With the innovation and technological strides in post production software, there has never been a better time to showcase your personal style and vision through the editing of your images.
Since the introduction of powerhouse programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, photographers are now able to create images that truly reflect their best work. While both are incredibly efficient options for producing your edited photographs, the tools and tricks of Photoshop have been advancing photographers’ skill level for decades.
While you may be familiar with tools such as the magic eraser or the content aware tool, Photoshop contains a plethora of stylistic and technical options for optimized editing.
One method that is popular among both portrait and landscape photographers is the creation of soft edges to frame their subject. Creating this effect can be done within a few steps and is designed to smooth and fade the edges of your photograph.
Why You Would Soften Edges in Photoshop
The concept of softening edges in Photoshop is also known as feathering. This technique is used in order to create a natural distinction between the focus on your image and its background.
Photographers and editors use this tool in Photoshop to give distinction and detail to a specific area of their image. For example, in portraits you want the main focus of your photograph to be your subject. In order to truly enhance and separate the subject from the background, a feathering technique can be applied for visual enhancement.
This same concept can be applied to landscape photography. If you are capturing a scene of a mountain range, the rugged caps are what you will want your viewer to focus on. In order to draw their eyes to the focal point, you can soften the edges around the mountains’ exterior to reinforce the strengthen of your landscape.
How to Create Soft Edges in Photoshop
Now that we have discussed its purpose, let’s take a look at how you can achieve this stylistic technique on your own photographic work.
To create soft edges for your images, follow these steps:
1. Open the photograph you want to edit in Photoshop
2. Choose a selection tool based on the content that you are aiming to alter. The easiest selection tools for this would either be the Lasso or Quick Selection option as it allows you to create a freeform selection of your specific area.
3. Once you have chosen your tool, draw your selection around the image to create a border of where you want the edges to be softened
4. Navigate to the top menu, click “Select” then click “Modify” and chose “Feather.” The Feather Selection box will open.
5. You will then have the option to add the pixel width for your soft edges. In this box you can change and alter the amount of pixels in order to achieve your desired look.
6. Next, navigate back to the Select option and choose Inverse.
7. Create a New Layer in your Layer Panel.
8. From the top menu, choose Edit > Fill
9. Choose White for Your Fill Color.
10. The entire area outside of your selection will be filled with white. From here you can adjust the opacity and fill of your feathering in order to find a look that is right for you.
11. Once you are satisfied with your softened edges, save the image under a new file name, so that you can compare your changes with the original photograph.
Examples of Softened Edges in Portraits & Landscapes
Utilizing the soft edges, feathering technique can be an effective way to place visual focus on the subject of your image. Effective and professional use of this tool should be done in a manner that is noticeable, but does not over power or take away from the original image.
The amount of softening you add to your photographs is completely up to you and should reflect your stylistic eye and vision. As we can see in the examples above, I added a small amount of softening and feathering to my images, but did not want to lose the overall essence of my photograph.
Now that we have covered how to achieve this look, be sure to test it out on your own work in Photoshop. Think outside the box and be creative to create your most unique, feathered images.