Motion blur

If you have seen my Marseille post, you may have noticed the picture below.

A building in Marseille

This is an easy effect I have seen being used more and more recently. I will try to show you how to achieve it. I believe it creates an ethereal look and works very well when dealing with some king of pattern. Feel free to download the picture and try it for yourself.

Original file

Original file

1. Straighten (optional): depending on the direction you want to give, you may need to straighten up first. I wanted to give a 90 degrees angle here so I had to straighten the window frames. To do this open in Photoshop,  duplicate the layer, select the ruler tool either by picking it up in the Eyedropper tool group or clicking Shift+I until you get it. I did put my starting point at a window corner near the bottom and the end at an upward corner on the same column. The longer the distance, the more accurate you will be. Once done, go to Image -> Image Rotation -> Arbitrary. It will display the angle calculated. Just validate. Use the cropping tool on the result.

Just before the cropping

Just before the cropping

2. Selection: Use the rectangular Marquee tool (M) and select the zone you want to apply the effect to. I selected a zone that is about 1/3 of the picture and in the center. As I may want to redo this step in the future I will create a new layer with the selection. With the selection still active go to Layer->New Layer->Layer via Copy.

The new layer from Step 2

The new layer from Step 2

3. Motion blur: Duplicate the newly created layer and with the Magic Wand Tool (W) select the empty space at the bottom by clicking anywhere in the empty space. With the Shift key pushed do the same thing on the top part. Then go to Select->Inverse to get your original Marquee tool selection. With the selection active go to Filter->Blur->Motion Blur. A box like the one below should appear.

Step 3 Options

Step 3 Options

Angle will give you the direction of the movement. Below are 3 different angles

0 degrees. Only the distance is a factor here.

0 degrees. Only the distance is a factor here.

45 degrees

45 degrees

Minus 45 degrees. See how the direction is opposite to the 45 one

Minus 45 degrees. See how the direction is opposite to the 45 one

As I want a downward direction here, I will use -90 degrees. Distance will impact the force of the effect. The lower the distance is , the more you keep  the forms.

Distance 100

Distance 100

Distance 300

Distance 300

Distance 600

Distance 600

I used the -90 / 600 px setting. As I want to also have this effect upward I do another copy and apply the effect with 90 degrees and still 600 distance.

Move the layers up and down to your liking. You should get something like this.

Result of step 3

Result of step 3

4. Overlap : You can see that were the layer overlap you have some transition issues. To fix this I used a Polygonal Lasso (L) selection as follow

Step 4 Selection

Step 4 Selection

I select the upward layer and a use the Erase tool (E) on it. Once done I do the same with the downward layer.

Step 4 Result

Step 4 Result

5. Integration: The last step is to integrate your motion blur with the rest of the picture and do the adjustments you wish.

Here’s a creative use by someone way better than me:

By Sebastien Grobelny


Recently Yael, from Feet from Shore asked use which one would we choose in 2 versions of a self portrait. I liked the color one better as it was warmer and I also like my Black and White to be darker and contrasted. On both however there were some distracting elements in my opinion. I asked Yael if she was ok with me trying to edit these and below is my attempt at editing her portrait.

Original from Yael - Color

Original from Yael – Color

1. Straighten out: The tilted effect creates some dynamism but I’m not really fond of it. In PS CS6 I selected the ruler from the eye dropper tool group and used it on the frame of the door. Next Image–> Image Rotation –> Arbitrary. I used the cropping tool to remove most of the empty spaces created and got the below picture.

Edit - Step 1

Edit – Step 1

2. Filling the empty spaces: On the spaces left, I used a combination of Fill with Content Aware, Clone Stamp Tool, Healing Tool and straight out copies of existing sections

Edit - Step 2

Edit – Step 2

3. Removing the focus: There are a lot of elements that are catching attention here: door, white bloc, stuff on the floor.One reason they are so eye catcher is that they are very close to a dark area. A quick way to address that is by darkening it. To do that go to Layer –> New Adjustment Layer –> Exposure. I used -2 here. As I don’t want to darken all the picture I will add a layer mask. You use a mask to reveal or hide some sections of the picture. I painted the mask black with the bucket and then painted white on the areas I wanted the Exposure layer to be applied.

Step 3

Step 3

Mask for Step 3

Mask for Step 3

4. Removing the focus (again): I was still not really happy with the door handles and found that the blocks were still a minor distraction. I merged the previous layers with Command+E. I then used some copies to remove most of the focus grabbing stuff.

Edit - Step 4

Edit – Step 4

At this point I realized that what I really wanted to do was to remove the door. For this I created a new layer, and painted it black with a brush and a layer mask to keep the signature. I think I do prefer with the empty space. It even allowed me to move the signature easily later on.

Edit - Step 4 - Without Door

Edit – Step 4 – Without Door

[UPDATE] Should have seen this earlier, but Yael pointed out to me that she would have preferred a unified White background. Before her comment it didn’t even cross my mind but it seems obvious now…

5. Shiny Hair: One quick trick to bring out hair and do highlight is to duplicate the layer with Command+J and change the blending mode to Overlay. Then you add a layer mask to only reveal the parts you want. I also dropped the opacity to 40%

Edit - Step 5

Edit – Step 5

6. More details: Yael prefers the Black and White because it has more details in the scarf. Here’s how I brought some details. After merging with Command+E, I did copy the layer with Command+J. I then converted it to Black and White from Image–>Adjustment–>Black and White. I then used Filter–>Other–>High Pass with a value of 31px. I then changed the blending mode to Soft Light and used another mask to reveal only the scarf.

Yael - Color - Edited

Yael – Color – Edited

This is my final version for the color edit. I will use it as the starting point for the Black and White version.

7. Black and White version: Go to Image –> Adjustment –> Black and White and use the preset “Lighter”. I used this one as it keeps a good amount of details without bringing up too much “bad details”. Then duplicate the layer with Command+J and change the blending mode to Multiply and the opacity to 50-60%. Add a mask to hide some parts you want to keep lighter (eyes, signature…). Finally I used Layer –>New Adjustment Layer –> Levels and  used the preset Increase Contrast 1 with some minor tweaks.

Yael - Black and White

Yael – Black and White

Let me know what you think about this process and don’t hesitate to contact me if you wish me to edit some pictures for you like I did for Yael

By Sebastien Grobelny


After the fun with Bane and Batman it was time for Selena Kyle.
Here’s my final result

I was looking for a dramatic effect and be able to control the light.
Below is the setup I used. It’s the 100mm lens with 2 Canon 550EX flash. The flash with the soft box (white diffuser on the right, closest to the camera) will be called B while the other one one the left will be called A.
Setup used to catch cat woman
I moved A and B and lot and checked the results and adjusted each time. When the light was ok, I discovered that I didn’t like some of the positioning of Selena so I changed it and had to redo the lights. In total I ended up taking 70 pictures in close to an hour. Below are the final 3. The only difference  was on the balance of the flash. With the trigger I can give more or less power to a group of flash.

Catwoman 1-1

Flash A and B have equal power.

Flash A has 4 more power than flash B

Flash A has 4 more power than flash B

Flash A has twice the power of flash B

Flash A has twice the power of flash B

I used the 2-1 setup as the starting point for the edit.
Here are the major steps I applied.

  • In Lightroom 5: Adjust the clarity
  • In Lightroom 5: With a brush, increase the exposure slightly on the right hand
  • In Photoshop CS6 : duplicate the layer and remove the spots and the unwanted details with the healing tool
  • In Photoshop CS6 : with the magic wand on the face, selected the burnt areas and used the fill option with content aware set. Then I extended the selection with the feather option and applied a surface blur
  • In Photoshop CS6 : Duplicated the layer and applied a surface blur. I then used a layer mask to have this only applied on the chest and changed the opacity to keep a bit of texture
  • In Photoshop CS6 : I fixed the articulated split at the belly with another selection and content aware file
  • In Photoshop CS6 : I fixed the wrist with taking a part of the arm, copying it, transforming it to cover the wrist and then merge and healing.
  • In Photoshop CS6 : I cropped to get tighter to the subject.
  • In Photoshop CS6 : Duplicated the layer and used multiply to darken the whole. Then used a mask to reveal the right arm, whip, chest and face.
  • In Photoshop CS6 : Flipped the canvas horizontally as I preferred this direction.

Voila. Please let me know what you think of it and if you would have done anything differently.

By Sebastien Grobelny

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