Soft focus filter vs Photoshop

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by joel_stowe, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. This will no dought sound naive, but since I have only used filters in my background I am now seeking enlightment. For portrait and wedding formals of the gals what are photographers now useing. Or are you doing both?
    Thanks Joel
  2. I use post processing for the effect you mention......filters offer no advantage that I can see.....BUT.....a genuine Soft Focus Lens is another matter....they do provide an effect that is unique...
  3. To me, the soft focus filter looks much better than using PS to soften a image. A image that is softened by PS looks out-of-focus than "soft"
  4. The advantage to doing it in PS is that you can have the image either way, with or without the soft-focus effect.
  5. I used soft focus filters for years and felt they did an excellent job, especially in situations that I wanted to just take the hard edge off. I stayed away from the expense of a soft focus lens because the need for softening was only a small aspect of my photography. If the need was much greater - I would have considered the soft focus lens. - I have been working with something now and that is the Tiffen Filter Co. now offers their DFX software that is sold for about $99 with over 1,500 filter effects plus you can customize and save your own filter effects. They offer a number of softening filter effects in the program which is a stand alone so you don't need Photoshop. For that price, it is much less expensive than buying several soft focus filter effects or sizes for different lenses. Good Shooting
  6. Most wedding photographers use Photoshop these days. I still use a Softar. So far, and I haven't investigated Swede's suggestion for the Tiffen software, I haven't seen a PS soft focus effect (or any other) that can mimic a Softar.
  7. I disagree with G Cottis. If the image looks out-of-focus, then the PS technique may be poor. There are a lot of ways to create soft focus effects in PS, finding the right one for you and setting the amounts takes some practice.
    There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. The advantage of PS is that the effect can be altered after the fact. You may change your mind about the diffusion or you aren't sure of how much to diffuse. The disadvantage is that it takes more time. Even if you set up an action, that is an extra step in post-production.
    The advantage of SF filters is that you are done with it. If you know the effect you want, you don't need to worry about it any more. I use soft focus lenses because I know the look I am going for. Some people tell me I'm crazy because I can't change the effect. But I don't want to change the effect. That's why I shot it the way I did. I know my equipment well enough to not have to undo things.
    Nadine, as far as the Softar effects, use a lower layer that is the sharp image and have an upper layer with the image diffused. Adjust the opacity of the upper layer to taste. The lower layer will mimic the sharp primary look of the smooth part of the filter and the diffused layer will mimic the image through the lenses of the Softar. Most people overdo the opacity of the upper layer. You will need to print out the image to judge the effect. The image on the screen will not be accurate.
  8. John--I'll try it, but so far haven't seen anything like the real thing. I think it has to do with the randomness that happens optically (I know I sound crazy but that's the best I can come up with), and since the PS effect isn't optical in origin, it isn't the same.
    The point about having the choice over whether an image is soft or not is valid (for me) only up to a point. Like you, I know when I want something soft focus, and often shoot the scene with and without--it is easy enough. Obviously, if you are shooting something which is totally candid in nature that you cannot control, you don't have that option, but then, most of the latter isn't best in soft focus, usually.
  9. Nadine,
    Because you mentioned the randomness in the Softar, are you using a smaller aperture when you shoot? This makes the bumps in the filter more apparent. You can simulate this with a couple softening layers-one barely soft and one a little more. You can use a layer mask on that layer to create pools of slightly softer areas. If you use a very soft edge brush to create these and be very gentle with the opacity it will create some randomness in the softening.
    Do you primarily use Softar 1, 2 or 3
  10. Ok, look at it like this: I can take 3 seconds & shoot second pic with my filter, I know it will be correct. Or take several minutes at my computer trying to get it correct. Now days we take 1000's of shots at one wedding anyway, so why not shoot a few with a soft focus filter ? Then vary the f stop to vary the softness ? I am a little old school, but it works,,,
  11. John--no I don't usually use a small aperture. Anyway, I thought that aperture had no effect on the Softar effect. OK, now I'm more interested and will try your PS technique, but since I don't feel that using the actual Softar slows me down or anything, I probably will still continue to use the actual filter. Thanks, though. Yours is the first I've seen that makes any sense re matching the Softar.
  12. Nadine,
    I used to think that the aperture had no effect, but I noticed that the increased depth of field with shorter lenses made the lens action of the filter a little more noticeable. However that was mostly splitting hairs. Personally, I agree with you. I think that using what works for you is best. I hope I haven't created a PS diffusion monster!
  13. John--not at all. I appreciate knowing about your technique. If it does mimic a Softar, I'll be happy to know it. Thank you again.
  14. I use the Softar #1 filter a fair amount. For me it saves a lot of time compared to using photoshop. I only use this filter for close ups, not very often for full lengths unless I am looking for a moody romantic image.
    I've tried many other soft filters, I even tried making a few using clear nail polish, but the only one I carry in my bag is the Softar.
  15. John--I had a question about how, in Photoshop, one can mimic the nice, shimmery halation of highlights that the Softar gives. Do you have a specific method of doing this?
  16. Nadine,
    Most people just use the blur tool to create diffusion. However, you have noticed that it just softens the image. If you create the blur layer then go to the blend mode and use <Screen> it will make the highlights bleed into the shadows. This is that shimmery halation you want.
    If you like what was secondary diffusion (shadows bleeding into the highlights) use the <Multiply> blend mode.
    Will need to do a lot of adjustments too get the effect you want. Once again, the diffusion effect on the screen is much different than the print. You will need to print out at the size you want to see the effect.
  17. Try the surface blur effect.
    You can set the opacity and also erase areas like the eyes that you want sharp.
  18. In my experience, it would take a month of Sundays to simulate the Zeiss Softar, and so may layers that most computers would choke on the file.
    Not one single example of so called simulation that I've seen even remotely resembles the Softar's unique effect. The Ziess filter diffuses broad areas of brights, halos the darks while maintaining micro detail in the specular highlights and minute dark details ... the better the lens used, the better the Softar works. You can stop down all the way ... it still works. Amazing really.
    So skin takes on that soft glow while micro detail remains less effected or not at all.
    IMO, there are still two filters that are still quite valuable with digital photography ... the Softer, and the circular Polarizer.

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