Photoshop Trick: Here’s How to Use a Gradient Filter to Create Shallow Depth-of-Field Effects (VIDEO)

We typically use a telephoto lens with a wide maximum aperture for shooting images with a very shallow depth of field. But in this quick tutorial you’ll learn a simple Photoshop trick for creating a similar effect.

The idea is to separate the foreground of an image from background clutter and make your subject really “pop.” In the video below, image-editing expert Colin Smith walks you through a quick procedure for getting the job done by using a gradient filter in Photoshop.

Smith explains how to cut out the primary subject in an image. He then demonstrates how to refine the selection, soften the edges, and clean up a few strands of flyaway hair. 

The next step is to create a graduated blur on the background layer by using Photoshop’s Field Blur tool to selectively soften distracting elements in the scene. Then it’s just a matter of merging the layers for a final image with nice separation between foreground and background with a minimum of clutter.

You can find more helpful videos on Smith’s YouTube channel, and check out our earlier story in which he offers 10 great tips for drone photographers. And be sure to look at another Photoshop tutorial we posted recently, explaining how to use Layer Masks for creative effects.