Capture Sharp, Blur Later

            Digital has introduced so many new opportunities for photographers that did not exist with film, like the ability to have people in clean interior photographs.  Prior to digital, photographers had to deal with slow speed films while using small apertures and filters, all leading to very long exposures.  Having people within interior images was not practical.  Now, with faster speed sensors, smaller formats (with greater DOF), and the ability to correct color, and such, in computer, exposures have gotten much shorter, allowing for people to enter the image.

            Using people in our images can be very advantageous.  It gives a sense of scale, and shows how people use and interact with the design.  However, the big question always is, should they be sharp or blurry. 

            A sharp person can be distracting, whereas blurry not so much.  So many architects choose to have all or most people blurry in the images.  The problem here is how to do it? 

           Many photographers are trying to accomplish this through the lens on location.  Doing so is a noble effort, however very limited and nearly impossible to perfect.  To start with, when your exposure is a second or two, or even a ½ or a ¼, a person needs to move much slower then you would think to get a nice blur.  Trying to perfect this with a novice “model” on location is going to waste time.  Additionally, if you are using strobes, the flash is going to freeze the person initially.  You will end up with a ghostly sharp image of your subject over a blurry one (see right).  

            The better option is to have your “models” remain still, capture a (somewhat) sharp image, and blur them later in Photoshop.  Photoshop has an effective motion blur filter, which can be adjusted in strength and direction, providing much creative freedom.  

            The only caveat here is you need capture an image people free and layer your models overtop that image.  Blurring a person in Photoshop will also blur the architecture, which will not look natural.  However, cutting out and dropping in your models will ensure your backgrounds are not blurry.  And last, don’t forget to layer in the shadows and/or reflections of your subjects too.  

            Here is a selection of images from a recent photo shoot with JKR Partners Architects showing before and after editing.