Soft Focus Car Photography

Today’s Post  by Joe Farace

Let me tell you a secret: You don’t always want or need tack sharp images. Sometimes a soft focus image is just what the doctor or photographer ordered and the use of blur or selective blur can be used add a film noir touch to an otherwise ordinary photograph.

The distinction between soft focus and creative blur are often confused, so let’s look at the differences:

When all or part of a photograph lacks sharpness, it’s blurry. Blur can be caused by camera or subject motion and can be accidentally or deliberately created by an object moving while the camera’s shutter is open, by you moving the camera or both. Digital blurring is typically accomplished through software averaging of pixel values to soften edge detail but there are other ways, such as using Photoshop’s Motion Blur, to produce streaks.

A lens that isn’t corrected for spherical aberrations produces soft focus and creates a diffused look by bending light away from the subject so that parts of the photograph are defocused while the rest remains in focus. Highlights are dispersed onto adjacent areas and the image looks focused but some of its components are just enough out-of-focus so they’re softened. In addition, sharp lines and edges are slightly fuzzy and small details disappear.

While many photographers, including myself, traditionally use soft focus techniques for portraiture, I also use if for vintage automobiles to add to that “old car” look as in this photograph of a classic Chevrolet made at San Diego’s Automotive Museum.

How I made this shot: For this photograph I used a Canon EOS 50D with EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens at 14mm. Exposure was 1/40 sec at f/4 and ISO 400 for the original color JPEG that was converted to monochrome using Silver Efex Pro with the Glamour Glow filter, that’s part of Color Efex Pro, added for the final effect.

If you’re interested in learning about how I photograph cars, please join me on a free car show PhotoWalks this summer or pick up a copy of my book “How I Photograph Cars.”