Why blur the background?
Background blurring, often referred to as “bokeh,” is a photographic and visual technique that involves creating a soft, out-of-focus background while keeping the subject in sharp focus. It eliminates distractions, adds depth, and enhances the overall appeal of the image. Whether taking portraits, capturing products, or shooting videos, background blurring is a powerful technique. If you use Adobe Lightroom, you should know how to blur the background.
Is there any tool for background blurring in Lightroom?
There are many photo editors other than Lightroom that offer direct background blurring option with a single click but there is no direct tool for background blurring in Adobe Lightroom. So, it’s not a single-click process like in Luminar. However, you can still blur the background very accurately by using simple techniques. I’ll tell you to do it using different methods such as brush tool, masking, or adjustment brushes. You can do it in Lightroom Classic, Lightroom Desktop, or even in Lightroom Mobile. I will make this process simple and easy for you. So, let’s do it together.
Step1: Import your photo
- Open Adobe Lightroom on your computer.
- Connect your camera or memory card to your computer using the appropriate cable or card reader.
- Optionally, create a new catalog or use an existing one to organize your photos.
- In the Library module, click the “Import” button at the bottom left of the screen or go to “File > Import Photos and Video.”
Step 2: Selecting the Subject
There are different ways to select the area you want to blur. Let’s discuss some easy and simple ones.
Method 1: Select Subject Tool
In the develop module of Lightroom Classic, go to Add new Mask and then select the Select Subject tool. There are some updates in the new version of Lightroom Classic, so make sure you are using the latest version. Adobe Lightroom will automatically select the subject in the picture. It will show highlighted. If it’s not showing highlighted, simply make sure to check the showing overlay option.
Now that we need background selection, not the subject. Therefore you have to go to the three dots option next to the subject selection tool and simply click the “invert. It will automatically shift the selection to the background leaving the subject intact.
Method 2: Brush Tool
Again in the Develop module of Lightroom, you can select different brushes depending on which type of tip you are comfortable with. Now the goal is to select the background. So, customize the brush. I think you know the drill use a larger size in the periphery and a smaller size around the subject to avoid any mistake. However, if you made any mistake and selected any part of the subject, you can simply select the eraser tool and erase the area. The painted area will show red, however, if it’s not, make sure to check the show overlay option.
Method 3: Radial filter
Use this method only when the subject is round or oval.
- In the Develop module, locate the Radial Filter tool. It’s represented by an icon that looks like an ellipse or circle and is usually found in the toolbar on the right side of the screen.
- Click on the image where you want to place the center of the radial filter. Click, hold, and drag to create an elliptical or circular shape around the subject or area you want to select.
- After creating the filter, you can adjust its size, shape, and orientation by clicking and dragging the control points on the filter. You can also move the entire filter by clicking and dragging the center point.
- If needed, use the feather slider to control the transition between the selected area and the surrounding area. A higher feather value creates a smoother transition.
Method 4: Gradient filter
Gradient filter is used when you want to blur the image gradually from the center to the periphery. This will make the blur more natural. So, the subject and adjacent areas are sharp and areas far away are blurred.
In the Develop module, locate the Linear Gradient Filter tool. It’s represented by an icon that looks like a rectangle with a solid line extending from it and is usually found in the toolbar on the right side of the screen.
- Click on the image where you want to start the linear gradient and drag your cursor to where you want the gradient to end. This will create a linear gradient that spans the selected area.
- After creating the gradient, you can adjust its position and angle by clicking and dragging the endpoints of the line. You can also drag the center point to adjust the width and feathering of the gradient.
- In the right-hand panel, you’ll find the adjustments section for the Linear Gradient Filter. Adjust settings such as exposure, contrast, saturation, and other editing parameters to create the desired effect within the linear gradient area.
Step 3: Applying the Blur Effect
Actually, there are also two ways to apply blur. You can use them individually or use them to gather depending on how much blur you want in your background. So, you can slide down the clarity slider. Actually, when you slide the clarity to the left, it reduces the clarity and ultimately it helps in blurring the background. I would suggest you also use a sharpness slider. Do the same for the sharpness slider. Slide the sharpness slider to the left and it will reduce the sharpness and ultimately blur the background. So, you can use clarity and sharpness sliders individually or use them together.
Step 4: Refining and final touches
If you notice some imperfection in your background blurring, you can fine-tune it in Adobe Lightroom. Use different tools such as brushes and erasers to fine-tune your photo and attain the perfection you want in your photo.
Step 5: Exporting Your Masterpiece
- Select the photo you want to export in the Library or Develop module.
- Go to the “File” menu.
- Choose “Export” from the dropdown menu.
- In the Export dialog that opens:
- Select the export location and choose a folder to save your photo.
- Set the file format (e.g., JPEG, TIFF, etc.).
- Adjust the quality and resolution settings if needed.
- Choose the color space (sRGB is standard for the web and most displays).
- Specify the file naming and renaming options if desired.
- Apply any sharpening or watermarking settings.
- Click the “Export” button to save the photo with the specified settings to the chosen folder.
Tips and tricks:
Include side-by-side comparisons of your photo before and after applying background blur to highlight the impact of your edits.
The Dehaze tool can be effective in reducing the haze in your background, which can help improve the separation between the subject and the background.
If you frequently apply similar blur effects, save your settings as a custom preset. This can save you time in the future and ensure consistency in your editing.
Bonus Tip: You can also blur the background in your image right in the camera. Use a lens with a wide aperture (e.g., f/1.8, f/2.8). The aperture setting controls the size of the lens opening, which directly impacts the depth of field. Depth of field (DoF) is the area in your photo that appears sharp and in focus. When you use a low aperture value (wide aperture), the DoF becomes shallow, meaning only a small portion of the scene is sharp, while the rest, including the background, is blurred.
How to blur the background in Lightroom Mobile?
- Import or Capture: Start by importing your image into Lightroom or take a new one using Lightroom’s camera.
- Activate Selective Mode: Go to the menu and select Selective Mode to enable it.
- Open Selective Tools: Tap the Plus icon on the left to access selective tools.
- Choose a Method: Pick a Radial Filter, Graduated Filter, or Brush, depending on your preference.
- Create a Selection Mask: Tap and drag on the image to create a selection mask over the area you want to blur.
- Mask Options: If needed, tap and hold on the pin to access options like Invert, Duplicate, or Delete for the mask.
- Adjust Detail: Scroll through the menu and find Detail, then open the sliders.
- Blur the Background: Drag the Sharpening slider to the left to blur the background.
- Save or Share: Once you’re satisfied with the changes you have made, save or share your final image.
Although there is a direct background blur tool available in Adobe Lightroom. We can still our goal by using different tools like the Subject Select tool, and Adjustment brushes and then adjusting the sharpness and clarity. If you use both Lightroom and Photoshop, you can achieve this goal in Photoshop too. Personally, I use Lightroom or Luminar for background blurring.
What is the benefit of blurring the background in my photos?
Blurring the background, known as creating “bokeh,” can help emphasize your subject, remove distractions, and add a pleasing aesthetic to your images.
Do I need a specific type of lens to achieve background blur in Lightroom?
No, you can create background blur in Lightroom even if you don’t have a specialized lens. Lightroom provides tools to simulate a shallow depth of field.
Can I blur the background in Lightroom Mobile?
Yes, Lightroom Mobile offers tools to blur the background and enhance your photos directly on your mobile device.
Are there any recommended settings for blurring the background in Lightroom?
Using a wide aperture (e.g., f/1.8), selective masking, and adjusting sliders for clarity and sharpness are common techniques for background blur.
Can I remove background distractions in Lightroom while blurring the background?
Yes, Lightroom’s masking and adjustment tools can help you eliminate background distractions and enhance the overall look of your image.
Is it possible to create custom bokeh shapes in Lightroom?
While Lightroom offers a range of blur effects, creating custom bokeh shapes is usually done in-camera using specialized lenses or filters.
Can I blur the background of a photo that was taken with a smartphone?
Yes, Lightroom allows you to blur the background of photos taken with smartphones, enhancing the overall look of your mobile photography.