But we can do better.

Then, I applied Photoshop's Unsharp Mask filter to sharpen the cat even more, and followed that with an application of Photoshop's Blur tool to the non-cat portions of the image to increase the out-of-focus appearance of the background. As a final touch, I put the Dodge tool to work to lighten the cat's eyes. You can see the final image in Figure 2.48.

Figure 2.48. Blurring the background while sharpening the cat produces a more dramatic selective focus effect.

Figure 2.48. Blurring the background while sharpening the cat produces a more dramatic selective focus effect.

The Photoshop CS Lens Blur feature can do much the same thing, except producing a more realistic effect. Lens blur uses something called a depth map to decide which pixels in a "flat" image belong "in front" and which belong "in back," so blur can be applied only to the portion we want. This depth map can be a stored selection (which Photoshop calls an alpha channel) or a layer mask, which is a type of selection/alpha channel that's associated only with a particular layer, and which applies only to that layer.

For Photoshop's purposes, the darker pixels in the alpha channel or layer mask are treated as though they reside in the foreground of your photo, while the lighter pixels are treated as if they are in the background. I'll provide an example that should make this clearer. Figure 2.49 is a digital camera photo which, like most digital camera photos, has a plethora of depth-of-field. Everything in the foreground and background is as sharp as the subject herself.

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