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Soft focus filter vs Photoshop

Joel Stowe , Feb 23, 2009; 01:10 a.m.

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


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Robert Cossar , Feb 23, 2009; 01:52 a.m.

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...

Gregory C , Feb 23, 2009; 10:12 a.m.

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"

Bob Crisp , Feb 23, 2009; 11:20 a.m.

The advantage to doing it in PS is that you can have the image either way, with or without the soft-focus effect.

Swede Spoltore , Feb 23, 2009; 01:38 p.m.

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

Nadine Ohara - SF Bay Area/CA , Feb 23, 2009; 02:46 p.m.

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.

John Tonai , Feb 23, 2009; 03:22 p.m.

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.

Nadine Ohara - SF Bay Area/CA , Feb 23, 2009; 05:57 p.m.

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.

John Tonai , Feb 23, 2009; 09:14 p.m.


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

Gregory C , Feb 23, 2009; 10:05 p.m.

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,,,

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