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Tips & Tricks

A Simple Way to Draw Attention to Your Subject Using Radial Focus Blur

By Paul Faecks on May 4th 2014

Being able to control where the viewer’s attention is focused is something that’s a great skill to have as a photographer. You can easily blur out distracting elements of your photograph by using Radial Focus blur, a quick technique that the folks at Phlearn demonstrates in the video below. The effect is achieved using the “Step and Repeat“ technique.


You simply start of by duplicating your background layer by hitting CMD+J.

After you have done that, you hit OPTN+CMD+T to transform your layer. While you are in Photoshop’s transformation mode, move the little anchor point of your layer that is by default in the center of the frame, between your subject’s eyes.


This step is very important, if you leave the anchor point in the middle, you will end up with an image that’s just sharp in the center.

After moving the anchor point continue by scaling your layer up just a touch and then rotating it slightly clockwise.


Depending on how slight these transformations are being performed, you either end up with a more or less blurred picture.

Now this is the step where the magic happens: you use the REPEAT command by hitting SHIFT+OPTN+CMD+T 5-10 times.


When you are done with creating your layers by using the REPEAT command just simply play around with different opacity settings until you get something you like.

An easy, yet powerful technique to improve your pictures in Photoshop and maybe even draw attention away from mistakes you made shooting them in the first place.

If you want to learn more about Photoshop and how to use it to its full potential, make sure to check out Phlearn’s Photoshop 101 and Photoshop 201 tutorials in the SLR Lounge store.


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Paul Faecks is a portrait- and fine art photographer, based in Berlin. If you want to check out his latest work, you can do so by following him on Instagram or by liking his Facebook Page

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Great tutorial.

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  2. Jennifer Brandon

    I would love to give this a try, but I have Elements 8 and it won’t let me move my anchor point to a desired locations. Every time I try to move it, it just moves the entire layer. Any thoughts?

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  3. Johan

    Hi! Great Tutorial Aaron! Its the geniality in the simplicity that makes it so good.
    I have always wondered about smart objects. What are they and what are they good for?

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    • Abel

      Well… A smart object is a layer which is distinctly linked to a separate file of it’s own.
      It uses information from the source file to interact with the PSD you’re working with now.
      For example if you “Place” (File > Place) a file on a PSD document, it opens up as a Smart Object.
      When I double click the the Smart Object, another document pops up which lets me directly edit the source of the file. So any changes I make to the source, will be reflected in the PSD I am working with.

      What I like to use smart objects for is for dodging and burning with Camera Raw.

      For example:
      You open up a RAW file in Photoshop and set your exposure. Perhaps you make this a little under exposed. When I press the SHIFT key, the place where it says “Open as Image” changes to “Open as Object”

      Now I have a new layer called “Smart Object 1” If I right click on that and select “New Smart Object via Copy”
      (This is very important. If you just duplicate the layer, you’ll get a layer that is linked back to the original source file. However by clicking New Smart Object Via Copy, Photoshop creates a new object which is linked to a copy of the original source file)

      Now if I double click this layer, I get the Camera Raw dialogue again! I bump my exposure up a bit, click “Open”
      Now if I use my layer mask tool, I can just simply mask out the areas I don’t want the highlights to appear in.

      Smart objects are useful because they use data from a file by itself, instead of having it optimized for the document you’re working in.
      For example, if I want a Logo that is in a vector format (which btw is industry standard) to appear in one of my images, I can simply place the file.
      Now I can resize the logo however big/small I want, without worrying about losing quality. This is because I don’t have photoshop converting the file into a raster image, hence made of pixels. Instead I’m using the original vector properties of the file. (Hence it’s made up of paths, nor pixels!)

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