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Tutorial : Fix An Out-Of-Focus Blurry Photo

We have all been there. You finally get to a location, and maybe you are rushing. You look at your photos when you get home, and your heart sinks. One of the most important shots from the location is out of focus!

This happened to me on a recent trip to Hungary (check out the travel blog for photos and stories). I think I was hand shooting, to be honest I can’t remember. The location; “Little Noisy” Army Barracks.

Determined to salvage the photo, I pieced together an interesting “3-step fix” for out-of-focus/blurry photos. I have had several people voice interest in Photoshop tutorials, so here is my first one. I hope it brings breathes life into some of your unedited photos 🙂

Fixing Out of focus Blurry Photographs Before and After Fix

Load up Photoshop (sorry Lightroom-only users!) and let’s try and recover our photograph.

Step 1 – Camera Raw Tweaks

First thing first, as they say. I like to start off with some gentle Camera Raw tweaks, to get the image a bit clearer. Make these adjustments when you first import your RAW image files into Photoshop

If you shoot JPEG, you can “cheat” and select Filter>Camera Raw Filter from the Photoshop menu to bring up these options;

  • Try a little Clarity boost first – I chose +10
  • Now, for some Sharpening!
    • Use the Masking slider so that you are only applying sharpening to the edges, this will reduce artefacts in the rest of the image. For this image, I used 50.
    • Adjust the Amount, Radius and Detail sliders to get the image to look a little sharper. This will depend on the amount of blur in your image. In my example, I use 125, 2.5 and 50.
Fixing Out of focus Blurry Photographs Step 1 Camera Raw Tweaks

Pro tip – Now is a great time for some noise reduction. Any noise in the image will be amplified when we go onto do our progressive sharpening steps. Save yourself some headaches by making some quick noise reduction tweaks now!

Step 2 – High Pass Filter, hard light blending

Our second stage of sharpening uses a High Pass Filter.

  • Duplicate the image. Name it something like “High Pass”, make sure it is on top.
  • Set the Layer Blend of this new layer to Hard Light
  • Bring up the filter via the Photoshop menu; Filter>Other>High Pass
  • Adjust the slider until you are happy with the sharpening effect, for me that was at 8 pixels.
  • I found the effect a little harsh, so I set the layer Opacity to 55.
Fixing Out of focus Blurry Photographs Step 2 High Pass Filter Sharpen

Step 3 – Sharpening with Gaussian Blur

Happy days, the image is already looking a lot better right? Now, bear with me a second as the next step may sound a little strange. We are going to use blur, to sharpen our photo. Let’s get to it.

  • We need to prepare a little;
    • Create a New Group. Name the group “Gaussian Sharpening“, or something catchy
    • Duplicate the original image (CTRL+J on Windows, Comman+J on Mac)
    • Duplicate the image again (CTRL+J on Windows, Comman+J on Mac)
    • Move both these duplicated layers in the “Gaussian Sharpening” Group
    • Set the Blending Mode of the group to Overlay
    • Set the Blending Mode of the top layer to Vivid light
    • Invert the top layer (CTRL+I on Windows, Comman+I on Mac)
  • Now, we are ready to remove the blur;
    • Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. For my image, I found a setting of 6 pixels worked. Adjust the slider until you are happy with the result.
Fixing Out of focus Blurry Photographs Step 3 Gaussian Blur Filter Sharpen

Some final edits, and we are done

Hopefully, you have saved your image. Then you can move onto some noise reductions (if required). Then you can just follow your usual editing workflow, and move onto less problematic images. I opted for a cheeky little sky enhancement, to make the skies more “moody”.

Personally, I think the quality here is more than adequate for social media sharing. Or as part of a blog series (check out the rest of my photos from this location).

Little Noisy Army Barracks Hungary Shot Across Courtyard of Main Castle Tower

Bonus, if you read this far

Download the layered TIFF file, where you can see how these tweaks look like on a medium-resolution demo image:


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