Alien Skin Bokeh – A Kick-Butt Photoshop Plug-In

before

Mouse over the image to see a before and after

A while back I got a peek at a plug-in from Alien Skin called Bokeh.  I was familiar with previous Alien Skin products which were mainly used for creating special effects in photos.   This plug-in however was different.  For those of you don’t aren’t familiar with the term “bokeh” it is a word derived from the Japanese term boke, meaning fuzzy.  In photographic terms, it is used to describe the soft out of focus portion of an image when using a large aperture with a shallow depth of field.  The most preferred bokeh is soft and smooth.  You can get this effect by using a lens such as the legendary Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 or the EF 85mm f/1.2.  The problem with using one of these lenses is that they cost upwards of $1500 – $1800.  A more cost effective solution is the Bokeh plug-in.

You can select your subject and then apply the filter to the unselected area or use one of the other features such as radial or planar blurring.  You can also choose to replicate the bokeh from several different lenses, including the afformentioned Canon 50 and 85 mm lenses.  The effect is far and away better than any blur tool in Photoshop, including the Lens Blur filter (see the image below).

Lens Blur filter at 100%

Lens Blur filter at 100%

The only down-side to the Bokeh filter would be the price.  At $199, it’s a bit pricey but considering the results and what you would pay for a lens that achieves the same effect, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable.  If you are a NAPP member you can knock 10% off the price using the special NAPP discount code found on the member’s page.  Make sure you check back next week for a video tutorial where I will demonstrate some of the filter features.  I would post it now but I’m having way too much fun playing.

Creating the model look using Bokeh

Creating the miniature model look using Bokeh

Comments

  1. mike meyer says:

    Even though it’s totally useless as far as I can tell, that miniaturization effect is so cool. What is it good for? I’ve tried it in Photoshop and haven’t had much luck. It does seem a bit pricey but very nice.

    mike meyer

  2. You mention both a 50 1.2 and an 85 1.2 …but what’s wrong with using a 50 1.8? Although it doesn’t give the crazy aperture that either lens you mentioned has, it’s still a sub- $200 lens and still cheaper (I’d argue more useful) then the Bokeh plugin you’re reviewing.

  3. I love this plug-in! Thank you so much for posting about it.

  4. Hey Jeff! Thanks for showing the effects of this very cool plug-in. I am a Bokeh addict, In MHO achieving nice Bokeh is possible with lenses with a max. aperture under 2.0, depending on the length / mms. A 85 mm f/1.8 will give you nice Bokeh, whereas at 21 mm a f/1.4 usually are needed. With a 50 mm lens, f/1.8 should work, f/1.4 is better. Lenses in the 50 mm range and f/1.8 or 1.4 can be bought (sometimes used) at the price point of this plug-in. But this is not the point, i think – with this fine plug-in you have the absolute control what is ‘out of focus’ or ‘in Bokeh’ – long after the shot. Even pics shot with a Point and Shoot as the Canon G10 etc. (small sensor -> big DoF) might be ‘bokehd’ with this plug-in. I hope Alien Skin has a trial period available for this thing and I’ll start playing with it if possible. I look forward to your video, thanks for your post!

  5. @ Kathryn,
    The reason I mentioned those two lenses is because the plug-in emulates them specifically. They are known as some of the sharpest and best bokeh lenses ever. You can achieve a shallow depth of field with a 1.8 and it would be about the same cost as the plug-in. The problem is that you are limited as to how you can use the lens seeing as how it is a fixed focal length. The beauty of the Alien Skin plug-in is that you can achieve the level of bokeh that you desire and be selective about where you want it applied.

  6. While this looks like a cool plug in, this same miniaturization effect can be done for free (assuming you own Photoshop, and you should if you are looking at buying plug-ins for it) relatively easily. Just follow this tutorial.

    http://www.tiltshiftphotography.net/photoshop-tutorial.php

    I can appreciate plug-in’s making life easier, I use them all the time, but there’s usually a way to do the desired effect without a plug-in if you know the way. Doing the miniaturization effect without the plug-in is very easy. In regards to creating that authentic bokeh look, the plug-in may very well be worth the price, if that’s what you are attempting to do. But as far as the miniaturization goes, it’s just cheaper to do it with Photoshop’s native tools.

    • I don’t disagree Chris. The miniaturization effect is just a small part of what this plug-in is capable of. I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone buy it for that reason alone.

  7. I’ve been reading the comments that have been coming up with this post and I felt I needed to add my 2c to the mix. I appreciate having a plug in to replicate bokeh after the fact if circumstance or kit didn’t allow you to create a bokeh during capture. However, I have always felt that a digital bokeh still leaves something to be desired over an optical one. There is a quality to the blur and the out of focus highlights that are created as the light plays with the lens that I have yet to see replicated digitally. I would always suggest the investment in good glass over a photoshop plug in (for nikon shooters, we have a 50mm f1.4 that is razor sharp for $390 brand new). Yes more expensive, but it offers much more flexibility in your shooting. I have also loved that it is a prime lens and that I actually have to move to frame my shots, I am not a potted plant, I like moving around my subject, trying new angles. Photography should be active and fun. And though I hate to have to bring this point up, but this is for anyone looking for precise control over their depth of field in an image. You need to learn your apertures. Film shooters had wheels and guides to figure out focal points and acceptable range of sharpness for precise bokeh. Many cameras these days have a depth of field preview button on them. If precise control is needed, you have all of the tools at your disposal to create it.

  8. Don Simpson says:

    If you really want Bokeh why not have complete control over placement, shape, color, and size. Here is a set of brushes that will do it all and for a lot less money. http://www.daz3d.com//i.x/shop/itemdetails/-/?item=9377

  9. i downloaded the trial version but im having a lttle bit problem installing it.please can you direct me on what to do? this is my email.janelixir@gmail.com
    thanks

Trackbacks

  1. James Howe says:

    Alien Skin -Bokeh plugin looks quite interesting, a short review by Jeff Revell: http://twurl.nl/hlmiac

  2. [...] over at PhotowalkPro takes you through his rundown of Alien Skin Bokeh. Looks really good if you ask me. You did ask, [...]

  3. #photoshop PhotoWalkPro » A Kick-Butt #Photoshop Plug-In http://tinyurl.com/c6757g (via @photoframd)

  4. RT @IsaacVanName #photoshop PhotoWalkPro » A Kick-Butt #Photoshop Plug-In http://tinyurl.com/c6757g (via @photoframd)

  5. RT @IsaacVanName #photoshop PhotoWalkPro » A Kick-Butt #Photoshop Plug-In http://tinyurl.com/c6757g (via @photoframd)

Speak Your Mind

*