Blurring The Lines; Software Solutions For Soft Effects Page 2
Control Panel Secrets
There are no rules of thumb about how much blur or soft focus to apply to any image. My best advice, as Emeril says, is to "season to taste," but that doesn't mean you can't have a few Photoshop tricks up your sleeve.
First of all, don't be afraid to yank those control panel sliders to the extreme ends to see what effect this produces. Even after you apply a filter, there's always the UNDO command waiting in the wings and I promise you that no pixels will be harmed while performing this maneuver.
Second, don't forget the FADE option. After applying any filter, you
can reduce its effect by applying the Fade command (Edit>Fade...) that
becomes available only at that time. Use the slider to apply the filter at anywhere
from 1 percent to 99 percent to create the desired soft focus or blurry effect.
Lastly, if all else fails, use a blur/soft focus layer. Start the process by making sure your image file is as good as it can be, then add a duplicate layer (Layer>Duplicate Layer). Apply a filter to the duplicate layer, not the background image below. Then lower that layer's Opacity setting to allow part of the bottom layer to show through. For even more control you can erase part of the duplicate layer to let 100 percent of the original file show through. Use the Eraser tool to erase the blur/soft focus (on the duplicate layer) around the subject's eyes to allow the sharpness of the background layer to show through. This is an especially good trick for portraits because the sharpness of the subject's eyes is critical in getting the viewer's attention, so this technique gives the impression of sharpness while maintaining overall soft focus.