Portrait Editing: Here's How to Blur Busy Backgrounds When Your Subject Has “Complex Hair” (VIDEO)

The task of editing portrait photos presents a number of challenges, not the least of which is blurring a busy background in an image of a model with complicated strands of hair. But fear not, because image-editing pro Unmesh Dinda is back with this Photoshop tutorial, demonstrating how to get the job done.

Dinda’s goal of creating a portrait with a shallow depth-of-field effect is complicated because his model’s many strands of hair are difficult to select by conventional means. As you’ll see in the video below, the solution to keeping the hair sharp, while achieving a natural, gradually blurred background, relies upon the concept of “focal plane.”

Here’s the trick: If you maintain sharpness with everything on the same plane as the model, you can do whatever you want to the background. And this technique isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds.

Dinda demonstrates how to use Photoshop’s powerful “Select and Mask” tool, in combination with the non-destructive effects in the Blur Gallery. Add in a few of Photoshop’s “hidden features,” and the result is a portrait that mimics the look of a photograph made with an expensive, fast lens.

You can find more helpful tips from Dinda on his YouTube channel, and be sure to look at another portrait retouching tutorial of his we shared, in which he explains how to correct shiny skin.