how to blur the background in lightroom

As a photographer, we know you have to edit. So while we absolutely offer editing services for professional photographers (and culling!), we also know that sometimes you just want to (or have to) do it yourself! There are many different effects that can be used to make your wedding photos stand out, including blurring the background. Throughout this post, we share reasons why you might want to use this effect, plus we share how to blur background in Lightroom to create variety in your images.

How to use Lightroom to Blur Background

Here at ShootDotEdit, we provide post production photography services for professional wedding photographers. We also love to share valuable insights on topics that are relevant to your photography, including how to rotate a photo and blur the background in Lightroom.

Whether you were not quite able to capture the perfect focal balance with your camera in the moment, or you just want to add a touch more finesse to your image, the right amount of background blur can be the solution. Knowing how to blur background in Lightroom can be the difference in giving those wedding photos the look you desire.

Reasons to use Lightroom to Blur Background

Besides the general aesthetics of an attractively blurred background, there are several reasons to consider using this Lightroom effect on photographs. You may want to bring more focus to the photograph’s subjects, create a heightened sense of atmosphere in the photo, or even disguise elements in the background. Your goal and the look you want to create with your image will determine the strategies you use to blur background Lightroom, as well as the amount you use.

Bring More Focus to the Subjects

In wedding photography, much of the time, the people in your photo are the primary focus. The setting or background, no matter how beautiful, is secondary and should not distract from the subject or subjects of the photograph. Applying a background blur while keeping the individuals in the photo in focus is one way to ensure that viewers’ attention goes right to the main subjects of your image.

Add a Timeless, Dreamy Style

Another situation that might require a heavier level of background blur is when you are looking to create a more dreamy, timeless look for the finished image. A more dramatic blur, expertly applied, can create that perfectly timeless, fairy-tale style that many clients will want for their wedding photos. The concept is similar to creating the same soft blur in Photoshop, and the key to keeping this style looking professional rather than amateur is to know the right levels of blur and exactly how to apply it.

Disguise Unwanted Elements

For some photos, you may have a background that is breathtakingly gorgeous from a distance, but some of the details, such as old buildings, are far less attractive in focus. A soft blur effect can be the ideal solution for removing the harsh features of such elements. Although blur, in theory, could be used to completely hide out-of-place elements in the background as well, a better approach is to remove these through a more intentional process, such as with the spot healing brush.

Specifics Steps

The capabilities of your camera and the precise blur effect you want for your photographs will determine how to blur in Lightroom for the best result. As some of the blur processes in Lightroom are more complex, the result will also depend on your skill level in knowing how to blur in Lightroom. However, each option begins with the same basic steps of creating a mask over the photograph’s background then applying the blur effect to that mask. Here are a few steps for how to blur a background in Lightroom.

1. Import Your Photo into Lightroom and Prepare the Image

Because this process requires specific areas of the photo to be worked on that change from one to the next, background blur in Lightroom must be applied to each individual photo. Unlike some effects that your wedding photo editor applies, it cannot be applied to groups of photos at the same time (if you hope to achieve professional results). Once you have chosen the photo you want to adjust, make sure you are using the Develop module in Lightroom to begin making the changes.

2. Set Up the Brush Tool for Creating a Background Mask

With Lightroom, you will need to create your own mask so that the blur you create will only affect the background of the photo. This is done by painting over the background (or the parts of the background you wish to blur) with an adjustment brush, such as the brush tool. From the brush panel, you can either choose a preset brush effect or create a custom effect yourself by manipulating the settings.

steps to blur background in lightroom
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

The more comfortable you are with customizing these settings, the better you will be able to create your desired blur result. Although the brush effects can be changed after you begin, these changes will also affect areas of the image you have already painted. making it very helpful to have an idea of what these settings should be before you begin.

3. Paint the Background of the Image to Create the Mask

Once you have created a new mask, but before painting on the background, make sure that you have the Show Selected Mask Overlay option selected in Lightroom. This ensures that your original image stays intact and will highlight the selected area in red so that you can see it clearly.

show mask overlay lightroom
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Similar to Photoshop, as you paint over the background, brush properties allow you to fine-tune the mask and only affect areas that you paint moving forward. Changing the size of the brush, in particular, will help you to more carefully select the parts of the photo that should be blurred and not elements that need to remain in focus. As needed, you can use the erase brush to remove sections of the image from the mask that should not be blurred, just like you would when undoing an action in Lightroom.

4. Adjust the Blur Effect with Clarity and Sharpness Filters

After you have selected the entire background that should be blurred, you can edit the Clarity and Sharpness settings in Lightroom to change the impact of the blur effect. Many professionals suggest setting the values for both at -100 to create a full blur for the background of your image, but the correct settings will vary for each photo.

lightroom blur background settings
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Once you have these settings just right for the blur effect you want, you are ready to save the images. To make sure that you don’t lose valuable work, you can use an automatic Lightroom catalog backup.

Knowing how to blur background in Lightroom is a powerful tool for any photographer, especially those who specialize in weddings. Although the basic steps in the process are simple, applying the right brush settings and creating the perfect background mask can be a time-consuming challenge. That is why it is valuable to outsource your photo editing needs to a professional, like ShootDotEdit, who can take care of the time-consuming parts of post production, leaving you to only add adjustments, like background blur, when necessary.

As we said at the beginning, we know photographers have to edit. But when you’re tired of doing it yourself, check us out because we do it for you, giving your precious time back!

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