DIY Blurred Beach Photo

Aug 25, 2014 +

Have you ever seen a photograph or work of art that just stuck with you? An image that you can't get out of your head? I felt that way about two years ago when saw this blurred beach photo taken by Thom Filicia and displayed in his lake house :

via House Beautiful

That beach photo. Blurry and out of focus, it spoke to me. I rushed out and bought Filicia's book American Beauty which tells the story of his finding, renovating, and transforming this beautiful lake house in the Finger Lakes region of New York, an area we have vacationed in several times. I'm a huge fan of beach photography printed large scale (you can see my own photos here and here) and I've long felt inspired by Filicia's blurred photo technique to try my own DIY version. (As an aside, I don't recommend you ever copy someone else's technique or style for profit but, just as I'm inspired by Sarah Richardson's skill with patterns, I think taking an idea and being inspired to create something for your own enjoyment in your own home is what design is all about!)

I took a ton of photos on our recent vacation to Sandbanks. My first thought was to create a blurred photo by taking my DSLR off Automatic mode and setting the focus manually. Here's how that turned out:

diy blurred beach photo art inspired by Thom Filicia

diy blurred beach photo art inspired by Thom Filicia

Hmm, not so great. Some of the photos were too blurry and you couldn't tell what they were. In other photos, the blur level was fine but the photo itself wasn't that interesting.

Next, I adjusted the aperture. This allowed me to get some areas of the photo sharp and in focus while others stayed blurry.

diy blurred beach photo art inspired by Thom Filicia aperture

diy blurred beach photo art inspired by Thom Filicia aperture

These photos turned out more interesting but I found the mix of focus and blurry distracting. Your eye is drawn to the sharp and in focus areas like in the photo above where you notice the boys playing volleyball in the water but barely notice Chloe sitting on the sand.

Since none of these photos quite turned out as I hoped, I decided to do a bit of photo editing. Using Photoshop, I applied the Gaussian blur to my photos:


And the results:


diy blurred beach photo art inspired by Thom Filicia

A bit better! I found that photos that had a bit of movement in them and ones where the shapes were well defined worked best. You could blur the photo but still understand the story the photo told.


This photo was another happy surprise. I applied Surface blur to this photo; this isn't like Filicia's photo at all but I love the result. I think I'll have to print this photo up and hang it in the bathroom!

Isn't that fun when that happens - have you ever been inspired by something and ended up with an unexpected outcome?


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