Dreamy Portraits: Popular photo looks for the wedding season

Add two stylized popular photo looks to your product offerings using Adobe Photoshop.

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Looking for a twist on images for your portrait customers? Maybe something that is popular among the wedding photo trends? How about the soft, dreamy look that can be seen from professional photographers? Or the desaturated image tones with the little colored light bubbles (called Bokeh)?

Here are two tutorials for achieving both of those sought-after wedding looks using Adobe Photoshop. The first style we will cover is the romantic, slightly blurry image effect. This is typically seen on portraits but can be used on landscapes or any photo. That look is sometimes created in camera, but you’ve got the tools to offer it to your customers, and in less than a handful of steps. The second style we’ll cover is a few more steps than the first yet a very different look. Both of these can add dimension to an image and another level to your photo gift offerings for dye-sublimation.


Open your file in Adobe Photoshop. Be sure to save it under a different file name in order to not cause yourself undue stress. We’ll start off by adding an extra bit of sharpening to the image. It sounds odd to sharpen for a soft-focused image style but just go through the steps with me to see the end results. From the top menu bar, choose Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Adjust your settings for the pixel amount to 125 percent; our Radius will be 1 and the Threshold should be at 4 for the amount.

Now we will duplicate the sharpened layer. This can be done through the duplicate layer button at the bottom of the Layers menu or in the top right drop down menu within the Layer’s menu. Don’t change the opacity or make any edits to the layer, simply duplicate it.

Next, let’s add a bit of a Gaussian Blur to it. Again, select from the top menu bar, Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Start with a Radius of 30 pixels. Based upon your results, you may need to vary the blur by 10 pixels or more in either direction. The image should look fairly blurry but not appear as one big mess of painted watercolors. Go back to your Layers palette and in the top right of the menu, adjust the opacity of the blurred layer to around 32 percent for the final step. Again, you may need to vary this amount based upon your image and results you are seeing. That’s it! Save a flattened copy of your file and you are ready to go.


Open your file and let’s start editing in Photoshop. You may notice in the accompany images for this feature I have a duplicate of the original image. This is just in case-the layer is actually turned off. We’ll add a Gradient Map to start with onto the photograph of our little girl. This effect can be found at the bottom of the Layer palette: click on the round button that is half black and half white. Then go to the bottom of the options to select Gradient Map.

For the example here, I selected a pre-loaded gradient that includes purple and orange. I then changed the orange to a light tan shade. You can always go back through and edit the colors in the Gradient Map. For the Gradient Map, set the blend mode to Screen (top left of the Layers palette) and drop the opacity down to 90 percent.

Then we will desaturate our image by going back to the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers menu. Select Hue & Saturation from the drop down menu. In the Saturation bar, you can use the slider or type in -45 for the amount. Play with the amount to vary the look-do you need to increase that number, decrease it, or does that amount work well for your image?

Create a new layer; we are going to brush some sunshine onto this layer. I selected a huge brush size of about 2,000 pixels and varied my opacity or flow of the brush between 100 percent and 80 percent. I changed the edge of the brush to have a very soft edge. We don’t want a hard edge to create this glowing look.

I dabbed the brush in the top right of the image to the left of the girl and a little in the top left. Before adding any more sunshine, change the blend mode of this layer to screen. Now take a look and see if you want to add any more. You should have some nice subtle spots of glowing light. You can stop here or add a few spots of colored lights, as shown in the images with this article. Don’t forget to save your files often.


Use a Bokeh light effect (with large circles for this example) image with a dark background. I found an image online and used that with the image of the little girl. You want the background to be black. If it isn’t, then darken it using Levels.

I dragged the image of the lights onto another layer in my file. Then set the layer blend mode to screen. You may want to make the circles larger or smaller. Experiment to see where the circles fall on the image and move them around as needed. You may even need to do a horizontal or vertical flip of the Bokeh for the circles to hit in the right spots.

You may also need to adjust the hue (color) or saturation of the Bokeh layer. Changing the coloring of the lights may accent the image better. Once you have everything in your file, you can further experiment. This image would look great on a ChromaLuxe photo print (I’m thinking the semi-gloss white metal) or maybe on a keepsake box with a Happy Mother’s Day note in the empty space next to the little girl.

Inspiring your customers with what you can do for their photos paired with your sublimated products can lead to more business from current customers. They will brag about where they picked up such great items to their friends, leading to new customers. You’ve got the magic tools to create these stylized portrait effects at your fingertips in Adobe Photoshop.

Jennifer Foy

Jennifer Foy


Jennifer Foy has over 20 years of experience using Adobe software and working in the advertising, marketing, and design fields. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, and a Master of Arts in Advertising from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. Her years of teaching experience include numerous software and design classes for colleges in Atlanta, Georgia, and Louisville, Kentucky. Jennifer is currently working as the Creative Director at Universal Woods with the Unisub and ChromaLuxe brands. Jennifer can be reached by email at [email protected]

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