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I would like to know how to achieve an effect similar to the one shown here, in particular the treatment of the hair:

smeared out picture

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In Photoshop, Lightoom, or something else? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Oct 9, 2015 at 17:00

3 Answers 3

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In Photoshop, try Filter>Blur>Surface blur.
EDIT (more info): A window will pop up. It will ask for two parameters: Radius and Threshold.
Radius works in the same way as for any other blur - it changes the size of the blurring. Larger numbers will give less clear images.
Threshold is special for surface blur. A normal blur takes all the colors arroud each pixel at a certain range and averages them. Surface blur only takes into account the colors that are similar to the current pixels color. You can specify how similar they need to be to blur in the Threshold parameter. 255 would be a normal blur, 5 will give very sharp edges. 0 will not blur the image at all, which is why the minimum value possible in Photoshop is 2.
Beacause of this, you get an effect that doesn't soften the edges (the colors are too different to mix).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you expand this to give more details on how to use this feature? While this has the core of a good answer, it would be a much better answer with (a lot) more detail. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Oct 12, 2015 at 15:24
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If you are referring to the texture of the face and hair (as opposed to the smearing out of the background due to depth of field) then this effect can be achieved either with the airbrushing tool or by increasing the level of Noise Reduction. Applying global noise reduction to the image will cause the sharpness in many of the edges to decrease (e.g. detail in the eyelids, lips, pupil, etc.)

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If you mean in Photoshop rather than in camera, the you have a couple of choices for how to get the effect in just the areas you want. You can either select the areas using the quick selection tool and then create a new layer mask or create a new layer, add the effect to that layer, and then use the history brush to just paint in the effect where needed. The layer mask method gives you more control. To create a layer mask, make a selection and click the layer mask button at the bottom of the layers palette.

Once you have your layer mask, click on the layer (rather than the mask) and go to Filter>Blur>Lens Blur. you can then up the radius before tweaking the other settings to get the effect you want. I would also add some noise to make it look real, using Gaussian and monochromatic settings. The preview will show the effect over the whole image but once you select Ok, you will see that the layer mask is only allowing the filter to effect the area you selected.

Finally flatten the image and you are done.

If you want the effect in camera, then use a shallow depth of field (large aperture -so a small number, like 1.8), and you could even use something to soften the image overall. Vaseline on the lens is one trick, another is a pair of tights stretched over the lens.

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