Tuesday, May 4

Coffee With Amanda! Color Pop with Soft Focus Tutorial!

I am so excited to introduce Amanda!  Amanda and I have a lot in common, like our love of Pioneer Woman, homeschooling, chickens and taking photos of weeds, kids and farm animals.  So when she touched base with my on my CoffeeShop Flickr Group and asked if she could write a few tutorials for my blog I was completely thrilled!  Not only would I learn some new techniques along with my readers, but I would get a much needed break from the computer.  :-) 

Meet Amanda! I am a "Pioneer Woman" of sorts, although not nearly as talented, witty or culinarily gifted as the real one. I grew up in the suburbs or on military bases, but ended up in country on a cattle and chicken farm an hour from any sizeable town. I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to four children, ages 11 to 4.

My photography journey started last spring, and it has quickly become a passion. Most of my subjects are my kids, the cows, my mother-in-law's flowers and my weeds (they're prettier in a picture than in real life). I enjoy editing (with PSE 7) and continue to learn daily. The tutorials I write are very basic and well documented so that brand new users can learn how to use their editing software.

I recently started a photography resource blog, PhotographyHaven where you can find lots of free actions, tutorials, workshops and more. You can view my personal pictures at Moving Forward or my Flickr stream.

Today I am going to show you a VERY simple way to give your photos a quick, soft focus effect, plus a little pop in color, which sometimes is all a picture needs. I edit with Photoshop Elements 7, but these steps can be done in both PS and PSE.

If you wonder what's up with all the screen shots, I'm a very visual learner and when I was trying to learn PSE, so many times steps were mentioned but weren't shown and I was like "where do I change the blending mode?!" So, I documented this tutorial the way The Pioneer Woman documents her recipes (LOVE that she does that!).

The BEFORE shot (SOOC except for Web resizing):

Before shot for guest post

Step 1: Open your picture in the Full edit mode of your PSE. Make a duplicate layer of your image (easy way: press Control and J at the same time).


Step 2: Go to (1st) Filters, then (2nd) Blur, then (3rd) Gaussian Blur. After you've done that, another box will pop up.


Step 3: Set the radius to around 20 for a high resolution image, 6-10 for low resolution one. That says 20, you just can't see it. ;-)


Step 3.5: If you want a lighter, dreamy look, you can lower the opacity of the layer down to like 30% (image below) and be done. Flatten and save. However, I want some color pop, so I moved on to step 4.


Step 4: Set the (1st) Blending mode to (2nd) Soft Light. Any of you saying "oh, that's where we change the blending mode!" like I did?


Step 5: Lower the opacity to suit your tastes.


Step 6: Flatten. A quick what to do it without going to the top menu is to click on the double arrows (1st) and then on Flatten (2nd).

After saving your image as a JPG, apply watermark if you like (read previous post for a tutorial on watermarking) and then run Rita's Web resizing and drop shadow action if you're posting on your blog.


The AFTER shot (doesn't have vignette yet):

After shot without vignette

And, I'll go one step further: Here is a side by side comparison for you.


If you're sitting there thinking "Gosh, that wasn't much of a change," well, you're right, it isn't. It is a slight edit that is simple and fast, but definitely improves the photo. Sometimes slight edits are the best edits. Take it from me, it is easy to do too much to a picture!

I hope this was easy to understand and helps you in the future. If you'd like to see more pictures with this effect, you can go to my Flickr page; I've used it on most of my cow pictures like this one.

If you use this on your pictures, I'd love to see it. Just leave me a comment with your blog address and I'll go visit to ohh and awww over it.

Almost forgot. If I had stopped at step 3.5, here is what the image would look like. Soft and dreamy for sure!


  1. Thanks Amanda, I enjoyed the tutorial very much. Since I am a bit heavy handed w/post processing, it spoke to me! I love the dreamy look.

    Is the vignette you spoke of contained in Rita's web and drop shadow action?

    Rita, thanks for keeping us supplied with tutorials!


  2. I love love love that you have all of the screen shots. I just started learning PSE8 and I find with tutorials they sometimes leave something out because they are talking to a more experienced user than I am. I will be printing this off and practicing when I get home. I'm sure I will be reading your resource blog a lot! Thanks so much! Denise@cottagesisters

  3. Thanks for this great tutorial! I never thought to blend a blur. (That makes sense to PS/PSE users, right?) I'm a visual learner too, so I appreciate all the screen shots.

  4. I am new to editing and will be purchasing PSE this week. Thanks for the step by step tutorial. It is just what I needed.

  5. Great tutorial!! Nice job, Amanda!

  6. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I did it on one of my own and posted it on my blog!

  7. Thanks so much for the great tutorial. I am also a very visual learner. So, the step by step screen shots really helps.

  8. Thank you all for the gracious comments! It was on honor to have this tutorial on Coffeeshop.

  9. Just wanted to let you know I did try this on a photo I had and just posted it on my blog. You are welcome to take a look and cc´s if you would be so kind.

    Thank you

  10. wow, excellent, easy to follow and loved the screen shots and arrows! great job. give us more!!!

  11. Hi! Thanks for the nice quick edit tutorial. I love actions, but it is fun to do the editing myself and this combined a couple of things I do already, but not together. I really like the effect. Here is a photo I used it on already.

  12. Thanks, Nice and easy!
    Is this basically the same as PW's "Lovely and Ethereal" action? I use the one converted for PSE7 but I've wondered if this isn't essentially what it does?

  13. thanks Amanda, can't wait to try it, so nice of you to do complete step by step instructions.Phillipa.


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