How and When to Use Blur Effects
I often browse Instagram for inspiration, because you can find some really cool photos and then try to create something similar on your own. It can be a great source of ideas, and a way to improve my own skills.
Recently, I’ve seen a number of awesome images that use blur effects with great success. I haven’t really used it a lot in the past, so of course I decided to try it out with my next photo.
Unfortunately, it didn’t really work, which got me thinking about when and how to use blurs. In looking at what made those photos I saw on Instagram successful, and playing around with blurring effects on my own photos, I was able to come up with a few ways in which using a blur can improve your image. There are probably more, including simply wanting an artistic-looking image, but here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Draw attention away from less aesthetically-pleasing elements. This is often important when taking photos within cities – think buildings, monuments, gardens, etc. It’s can be impossible to take the photo without including some of the uglier aspects of the city – power lines, cars, street signs, and more. Making everything but the subject of your image blurry can draw attention away from these eyesores, and towards whatever it is that you’re photographing. In this example, note how much less prominent the telephone poles are:
2. Emphasize the subject. This works great with pictures of people and pets. Professional photographers use their DSLRs to create portraits in which everything behind the subject is blurred. Unfortunately, smartphones can’t do that, but you can use an appropriately-sized blur focus and your image will get as close to professional-grade as possible. The example below isn’t a portrait, but you can still see how the blur effect emphasizes the main subject:
3. To brighten and darken different parts of the image. If you use Snapseed to edit your photos (which I recommend), then you can independently brighten and darken the blurred and in-focus parts of your image. This means you can create your own vignette effects, or even create cool lighting effects (such as an intentional washing out). I did the latter in the example below:
Those are the three instances in which I’ll turn to blur effects to improve my images. What other ways do you use blur effects in your smartphone photos?