Using only photoshop filters, how can I give a paradisiac appearance to a photo? The type of photos to edit are mainly portraits of women, but the technique must also be applicable to landscape photography.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have an example image? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 22:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I asked a somewhat similar question about landscape "beach" photos. Some of it may apply to what you are asking. Check it out here: photo.stackexchange.com/q/26014/4892 \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 22:54

3 Answers 3


The classic "soft focus" effect can give photos a dreamy, paradisiac look. Though there are many ways to achieve the effect, here is one variety:

Open your image in photoshop. This image (taken at Pulau Dayang, Malaysia) is slightly underexposed and will need some lightening up too.

Step 1

  1. Begin with duplicating your background layer by hitting Cmd ⌘+J on your mac or CTRL+J on your PC. You will end up with a total of two layers, like this:

    Step 2

  2. With this new layer 1 selected, go to the filters menu and apply a gaussian blur with a rather high value. The exact value depends on the file dimensions. The bigger the photo, the bigger the value. When previewing the blur effect, try to imitate this look: (lots of blur but still some viewable detail):

    Step 3

  3. Lower the opacity of Layer 1 to something around 60%. Detail from the layer underneath will start to appear:

    Step 4

  4. It now starts to look more dreamy. We needed to lighten this photo due to its underexposed quality. Hence, change the blending mode of Layer 1 to "Screen". Your image might be too bright and needs darkening, then experiment with other blending modes like "Multiply" or simply Normal which works nicely too. Here is the "Screen" blending mode in action:

    Step 5

  5. The image now looks something like this:

    Step 6

    You could now change the opacity again to adjust for your desired brightness and/or dream effect.

  6. (optional step): Hit free transform with Cmd ⌘+T on mac or CTRL+T on PC and enlarge Layer 1 ever so slightly. Experiment with the amount:

    Step 6

  7. A good beach photo will have nice and vibrant colors. Add a Vibrance adjustment layer to the Background layer and boost the colors a fair bit.

    Step 7

    Here is the end result after applying vibrance and a bit of saturation:

    Step 8

Please post your results, it would be great to see how it worked out for you! Good luck!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Why do you resize the foto? To get an adition blur from interpolation? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 19:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Resizing displaces the background from the sharp layer in front, adding some additional feelings to the shot. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 1:38

You could:

  1. Cover your lens partially with a very fine net (you can pick any color that suits you). Working in conjunction with a shallow depth of field you can get that dreamy look. You can also use thing like a twig or flower.
  2. Smear your lens/filter with some oily substance - I don't recommend this since you will have to clean up.

Here's an example I did with for number 1, picked it up during Emily Soto's workshop in KL. In example one I did not cover the whole of the lens with an object.

  • \$\begingroup\$ oooh, I love the first tip you gave here. I have seen that effect everywhere online, and wondered how it was done technically. Thanks for sharing this! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 4:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ yep pretty neat effect actually. Swap around the colors for different look and move the object around so that it kind of frames your subject. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 7:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ you say "very fine net"... would a normal white cheese cloth do? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 3:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ mmm I think I'm a bit vague on the word 'fine'. Can be a bit bigger if you like. Try the cheese cloth, see how it works. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 19, 2012 at 1:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HenrikSöderlund try looking at this DIY project :D \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 0:12

Here are some elements you can use to achieve this feeling:

  • Make it bright. In our popular mental conception of heaven, light is everywhere. Chase away the shadows, and use a high key — not those high contrast images which look like bad attempts at digital line drawing, but push the exposure up into the higher registers, making even the darkest tones in the mid-range.
  • Keep it cool. Red, orange, and brown are called "earth tones" for a reason. For a heavenly effect, look to sky colors: cyan, blue, violet. If you must use the warmer part of the spectrum, use pastel versions of pink and yellow and light green. (This is probably a familiar concept, but if not, more on cool vs. warm here.)
  • Keep it soft. Use soft focus, but also use soft elements in your image. Silk, clouds, fog, skin. Avoid hard, sharp lines and anything industrial. The ethereal world is the realm of ghosts; make elements in your composition translucent. (If you want to do soft focus digitally, be aware that it's more than just a simple blur.)
  • Be surreal. Like dreams, the higher planes don't follow our rules of geometry or logic. Don't overwhelm your image — or your subject — but consider reflections, odd angles, flare, distortions, and inexplicable light sources. If you can introduce obviously symbolic elements (in whatever cultural language you prefer), you can increase the feeling that your image is beyond the mundane, even (maybe especially) if the viewer doesn't have an immediate key to their meaning.

Some of this can be done "only with photoshop filters", but you'll have best results if you start with source material that matches up. If not, you may want to consider very strong post-processing, using heavy blur and veiling effects to add mystery.


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