Blur effects, if carefully applied to your photographs, can create a dreamy, mysterious, even ghostly atmosphere, transforming your original images into something else entirely. When it comes to my iPhone photos, blur is a definite characteristic of my style. I like to combine it with a worn and weathered look, subtle textures and faux light. In my series of four articles for Manfrotto, I will give tips on each of these aspects, starting with blur.
My favorite, go-to app when it comes to blur is Focal Lab. Unfortunately it is no longer available in the app store, so I have found an app, called FX Photo Studio, that you can use to create similar effects. This is a general editing app with lots of tools, functions and effects. To access the blur tools go to Presets> Categories> Blur. You’ll find many blur options.
Tilt Shift allows you to transform your scene into a miniature world. I find that aerial view photos work best with this feature, especially if there are buildings, people and vehicles in your scene. Head up to the top of an observatory or parking garage to shoot from above.
The Radial Blur feature allows you to choose a portion of the photo that you wish to be clear and in focus while blurring the surrounding area and background.
Explosion Blur gives a zoom blur effect, while Horizontal and Vertical Blur choices allow for motion blurs in either of these directions.
4 Tips for Applying Blur Effects:
1. Have a focal point in your composition, no matter the type of blur you are applying. This focal point should emphasize the subject or a portion of it. When applying the blur, you can adjust settings so that the focal point is clear and in focus and surrounded by dreamy blur. This is only a general rule-of-thumb. You might wish to veer from this suggestion and blur the entire photo if it makes artistic sense to do so.
2. Mimic DSLR-like shallow DOF (depth of field). Since the iPhone camera has a fixed aperture it’s not always possible to achieve shallow DOF when you are shooting. No worries, as the After Focus app allows you to apply faux shallow DOF to any photo.
3. Use a motion blur or zoom blur effect (found in FX Photo Studio as aforementioned) to alter/warp a figure or portion of a figure in some way to create an ethereal, chimerical look. I will often blur the lower portion of a figure, to give it a ghostlike appearance.
4. Apply blur effects before adding texture filters to your photograph, so that you only blur the subject and not the texture enhancement. Order of operations is important.
Other Favorite Blur Apps:
Have questions? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Susan Tuttle is an award-winning iPhoneographer and DSLR photographer from Maine, USA. She is the author of three instruction-based books (published in the US and abroad by F+W Media, North Light Books) on the subject matter of digital art with Photoshop, mobile photography and DSLR photography, and mixed-media art. Her fourth book, Art of Everyday Photography: Move Toward Manual and Make Creative Photos (about DSLR photography and mobile photography) was recently released by North Light Books and has been a best-seller in its category on Amazon.
Susan currently offers two online photography courses — The Art of iPhoneography Self-Portraiture and Co-Lab: Paint, Paper and iPhoneography Magic (co-taught with best-selling author and mixed-media artist Alena Hennessy). Susan is currently the Technical Advisor for Somerset Digital Studio Magazine. You can view more of her work, explore her blog, and find workshop details at her website SusanTuttlePhotography.com