How to Add Bokeh Overlays

Updated: Sep 26

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Ever wonder why some photos look more magical than others? Part of this is credited to how talented the photographer is plus having a fancy camera, but with a little editing in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop you can create magical photos with just a point and shoot camera!


According to the Oxford dictionary, bokeh is "the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens." To create this effect without a full frame camera, you can add bokeh overlays to your images in Photoshop! Even if you're not making the entire background into a bokeh blur, adding some in only areas of light on your image can create an enchanting effect.




In the image above, I added bokeh to the upper right corner and then used a screen blend mode with a slight gaussian blur filter. I also added a very subtle lens flair to the top left corner, and used a layer mask to erase any part of the lens flair that was on top of the subject.


In the image below, I added the bokeh to three of the corners and still used a screen blend mode with a gaussian blur.

Below is another photo from a different photo shoot I applied this affect to:


Here's how to do this to your own photos:


  1. Open the image in Adobe Lightroom and apply a preset of choice. (I used my own preset titled "Airy Midtone Forest")

2. Apply a graduated filter to the area you plan on putting the lens flare along with the majority of the bokeh.


3. Export your edited image as a .jpeg and then open it in Adobe Photoshop.

4. Convert your image layer (it will be a locked background layer by default) to a smart object.

5. Add your lens flare to the area of the photo that the sun was coming from when the image was shot.


6. Apply a mask to the lens flare.

7. Select the mask, and then use the brush tool with the color black to erase any of the flare that's on top of the subject.

8. Place your bokeh overlay onto the image using File -> Place and locate the bokeh image. I downloaded a free one from purple11.com.

9. Adjust the bokeh how you want it to go on the image, and then apply the screen blend mode and adjust the opacity to your liking.

10. Apply a gaussian blur to the bokeh layer. (I adjusted the radius to 10 pixels)


11. Apply a layer mask to the bokeh layer and then use a black brush on this mask to remove any of the bokeh you don't want.

12. Repeat steps 8-11 to add more bokeh, and rotate or flip it to go where you want and then you're done!


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© 2019 by Janessa Martin

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Southern Oregon Photographer in Grants Pass, Oregon