I’ve mentioned that I’m stuck with my least favourite lens, the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 That variable aperture is highly annoying, so I just leave it at 5.6 and don’t have to worry about trying to remember the shutter speed when I’m zooming in and out while shooting to maintain exposure. But at f5.6 pretty much everything is in focus!!!! Ahhhh!!!!! That’s not what I want!!!!! I want those lovely blurry backgrounds from where my subject pops immediately. Well, technically this is impossible with my current lens, because I’d need at least f2 or brighter lens to achieve that. With Olympus, f2 is the brightest you can go as opposed to f1.2 or f1.4 on Canon/Nikon. OK, so how to get around it? The answer is: fake it in Lightroom!!!
Thankfully I’m using Lightroom 4 to process my images and it has 2 amazing tools in the Develop module: the Gradient filter and the Adjustment brush. These have been updated from earlier versions and now they can also control sharpness, white balance and a whole bunch of other stuff locally. So here we go, hit K for the adjustment brush, zero everything and set the sharpness to -100. Then get a large, soft brush and brush all over the image. With hitting O, you can see what you painted over. Then while pressing the Option key – I guess Alt on PC – (the brush will have a – in the middle), you just brush out those bits, that you do want to have in focus and voila, your subject pops out of the background. Obviously you have to decide how much of the image you blur out to try to keep it realistic or however your creative desire dictates it to you 🙂 Easy peasy 🙂
Same thing with the Gradient filter. Hit M for the filter and again zero out everything and pull the sharpness slider down to -100. Now here comes the good part: have you heard of Edge 80? OMG, that’s the next Lensbaby that I’m going to get when funds will be available for sure. I love what it does with a small slice of focus across the image. You can achieve the same effect in Lightroom with the Gradient filter. You can set it horizontally, vertically, diagonally, however your heart desires and you can easily imitate what Edge 80 does in real life.
Obviously nothing beats the real thing. Try to do this technique on hundreds of images!!! I don’t think so. But in the meantime you’re saving up for your lovely f1.4 lens or Edge 80, this technique will do the trick. Those of you who are on an earlier version of Lightroom, if memory serves well, the Clarity slider will be your best friend as there’s no Sharpness control in Lr3 or Lr2 for the Gradient filter and the Adjustment brush. Just beware of the Clarity slider as it might give a glowy effect to the image if you overdo it 😉
Remember, you can always apply the brush and the filter several times on the same part of the image, depending on how much blur you want. You might add -100 Clarity to the -100 Sharpness and see what that does. There is plenty of room to experiment and play around.
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this little “tutorial” about how to fake that shallow depth of field when you don’t have the tools. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment box below 😉