How to blur the background of a photo

I am not a good photographer. I should rephrase to make it clearer — I know nothing about photography. The blurry backgrounds of photographs always amaze me. I know how to do that using iPhone’s macro thingy. 🙂 I know that DSLR camera could give me such natural romantic-blurry-dreamy pictures but I am not into DSLR yet. No way I am going to spend that much money without knowing anything about photography. For now, I would let the knights hold the sword. I will stay with my pen, figuratively speaking of course. In reality, it should be “I will stay with my keyboard”. 🙂

Hunting for a free software

Anyway, like millions of people I believe that whenever there is a will there is a set of internet-search results that will show me the way. In fact, there are ample software products that will allow you to blur the background of a photograph. The problem with most of these software is that, …… actually the problem is not with the software products. The problem is with me. I do not like to spend too much on purchasing software, especially in this era of yearly subscription/license. Many times, the subscription is over before I get a chance to extensively use the software. Therefore, I am always in the hunt for free software tools and open-source packages.

Found one that can blur a photograph

I checked a few trial photo editing packages that have the capability of blurring backgrounds. Among all the ones I tried, none but PhotoScape X allows to blur backgrounds flexibly and save the updated image using the trial version. That means, I can blur backgrounds of as many images as I want using the free version of PhotoScape X. The free version of this software contains significant number of features that are usually NOT freely available in many other photo editing packages. The free version is a *time-unlimited* free trial.

A few sample photographs with blurred backgrounds

Before and after: Notice that the stroller is blurry in the photo at right.

Before and after: Notice that the leaves are blurry in the photo at right.

Before and after: I wanted to draw attention away from the green-house fans and ceiling. The figure at the right side blurs away the ceiling and the fans.

Before and after: The cutie pie is the center of attention in the image at the right. Everything else is blurry.

A short tutorial on how to blur the background of a photo

Of course, the first step is to visit PhotoScape X and download the software. The installation is as easy it can be. Both Mac and Windows versions are available. I used the Mac version for the samples of this post. How to blur the background of a photo using PhotoScape X is outlined below.

  1. The graphical interface has several task-groups like — Viewer, Editor, Batch, Collage, Combine, Create GIF. Make sure that the Editor tab is selected at the top row of the graphical interface.
  2. Drag and drop the photo you want to edit from hard drive to Photoscape X editor.
  3. The pane at the right side contains a menu called Adjustments. There is a plus (+) symbol to the left of it. Click on the plus symbol. This will open a list of operations. One operation is Blur (there is a water-droplet icon that appears with the label Blur). Click on the icon for Blur. Now, you have the panel you can use to blur parts of your image.
  4. You will find a Mask option. There is a plus symbol near the label Mask. Please click on that plus symbol. Masking tools are visible now. I like the right-most one, which is a paintbrush. Select the paintbrush.
  5. Once the brush is selected, you can mask anything in the image. The masked parts can then be blurred. I generally mask the part I do not want to blur. Then I check Invert Mask to invert the selections.
  6. After you have masked the parts that you would like to blur, you can change the Blur radius using a scroll bar. This allows the user to control how blurry the masked areas should be.
  7. You can press the Compare button to compare the modified photo with the original one. There is also an unmasking paintbrush to fix over-masked areas.
  8. Press the Apply button when you are satisfied with the changes.
  9. The Save As button will show up at the bottom of the interface after you press the Apply button.
  10. Save the new photo as a different file.

I made a video of how I blurred the background of a photo using Photoscape X. The video is provided below. It does not contain any sound (therefore, it is safe to play even when the kid is sleeping). Enjoy. Please let me know if you know of any other freely available (time-unlimited trial) software to blur the background of photographs.

Settle in El Paso team

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13 thoughts on “How to blur the background of a photo

  1. Hi…! I assume this is the wife? 😬

    Once I was crazy about blurring background using Snapseed in my iPhone.

    But if you didn’t do it carefully, you will overdone it. All the objects with the same distance to the camera will either blur or not. If you use any lens with high aperture, and you have enough distance for the focused object and its background, you will have blurred object. If the aperture is higher then the background will more blurred. This is called as “bokeh”, a term from Japan to refer a blurry background.

    If you live close to me, I will lend you my dlsr and start shooting together. 🙏

    Have fun!

    1. Hi, this is the Hubby. I am so glad that you wrote your expert comment here. I absolutely agree. Sometimes I overdo the blurring thing and the photo looks artificial. You are right, making parts of a photo blur requires careful crafting. I wish we lived closer to you. You could teach us a few tips with your dlsr if we were close by. Many many thanks for visiting and commenting. Have a wonderful time.
  2. I find that some of my photos appear on the big screen with a blurry background automatically, without doing any effort! Usually, when I don’t want any blur at all. 🙂 I must be talented or something… Thanks for the info!
    1. Haha! 🙂 No doubt that you are talented. You are an expert too.

      My camera is too primitive to realize focus and distinguish the background! 🙂 Have a wonderful evening.

  3. I found PhotoScape several years ago and have been very happy with it. Thanks for sharing this great tool with us 🙂
    1. I am glad to know that you already using it. I definitely agree with you; it is a great software. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Have a wonderful weekend.
  4. Thank you for sharing. I will give this a try. Hubby and 21-year old son know how to use other fancy photo editing applications and even for video editing but I have to patience to learn. 🙂

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