Not Happy With Your Depth of Field? You Can Adjust It In Post

Of course many of us want to always nail a shot in camera, but sometimes things happen. Maybe it looked great on your camera's LCD, but entirely different once you got it on your computer. Maybe your sensor is too small and shallow DOF is hard to nail. It's for these cases that Aaron Nace at PHLEARN does tutorials like this one, where he shows how to adjust depth of field in post.

"Rather than using our beloved gaussian blur, we’ll be using lens blur which does a much better job of imitating the blur produced by an actual lens. By selecting the channel with our depth map as the depth map source, the blur is applied more to the parts of the image further fromt the camera and less to the parts of the image closest to the camera. Just like a real shallow depth of field!"

Below you can see the before on the right, and the adjusted depth of field on the left.

adjust depth of file in post phlearn how to

For the full tutorial, head on over to PHLEARN and while you're there, don't forget to check out their Pro Tutorials.

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Ariel Martini's picture

Whoa, what a BAD advice! Unless you are a weekend photographer trying to pimp your flickr, you should never use fake DOF, specially in portraits. Just see the 'after' picture of the post and how fake it looks.

I actually don't see this as advise but rather a solution in case you need to create DOF in a picture in post. Aaron Nace happens to be an amazing photographer - he knows how to shoot portraits with DOF. He is just sharing this technique with all of us so we have a better idea how to apply the lens blur more realistically then just adding a Gaussian blur. I tip my hat to the guy yet again for helping us all learn another extra trick we can have up our sleeve in case we ever need it.

Reduce DoF, not add.

That doesn't even look close to "realistic". It looks like crap. Any real photographer who has used fast F2.8 zooms or prime lenses knows the difference between a badly faked PhotoShop version and the real deal taken with a decent lens. There is no gradual roll off to the focus. It suddenly falls off with blur. That's not how things work in the real world as anyone with any experience or a trained eye can tell you. The "adjusted" version isn't something I'll be using as an example of how to improve a photo :-(

Jason Vinson's picture

there is a gradual falloff of the blur. that was the purpose of creating the depth map. it may not be perfect, but it is just a 14 minute video explaining the process....

Agreed yamaha83. If you spent an hour on this I bet he could get it a lot better. I think we should walk away from this video happy that we learned how to create a depth map with our channels to use with the lens blur filter, rather than how to make fake shallow DOF in our portraits. I now know photoshop 2% better than I did before this video. And that's the point of his videos and that's great!

I much prefer the "before"-version.

The "adjusted" photo on the left looks fake. The post work does little to improve upon the original. Poorly done :-(

Adam T's picture

I have to do this often to merge CGI into Photo's. For those who don't like the look of PS's lens blur I recommend for PS. I Find the lens blur filter subpar and not very controllable.

Jason Vinson's picture

everyone is hating on the quality of the AFTER image. i for one think it looks pretty good considering he went through the entire process in a 14 minute video. The more time you spend creating your depth map, the better it will turn out. this was not a video walk through of how he would create the perfect image. its a walk through on the basics of the technique.

Let me see...Hmmm. Should I spend 14+ minutes trying to fix my depth of field screw up in PhotoShop or should I take an extra 30 seconds getting it right with my lens aperture in the camera?

Jason Vinson's picture

what about the people that have the extra time to kill and don't have the extra cash to kill for a fast lens that can get them the DOF they want? what if shooting flash and dont have an ND filter and cant get to DOF you want? what if shooting super wide and even the fastest lens doesn't get the DOF you want? you can always do a Brenizer effect, but then you still would want a fast medium tele lens and may not have that and with that you are still going to need to spend some extra time in post stitching images. Or you are shooting an event/wedding and you get home and see an image and just think, wow, really wish that pic had a little bit shallower DOF... may not look perfect to you, but to the average client, its going to look fantastic if you spend a little time on it, and if its a portfolio worthy image, its worth the extra time.

>what about the people that have the extra time to kill and don't have the extra cash to kill for a fast lens that can get them the DOF they want?

well, what about them? if they can't spend the money for a used DSLR body (cheap) and a cheap prime lens with a f/2.8 or faster aperture, they don't have any business making photos with a shallow depth of field. it's really that simple.

my fastest lens is an 85 1.8 and i'm pretty damn sure i've never gotten home after a wedding, looked through my photos in lightroom and said "wow, really wish that pic had a little bit shallower DOF". pretty damn sure i've never said that. keeping things in focus on longer lenses at f/2.8 or faster is enough of a problem as it is.

Sam Wagner's picture

the pic on fstoppers home threw me cause i figured the pic on left was before, and right was after (logical, of course) so thats the only reason i even clicked on this page

Aaron is definitely a talented artist. That being said, this wasn't his finest hour.

It sounds like everyone commenting is missing the point of this article, except for Trevor and yamaha83. If you are using the edited photo sample as a result of this technique you are missing the creativity in what you can do. The point totally passed over your head. The man took 2 minutes to show you how you can work the tools in CS and showed you the steps, and everyone is coming down on how bad the edited photo is? Or how the unedited version is better? Really? (sarcasm)
For whatever reason you need to reduce/add DOP, and IF you choose to. Here are the steps you can take to do so. period, end of article.

Nic Cage's Hair's picture

Creating fake dof when you don't have dof (or know how) is cheating, simple as that. Enhancing existing dof i don't see much problem with but creating it from scratch is wrong. And i've seen plenty of bad photoshop jobs doing that.