How to Create Motion in an Image

Above is the finished product of this tutorial.

Here I have an image of some children playing soccer. I used a fast shutter speed while taking this image, to freeze the action. At this point I think I’d like to put some motion into the image:

The first thing I do is drop the image into Photoshop. I’ll make a selection around the boy who is ready to kick the ball. He’s the main focus of this image. To make the selection I’ll use the lasso tool in the tool bar:

When I make the selection around the boy, I’ll make sure to feather the selection so that the boy doesn’t look selected with a hard edge. To feather the selection, I go to Select / Modify / Feather:

For this image I think I’ll feather at 45 pixels. Then I click OK:

The next thing I need to do is to inverse the selection. Right now the boy is selected. I need to have everything around the boy selected. This is why I’m going to inverse the selection. I’ll go to Select / Inverse:

Then I’ll go to Filter / Blur / Motion Blur:

This is where you have to decide how much motion blur you want. For this image I think I’ll use a motion blur of 171 pixels and keep the “Angle” at 0. I make sure the preview box is checked in the Motion Blur dialog box. Then I click OK:

On my keyboard, I hit the keys CTRL-D to deselect the selection. For any reason you see something else in the image that you wish you didn’t blur, you can always go to the history brush and bring it back.

Here I decided to bring back the ball, but not 100%. I’ll go to the history brush and I’ll also make sure the history is marked off (the little paintbrush next to the Open step in the image, below) in the History Palette to the point I want to go back:


Here I’m going to bring the opacity of the history brush to 35%. I brush the ball to see how I like how it comes out. If I want to see more of the soccer ball, then I just brush over it again:

Here’s the finished image:

Have fun!

Bringing Color Back into Black & White, from Original Color Photo

Above is the result of this tutorial.

Here’s an image that I took of a horse at Muscoot Farm in Westchester. In this example I’m going to make the image black and white and then bring the horse back to color.

Now I’m going to make a copy of the background layer. So I hit CTRL-J on the keyboard. Then the copy layer will say Layer 1. I always name the layers. This way when I have a lot of layers in a big project I won’t get confused. I’ll double click the word “Layer 1” to rename it. Here, I’ll name this layer “Horse”:


The next thing I’ll do is put a mask on this layer, so that I can paint the color right back into the horse easily. I’ll click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette:

Next, I’ll make sure that the image of the horse is selected in the layer to make the image black & white:

Ok, now I’m ready to make the image black & white. I’ll go to Image on the menu at the top of the screen, and drop down the menu. I’ll then select Adjustments / Black & White:

In this case, when I change the image to black and white I’m not going to worry about how the horse comes out. I’ll be bringing the horse back to color. I’m just going to concentrate on the background. I want to make the background as dark and dramatic as possible. Here are the settings I used, not worrying about the horse at all. Then I click OK:

Now I’ll click on the mask to make it active:

Here’s the image in process. I usually start at the center and work my way out. I take my time and zoom in to the outer edges of an object so that I can see the details when I work. Remember, painting with black reveals and painting with white conceals:

Sometimes it helps to see exactly what the mask is doing. You can hold the ALT key on your keyboard and click on the mask at the same time to see the mask in action. Hold the ALT key and click on the mask icon again to bring it back to its original state:

Here’s the finished image:

Have fun!

Creating a Black Background using Photoshop

Above is the final result of this tutorial.

Here is a photo of a brown bear that I took at the Bronx Zoo. I think he came out interesting, but I think that the rocks in the background are a little distracting. I could blur them, or I could turn the background black. In this case I’ll make the background black and see how it comes out.

The first thing I do is drop the image into Photoshop:

The next thing I do is create a new layer. Hit CTRL-J on the keyboard. You’ll see in the layer palette Layer 1. I’m going to double-click on the word (Layer 1) and rename it to “Bear”. It’s always a good idea to name your layers even though in this case I’ll be using only one:

The next thing I’ll do is start painting the background black. For this I’m going to use the paint brush from the tools palette. Make sure the color black is selected and is in the foreground of the color box:

Don’t worry about making a sloppy selection. Just try to get out as much background as you can. In my selection I even chopped off the bear’s ears. No big deal. The next step will fix this problem.

The next thing you’ll do is create a mask. Just click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette and you’ll see the mask box appear in the top layer labeled “Bear”:

Before you start painting back parts of the bear, it’s important to see what you’re doing. In the layers palette go to the Opacity and bring it down enough to see through the image. For this image, 60% looks good.

Next, make sure the mask is selected on the bear layer and start painting. Zoom in close to the object and take your time. Black reveals and white conceals. You have to switch back and forth by clicking on the double arrow, and you’ll see the boxes switching back and forth between white and black. Test it with the paintbrush back and forth between black and white to see the results:


  • When you’re painting back the main subject, lower the opacity of the brush itself around the edges, especially if the subject has fur.
  • Use a soft paint brush, it will allow you to make seamless brush strokes. A hard brush will give the appearance of harsh brush strokes and you don’t want that.
  • Keep going back and forth with the opacity from the layers palette to see how you’re doing.
  • Remember: Anything worth your time is worth doing right, so take your time and listen to music while you’re working. Rushing through a project will look rushed through. A project like this might seem tedious. If you get tired, take a break. And always remember, as long as you’re happy with your work then life is good.

Here’s the finished image:


How to Blur a Background to Get Rid of Distractions

Above is the result of this tutorial.

Here’s an image of a butterfly that I had taken a while back. I like the way the butterfly came out but I’m not happy with the rest of the image. The leaf on the left keeps catching my eye and the overall feel of the image is just too busy.

Time to make some changes:

The first thing I do is to bring the image into Photoshop. Here I’ll select the butterfly and the flower that the butterfly is on. The reason I’ll keep the flower in focus too, is that the flower is in the same depth of field as the butterfly. If I should blur the flower too, the image will have an unnatural look. You don’t want your photo to look like it was worked on. So, keep in mind your depth of field.

On your keyboard hit Ctrl+J. This will make a copy of your image. You want to make a copy of the original image so that you can add a layer mask to it. This is where you’ll be doing all of your work:

Make sure the copy “layer 1” is selected. The layer should be highlighted in blue. Click on the layer mask icon at the bottom of your layers palette:

I always label my layers because if you work on a project and have a lot of layers it can get very confusing which layer belongs to what. So, I’ve made it a habit, even though this project will only require one.

To rename the layer you double click the word “Layer 1” in the layer copy. You’ll see a box appear around the word “Layer 1”. Then type in what works for you. I’m going to type in the word “Mask”:

Now you’re ready to start working. In the mask layer make sure that the picture on the layer is selected just by clicking on it once. You do this because this is the layer you want to blur. The next thing you do is go to the Filter menu on the tool bar at the top of your screen.

Click Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur:

Here is where the Gaussian Blur dialog box will open up. For the image you’re working on you’ll have to decide how much of a blur you want. Play with the radius slider. The smaller the number the less of a blur you’ll get. The higher the number the stronger the blur effect will be. See the difference between 2.1 and 50. There’s a huge difference. Usually I don’t go higher than 10, but in this case I think I’ll go with a high blur to just get rid of all of the distractions:

When you’ve decided how much blur you want, click OK.

Here is where the layer mask comes in. On the layer, make sure that you click on the mask that’s the white box in the layer mask layer. Just click it once to make it active. You can see when it becomes active, it gets a little border frame around it.

The next thing you’ll do is select a paint brush. Go to the tools palette and select a brush:

To bring back the butterfly through the blur you’ll have to paint it back. Before I start painting the butterfly back I make sure that the foreground color is black, and the background color is white:

Start painting with the brush. You’ll see the image underneath come out. Do this slowly and with an opacity of about 50. You can make the opacity stronger when you work on the center of the object, but working on the edges I’d use less of an opacity to blend it into the background. Make sure the brush itself is at an opacity of about 20%:

Here is the work in progress:

Here are the before and after images:

Try it for yourself and have fun.

Portrait Tips

With every portrait, the main focus is the subject. To keep the main focus on the subject, you’ll need to get in close. Having too much distraction in the background takes away from your subject, be it a person or animal or a flower.

For example, not too long ago I went to a Civil War reenactment. There were soldiers in costume and regular everyday people walking around together. How do I get a good shot without all the distractions? I saw some soldiers coming off the battlefield and decided to get in close. It was the only way to get the effect I was looking for.

A soldier sat down in front of a tent which was under a tree. Perfect. I came up beside him and took the picture. I didn’t want him to see me because I wanted the shot to look as natural as possible. I find that sometimes if a person knows you’re there and ready to take their picture, they get an unnatural look.

In this shot I used my Nikon D2Xs, with an 18mm-200mm lens, and an 800 DX speedlight with a diffuser.

For more of an authentic look to the image, I turned it into black and white in Photoshop.

A very important tip for when taking a portrait shot is to make sure the subject’s eyes are sharp. When you talk to someone or meet someone, the first thing you do is look at the eyes. The same thing is true with a portrait of a person or animal.

Here is an animal example. This was my dog “Precious”. She was an excellent subject. Always looking cute. All I had to do was say “cheese” and her ears would pop up and she’d stare right at me. A lot of images that I have of her are snapshots, not portraits. The snapshots are images with lots of distractions around her. In my daughter’s room, on my daughter’s unmade bed with my daughter still in the bed too.

This time I decided I wanted a portrait of her, and not just a snapshot. I put her in a swing in the backyard and made sure that there weren’t any distractions around her. I put my camera on a tripod and used a fill flash. With the promise of cheese, she was very corporative.

There is definitely a difference between the two images.

The main thing to remember when taking a portrait shot is.

  1. Move in close.
  2. Be aware of distractions in the background.
  3. Try to keep the eyes sharp.
  4. Be aware of lighting conditions. Keep the sun off to the left or right of the subject.
  5. ALWAYS enjoy taking photographs!
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