Imagine a Dream

Posted June 1st, 2006 by Mike Cherim

Working on a project recently I wanted to produce a dream-state image, but without a loss of subject clarity and with a squared up background, and I wanted it to be easy — as in I didn’t want to have to cut out the focused part. This presented a few challenges for me and I came up with the following technique that I’m now rather fond of.

To use this technique you will start first with a photograph. Any one will work, but preferably a flattened image with no focused depth-of-field. In other words the whole photo is in focus. You could do this to an image that does have some blurring, but in this example we’ll start from scratch. This is a photo of a mountain cabin in a snowy clearing.

You need to make a copy of this image, pasted on top and aligned with the underlying. Then you create a circular or oval fade this image (I am assuming you know how to do this already). Some may stop at this point, the image is dreamy, but there are some disadvantages to this type. For one thing, to make sure the faded edges aren’t cut off, the focused part of the image will have to be rather small, and the choice of focused area in confined to the center. Additionally, the shape of the focused area will be controlled by the shape of the image. Depending on precisely how this technique is done (there are really two ways), you may skip the fade.

You next step is to take the underlying image and add a gaussian blur effect to it (4-6). This alone looks pretty dreamy (or really drunk maybe) but it has no focal point. That just won’t do; it’s too dreamy, we still need to show an image that one can equate to.

Above I mentioned the possibility of skipping the image-fading step. One variation of this technique, shown here, is to take the top image and apply simple transparency to it. About 50% works. This effectively creates a nice dreamy look, but the focus is everywhere.

Now we try the original variant using the faded image over the blurred one. With this method we have spot focus, a nice full size image, and the point of focus can be moved around the scene to spot on what you want.

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