Have you ever wondered how photographers can make their photographs look so nostalgic? Or what drove the old Hollywood aesthetic we all know and love?

The answer is soft focus, and by reading this article, you'll learn how to achieve it in no time!

If you want to learn more, you can read our article on photography. There you'll learn everything you need to know about photography and more!

Soft focus definition

What is soft focus in photography?

Soft focus is a technique used in photography to reduce the contrast of the fine details in an image.

The soft focus is a blur that happens due to a spherical aberration, or in other words, diffusion of light.

In other words, you get a blurry picture without sacrificing the sharp edge, which is one of the differences between this and an out-of-focus image.

Soft focus is originally thought of as a lens flaw or a technical flaw in the lens. But instead of fixing it, some manufacturers started making lenses with this specific flaw because of the results it could produce.

While soft focus can be edited during post-production, it won't match the result of taking an image with a soft focus lens.

Soft focus characteristics

  • Provides a dreamy aesthetic
  • Masks blemishes
  • Makes skin look smooth
  • The method of choice for "glamorous" Hollywood pictures
  • Gives a nostalgic feeling to the image

How to achieve soft focus shots in 5 ways

There are many different ways to achieve soft focus in your shots, but we've described the most common ways.

1. Lens

First and foremost, the easiest way to do it is to buy a unique soft focus lens.

These lenses are typically costly, and they're really for achieving soft focus only.

So if you're prepared to spend close to a thousand dollars to get a soft focus lens, this will give you the best results. If not, don't worry; there are other ways!

soft focus techniques

2. Filter

Another attachment for your camera is a filter for the lens. There are several different types of soft filters you can find, which work by diffusing the light to create the effect of soft focus.

You can get different strength types, and it will probably still end up costing you a lot if you want one of each, but it also means that you won't have to buy a specific lens just for that purpose.

Filters, individually, are cheaper and less of a hassle to carry around than a whole lens.

Using a soft focus filter also means using it on several lenses. If you want to try how it works on a macro or a zoom lens, you could quickly try it without spending additional money.

3. Vaseline

Yes, you read that right. You can use vaseline to achieve soft focus. And no, it's not the weirdest way to do it. You'll see it in the following method.

To achieve soft focus using vaseline, you'll first have to buy a UV filter for your lens. The quality of the UV filter doesn't matter. It's not there to enhance anything, just to protect your lens glass.

Once you've got a UV lens and some vaseline, follow these steps:

  1. Apply the UV filter to your lens
  2. Put a small amount of vaseline on your finger
  3. Smear the vaseline on the UV filter in a nice and even layer
  4. Clear your finger
  5. Take a photo and evaluate the level of soft focus
  6. (Optional) apply the vaseline to the edges ONLY to obtain a sharp center with smooth edges

Once you're done, you can remove the vaseline from the UV filter, and it should be ready to go for your next shoot. And what's more important, no damage has been done to your valuable lens.

soft focus methods

4. Stocking

Now you're probably wondering what we mean by stocking.

Is it a specific method of photography? Or perhaps slang for specific settings in your camera?

Nope, we're just talking about a stocking, you know, the type that you wear.

Once you've got it, do the following steps:

  1. Cut the stocking into a more manageable piece.
  2. Stretch it around your lens
  3. Take a rubber band and use it to keep the stocking stretched around the lens
  4. Adjust the stretch to achieve the perfect soft focus. The more you stretch it, the less blurry the picture will be.

You can use different colors to achieve different results, e.g., warmer color stockings provide warmer color photos and vice versa. If you prefer a neutral color, you should go for black stockings.

5. Post-Processing

While you won't achieve perfect soft focus in post-processing, it can still provide an acceptable result.

This is how you achieve soft focus in Adobe Photoshop.

  1. Go to layer> Duplicate.
  2. Select the new layer
  3. Press on Filter > Blur > Surface Blur and adjust the radius to 20 and the threshold to 200.
  4. Go to layer> Layer Mask > Hide All
  5. Select the soft brush in the paintbrush tool
  6. Select the white color and set the opacity to 25%
  7. Now you can paint the soft blur directly on your photo.
soft focus ways

When to use soft focus in photography?

There are different types of situations to use soft focus in photography.

As we've already mentioned, it was famous for Hollywood shoots. They provide a dreamy and nostalgic feel to it when you see it.

If you're in a situation where that's needed, that is an excellent time to pull out the stocking or a soft focus filter.

Learn more. Get the photography fundamentals

I hope you learned everything you wanted to know about soft focus in photography. Now you should be able to achieve it yourself!

But the soft focus is not the only photographic technique you should know about! Read our article on photography, and learn all the basics and different tips and tricks!

What is soft focus?

Soft focus is a technique used in photography to reduce the contrast of the fine details in an image.

What is a soft focus in photography?

Soft focus is a technique used in photography to reduce the contrast of the fine details in an image.