser can now locate photos that have similar shapes, colours or lighting in them.
Step 4: Colours and shapes
Finding photos by visual similarity allows Organiser to locate a number of similar group shots. You can also tell it to lean more towards photos with similar colours, a bright red sunset, for example, or which contain specific distinct shapes such as a surfboard or the spires of a castle.
Step 5: Jump to it
Organiser has found a better shot that just has three kids in it, so we’ll click on the Fix tab and tell the program to switch into Photoshop Elements. Once you’re in Elements make sure the Edit tab is selected over on the right-hand side of the screen, and click Guided to switch into Elements’ Guided Edit mode.
Step 6: Guided editing
There’s a long list of guided edits that are available in Elements, but they’re divided into sections such as Basic Edits and Color And Lighting to help you locate the tools you need. The Depth Of Field effect is easy to find as it’s the only entry in the Lens Effects section.
Step 7: Deeper and deeper
There are two options available for the Depth Of Field feature. Simple works automatically but isn’t very precise, while Custom gives you greater control and precision but requires you to manually fine-tune the image yourself. We’ll take a look at the Simple option first.
Step 8: Step by step
The guided edit tools break down quite complex editing tasks into a series of very simple steps. All you have to do is follow the numbered instructions on the right-hand side of the screen. We’ll zoom in on the image a bit first, and then follow the first instruction – clicking the Add Blur button.
Step 9: Back in focus
As you can see, we’ve added a uniform blur to the entire image, so the jumping juniors that we want to focus on have been blurred out too. The next step is to define the area that we want to bring back into focus, so Photoshop Elements now tells us to click the Gradient Tool button.
Step 10: Drawing a line
Using the Gradient tool, we can now draw a line onto the photo to indicate the area that we want to bring back into focus. We’ll draw a line from the girl in the middle, out to the young boy on her right – that line indicates the radius of the circular area that will be brought back into focus.
Step 11: Back in focus
The girl in the centre of the image has been brought back into focus. However, some of the background behind her has also been brought into focus, while her friends on either side are still a bit blurry. For greater control over the depth of field effect we’ll need to use the Custom option instead.
Step 12: Quick selection
Hit the Cancel button to start all over again, and then select the Custom option. This time we’ll use Select the Focus Area – using the Quick Selection tool to roughly outline the bodies of the three teens. You can use the Zoom (Z) and Hand (H) tools to move around and get a clearer view of each person.
Step 13: Brush options
You can perform a quick and rough selection first, and then use some of the additional brush tools to fine-tune your selection. We’ve accidentally selected part of the doorway of a house in the background – we don’t want that to stay in focus so we’ll press Option, which tells the brush to deselect it.
Step 14: The big blur
Next, we’ll create the final depth of field effect by clicking the Add Blur button. This blurs everything in the image – except the bodies of the three kids that we’ve just picked out with the Quick Selection tool. You can also increase the blur by using the slider control at the bottom of the right-hand panel.
Step 15: Layer
If you want to find out how this effect works, you can look at your final image in the Layers palette. It consists of three layers – the original image, a blurred copy that is superimposed over the original, and a mask layer that outlines the three kids and prevents them from being blurred along with the rest of the image.