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Clean up visually cluttered images with the Crop tool and Blur command

Added on Wednesday 26th of May 2010 02:32 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Don’t keep passing over your not-so-great images because of their busy backgrounds. By using Photoshop’s Crop tool and Blur command, you can clean up a visually cluttered image and obtain a better composition easily.


To create a stronger focal point for your image, we’ll:

• Identify and diagnose cluttered image areas in an image.

• Selectively crop an image to change its composition.

• Review the various options of the Blur command so you know how to best use them.

• Retouch problem color areas in an image with the Blur command.



There are times that no matter how carefully you try to frame a subject, its background creates a muddled composition. If you pan to the left or right, you remove one problem and create another. You move closer or step back, and you skew your viewpoint. So before you simply walk away from taking the shot, take the best shot you can and let Photoshop’s Crop tool and Blur command do the rest. You can how great this technique worked for our image, shown in Figure A.





Open and study an image

We’ll show you how this technique works with another daffodil shot. To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the file clutter.psd, launch Photoshop, and open the file shown in Figure B. Before we begin to edit our image, let’s first study it and figure out what we want to do to it.

At first glance, the cluster of flowers looks great. However, because of the color, texture, and exposure of the ground cover in the background, the shot looks cluttered. Neither the subject nor the background appears to be the visual focus of the shot. By first cropping out the top and sides of the image, and then selectively blurring sections of the background, we can strengthen the visual focus of the subject, and improve the photo’s composition.




Crop to eliminate unnecessary areas

You might try zooming in on a subject to crop it while you take the shot. But if that fails, you can adjust it manually with the Crop tool in Photoshop.  You can crop our sample image with the steps that follow.


To remove unnecessary image areas using the Crop tool:

1.  Select the Crop tool from the Tools panel, and drag a cropping marquee over the image.

2.  Adjust the handles to crop out the top and sides.

3.  Move the handles in toward the subject a little bit at a time until the visual focus of the image is clearly on the subject, as shown in Figure C.

4.  Double-click inside the crop handles to commit the crop. Even small cropping adjustments make a big difference.




Select and feather image areas

Photographers often use a technique known as selective focus to visually isolate a subject situated in a jumbled scene. This involves setting the camera’s aperture as wide as possible. The result is a narrow depth of field, and the image sharpness becomes increasingly softer or more blurry farther away from the image’s focal point. To emulate the effect, you’ll use the Blur command.

First, you must select the areas you want to blur. ...


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