How to Create Soft & Dreamy Photos in Photoshop

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How to Create Soft & Dreamy Photos in Photoshop
Take photos to the next level by adding a soft and dreamy look – perfect for weddings, engagements and family photos.

Use Iris Blur to Draw More Attention to the Subject
The soft and dreamy look is done by adding a slight blur to the edges of a photo and adding a soft blur to the light in an image.

To add a slight blur to the edges of a photo, first start by duplicating the background layer and converting it into a smart object by right-clicking on the thumbnail and selecting ‘Convert to Smart Object.”

After converting the layer into a smart object, go to ‘Filter – Blur Gallery – Iris Blur’. In this dialog, you can choose how much blur you would like applied by sliding the blur slider on the right. The controls in the center of the screen allow movement of the blur center, the shape of the blur and feathering.

Choose a subtle blur around the edges of the photo for the soft dreamy look.

How to Make Light Soft & Dreamy
After applying an Iris Blur to the photo, it is time to blur the light only. To begin, create a selection out of the light in the photo by going to ‘Select – Color Range’ and clicking on the light source with the eyedropper tool.

The preview will be white in selected areas and black in non-selected areas. Be sure to adjust the slider to just include the light in the selection.

After turning this area into a selection, create a new layer and either fill it with white or duplicate the selected area from the background. The goal here is to have just the light from the photocopied onto a new layer.

Next, convert the layer with just the light into a Smart Object by right-clicking on it and going to ‘Convert to Smart Object’. We want it to be a smart object so that we can use ‘Smart Filters’. Smart Filters can be changed at any time, making them more versatile than regular filters.

After converting into a Smart Object, apply a blur by going to ‘Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur’ and choose a radius to expand the light. Adjust the opacity of the layer to suit the image and duplicate it if more of the effect is necessary.

How to Color Tone for the Soft & Dreamy Look
Once the background has been blurred using an Iris Blur and the light has been blurred using a Gaussian Blur, it is time to color tone the image.

In this example, we use a Levels Adjustment layer and edit the Blur Channel – adding more blue to the shadows and yellow to the highlights.

Feel free to play around with color, each photo is different and requires color toning unique to that photo. Most of all, have fun!





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today I'm going to show you how to give your photos that's soft and dreamy look hey guys and welcome to phlearn my name is Aaron NACE and you can find me on phlearn comm hole we make learning Photoshop and Photography fun and today's episode is going to be super cool we're giving an image a soft dreamy look you can do this with wedding photos portrait photos children photos anytime you want that like light that kind of just looks like oh it's so soft and wonderful this is going to be a perfect episode for you in just a few steps we're going to show you how to duplicate your background layer and give it an iris blur blurring the edges and giving it a softer look then we're going to duplicate the light in the image give it a blur and you make that soft light look we're going to add a little color toning and then we're going to be done alright guys we got a great episode let's go ahead and jump into Photoshop here's our image for today we've got a really nice bride looking out a window and this is the perfect type of image for this soft dreamy look because we got a lot of white and we've got large light sources so when you've got large light sources especially if the backlit meaning the lights are going to be behind your subject this is the perfect opportunity to create this soft dreamy look let's go ahead and start off by duplicating our background so we're going to click here on our background and drag it to the new layer icon then we're going to turn this into a smart object which is going to allow us to use smart filters all right I know that sounds complex but if you've never done this super simple just right-click on your background layer okay back the background copy here right-click on the background copy and go to convert to smart object alright once you see this little icon down there you know it's a smart object now a smart object will allow you to use smart filters what a smart filter will allow you to change the filter at any time so even after you've applied it you can change it at any time so here on our background copy which is now a smart object we're going to go to filter we're going to go to blur gallery and over here to iris blur okay now here in our iris blur we're going to see some different controls here on the right basically how much blur we want to apply our image okay and then here on our main image we have our little control that actually controls where the blur goes so we'll talk you through the here in the center we have our blur Center so if I click here and move it around you can see the center of my blur just check kind of changes now you want to make sure that's right at your subjects face because your subjects face we don't really want to blur our subject next we have our median this is where you can see it's blurring closer to the center and further out okay we want this to be about half way and then we want to bring our outer edges we're just going to click and drag this out to pretty much the outer edges of our photo okay we want this to be a really nice gradual effect so just click and drag out you can zoom out if you want to as well by hitting ctrl or command minus or plus we'll zoom in – we'll zoom out so I suggest zooming out a little bit so you can get a good idea of what you're actually going to be doing with your image okay now you can change your roundness here by clicking on this square the roundness of your actual blur let's go ahead and make it a little bit more square because we are on a square looking image there we are and here you can actually choose how much blur you'd like to apply so this ring right in the center we can increase the blur you can see there's a very blurry image and decrease it down here now I suggest doing something that's subtle so in this case we're going to go to about 87 and you can see I'm going to hit this check box there we go let's zoom in here I'm going to hit the check box so we can see there's our before and after so relatively subtle there you know what I'm going to bring this down just a little bit we're just going to type in 80 and it'll be good there okay so we do have that soft dreamy look kind of going on with this blur again we still see all the detail we need to where our subject is just the edges are giving that soft blur all right let's sit okay all right after we hit OK it's going to apply the blur and here we can see this is our layer which is a smart object and here we have a smart filter now remember earlier when I said convert your layer to a smart object so we can use a smart filter I highly recommend using smart objects and smart filters because you can change them at any point in time so let's jump back in I'll show you how to change it because you might make an effect and decide down the road that you don't like that so much so we're going to show you how to change it jumping back into Photoshop if you want to add or remove your effect you can go to your Smart Filters here we go and I can click on this eyeball and just turn them off and on okay so I can just turn that blur that I applied I can turn it off and on which is really cool if I want to change the amount of blur all I have to do is double click right here which says blur gallery so double click right there and I'm right back into my blur dialog and you can see I can increase or decrease the amount of blur that I have here okay so by using Smart Objects and Smart Filters we have a lot more options when it comes to our image okay so that's our first step for creating a soft dreamy look there we go is giving our image a little bit of a blur all right now our next step is actually going to be duplicating the light from the image so we blurred the entire image now we're going to duplicate just the light of the image and give that a blur as well it's going to be a really great effect okay so jumping back in how do we select out our light we didn't we want to blur our light and in this case it's you know coming from these windows and right up here but how do we blur just that well we're going to start off by turning it into a selection so let's go ahead and create a new layer there we are I'm going to go to select and then we're going to go to color range and here you can choose the color range of basically any part of your photo so in this case it's selected on like the darks or whatever but if I click on my windows right here with my eyedropper tool so click on your eyedropper and then go to your windows you're going to see now we're selecting out the color range of our windows okay now here you can choose what's called fuzziness if I make this lower it's going to select less if I make this higher it's going to select more for this effect I would suggest going a little bit lower somewhere right about there okay it's okay if our this area gets selected a little bit we just want these light areas to be selected so I'm going to hit OK and what it's going to do is anything that's light will become selected anything that's dark will not be selected so let's hit OK there and now we can see here's my actual selection okay right in this light area there we go and here on our windows okay now in this case you can just either fill this with a color or duplicate it from our background layer okay now in this case our color is pretty much just white so now that I have this a selection I can hit shift delete which is the keyboard shortcut for the fill dialog and I'm going to say fill this with white all right so I've made my selection I'm going to fill it with white and hit OK all right I can deselect by hitting ctrl or command D and there we go so the image doesn't look that different as of the app as of now but if I grab my move tool you can see basically on this layer I've got just the light from the windows here on this layer okay and just hit ctrl or command Z to move that back alright so we made our selection of the light and then I filled it with white pretty cool now we want to go ahead and give the light a blur as well so in order to do that I'm going to right click here on this layer and convert it to a smart object because we're going to be using a blur and I want to use a smart blur so now that we have this as a smart object let's go to the filter down to blur and overlook Gaussian blur okay now here in our Gaussian blur we can choose our blur radius and you can see as I go further and further out it's just blurring the light in my image because we just selected the light so the only thing on this layer is the light and now as we bring our radius up we can add or subtract more of that blur which is really really cool and this is what gives the image that's soft dreamy look so let's say we wanted to do our blur let's say we go way up there all right and then we're like oh this is so great I'm going to be the best photographer in the world and then we come back a week later and we're like whoa it's too much blur on there I can't even see my subject all we have to do is double click here on the Gaussian blur and we can just lower the blur later so you can decide at any time now what's also kind of cool let's say we do want a little bit higher of a blur I'm going to duplicate this layer by clicking and dragging it to the new layer icon so now we got even more but let's say this layer okay this layer we want that kind of this layer I'm going to double click there and we want a lot less of a blur and then I can just simply choose my opacity so for this one maybe I want this to be a little less visible so I can lower down my opacity right here so we have a couple of different blurs now we've got one that's a little bit smaller ok and one that's a little bit larger there we go with less opacity now we can go in here and change these blur levels at any point in time I could make this one really big if I wanted to but we're going to keep it relatively small hit OK and I'm going to change my opacity down there as well so now we've got a couple of different layers that are giving our image that nice blurred look and you can totally decide for yourself how much blur you know what in this case I want to go even more there we go a little bit more of that soft dreamy look this is fun for me I hope you guys are having fun too alright so there we have it let's go ahead and turn these layers off and back on and that's the soft dreamy light look alright so we figured out how to select the light from our image and then on a new layer we filled that with white turn it into a smart object and then added a blur and that's what give us a a soft light look now we're going to do a little bit of color toning to the image then we're going to be done to add our color toning we're going to do this really simply I'm going to go to layer down to new adjustment layer and we're going to go to our levels ok let's hit OK and here we have control over our levels so if I want to take my darks in my image and make them a little lighter I can click right here and make our darks a little bit lighter now in this case we have a pretty light image so I'm okay leaving it right where they're at now you can also change color with your levels here where it says RGB this is going to change the red green and the blue channels okay which basically just amounts to light and dark if I want to go to my blue channel and I click here now I'm going to able to add more blue into my shadows here we could add some green into our shadows if we wanted and here I could add red into my shadows so let's go back to our blue channel I'm going to add little bit of blue into our shadows and if I pull this from the right to the left it's going to add a little bit of yellow into a highlights obviously that's way too much so we just want to go just a tiny bit now we've got a little bit of yellow and a little bit of blue giving our image a really nice color town so let's just turn this off and on and you can see let's zoom in a little bit here we go off and on giving our Miss just a little bit of color and we're going to go ahead and lower that opacity alright guys well that's pretty much it so let's go ahead and shift-click all of these layers I'm going to hit ctrl or command G to group them together and we'll hit f4 fullscreen and then we'll show you the before and the after so here's our before still a beautiful image and here's the after now we got that soft dreamy look we've all been searching for and that's all there is to it guys how to create that soft dreamy look in your photos if you want to do the same thing just follow these key steps first start off by duplicating your background layer go ahead and right click on it and go to convert to a smart object this will allow us to use smart filters which can be changed at any point in time then go up to filter down to blur gallery and over to iris blur here you can use the controls to make sure your blurring the edges and not the center once you've added your iris blur it's time to select and blur the light go ahead and create a new layer go to select and down to color range use the eyedropper tool and click on the light it's going to turn the light areas into a selection and you can use your fuzziness to decide how much actually gets selected the lighter areas get selected and the darker areas do not after you've made your selection you can either duplicate those pixels from your background layer to duplicate the actual light from your background or you can simply fill this with white which is what we did in this case now you filled it with white go ahead and deselect we're going to turn this layer into a smart object and then go to filter down to blur and over to Gaussian blur choose the amount of blur you want to create your image that's soft dreamy look because we turn this layer into a smart object we can change our blur at any time and in this example we actually duplicate it and use two different layers with different amounts of blur and change our opacity to allow them to blend together and to finish our image off it's time to color tone go to layer down to new adjustment layer and over to levels now in this case we used our blue channel we brought up the shadows a little bit and down with the highlights adding blue to the shadows and yellow to the highlights guys thanks so much for watching today's episode I hope you enjoyed it super quick and you can add that dreamy look to any one of your photos if you love photoshop & photography as much as I do go ahead and click on your screen right about now we'll send you a free photoshop & photography episodes every single week and if you have an idea for an episode or a question to comment about today's episode simply leave it right down below I'd love to hear from you thanks so much guys i'll phlearn you later bye everyone soft and dreamy make your photos look soft and dreamy stop dreaming give your photos that soft dreamy look help us maybe the latest thing I've ever said in my life let's leave it in keep it it's soft dreamy look we've all been searching for alright good job everybody so soft

31 thoughts on “How to Create Soft & Dreamy Photos in Photoshop

  1. Thanks for your tutorials, as many here I am starting learning photoshop, is overwelming, but you make everything so easy .. in this tutorial I got stuck at the color range after selected the color when i click shift delete it tells me that the layer is empty…

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