If you have a shot you took handheld in low light (so the blurriness was caused by shooting with a slow shutter speed), or if your blurry shot came from a long lens, you may be in luck using a filter called Shake Reduction. It can greatly reduce the blur caused by shots where your camera moved a bit (it’s not for shots where your subject is moving). This filter works best on images that don’t have a lot of noise, have a pretty decent overall exposure, and where you didn’t use flash. It doesn’t work on every image, but when it does, it’s pretty jaw-dropping.
Here’s a shot I took handheld in low light; it’s a blurry mess, and this is exactly when you’d reach for the Shake Reduction filter (it’s found under the Filter menu, under Sharpen). When the filter opens, it immediately starts analyzing the image, starting in the middle (where most blurring occurs) and searching outward from there. You’ll see a little progress bar appear (as it’s thinking) near the bottom of the small preview on the right side of the dialog (that preview is called the Detail Loupe; more on this in a moment). If you want to cancel the analyzing process, just click the little circular “No!” symbol at the end of the progress bar. Note: I’ve turned off the Preview checkbox here, so you could see the blur.
Once it’s done doing the math, it shows you its automated blur correction (seen here), where I have to say, on this image, it did a pretty good job. It’s not perfectly sharp and there is some ghosting, but the original was completely unusable. At least now, if I wanted to put it on Facebook or Twitter at web resolution, it would be totally passable, which I think is saying a lot. For most users, this is all you’ll need to do: open the filter, let it do its thing, and you’re done. However, if you’re a “tweaker,” then read on.
The filter automatically calculates what it thinks is the amount of camera shake based on how many pixels it thinks have moved, but if the auto method doesn’t look good, it may be that it either needs to affect more or fewer pixels. That’s what the Blur Trace Bounds slider is for. This slider controls how many pixels the filter affects (kind of like how the Tolerance slider for the Magic Wand tool determines how far out the tool selects). Dragging the slider to the left affects fewer pixels (so, if there’s just a little blurring, it may need to affect fewer pixels) and dragging to the right affects more pixels. Its own estimation is pretty darn good but, again, you can override it (in this case, I only moved it a little). If you get ghosting (as we did here) or other artifacts, drag the Artifact Suppression slider to the right a bit (here, I dragged it to 45%).
On the right side of the filter dialog is that small preview called the Detail Loupe, which shows you a zoomed-in view of your image (you can change its level of magnification by clicking the zoom amount buttons right below it). If you press the letter Q on your keyboard, the Detail Loupe now floats, so you can reposition it anywhere you’d like (press Q again to re-dock it). If you click-and-hold inside the Detail Loupe, it gives you a quick “before” view of your image (before you removed the camera shake). When you release the button, it brings you back to the edited “after” image.
Luckily, there’s more to the Detail Loupe than just that. Its power comes when you position it over an area you want analyzed. Let’s open a different image and put this Detail Loupe to work (this is, as you can see, another blurry mess—a shot you’d delete for sure). This is the “before” image (I turned off the Preview checkbox, so you can see what it looks like before the filter is applied). Now, let’s use the Detail Loupe to help us correct the blurriness.
Double-click on the spot within your image where you want that Detail Loupe to appear (it’ll leave its home on the right side and jump to that spot in your image). Now, click the circular button in the bottom-left corner of the Loupe (as seen here) and it analyzes the area right under the Loupe. (Note: If you already had the Loupe floating, you don’t need to double-click, a single click will do.) Look at how much better the image looks with the camera shake reduced. So, in this case, we double-clicked on the area right in front, but what if there’s more than one place where you want the emphasis on camera shake reduction placed? Well, luckily, you can have multiple Regions of Interest (that’s what Adobe calls the areas being analyzed).
TIP: Manually Choosing Blur Direction
If you think the filter got the direction of the blur wrong, you can choose it manually using the Blur Direction tool (the second tool down in the Toolbox in the top left—it becomes active after you expand the Advanced section on the right). Just click-and-drag it in the direction of the blur, for the approximate length of the blur. Use the Bracket keys to nudge the length; add the Command (PC: Ctrl) key to nudge the Angle.
To see how much area is inside the Blur Estimation Region, expand the Advanced section (on the right side of the dialog) by clicking on its right-facing triangle, and you’ll now see a bounding box around the area that’s being analyzed (press Q to re-dock the Detail Loupe). You can click directly in the center of that box to drag it to a new location to have it analyze that area instead. You can also click-and-drag the corners in/out to resize it.
TIP: Reducing Junk Sharpening Creates
Sharpening generally brings out noise (which is why Adobe says this filter works best on images that were not shot at a high ISO), but there are two sliders that can help: (1) the Smoothing slider tries to reduce grain in the image, and (2) the Artifact Suppression slider helps to get rid of spots and other junk that appear when you apply extreme sharpening like this. These are both applied before the standard noise reduction (see tip below).
If you need to analyze more than one area, you can use the Blur Estimation tool (it’s the first tool in the Toolbox) to drag out another Blur Estimation Region (as seen here). Now it will focus on those two areas when analyzing the image to reduce blur.
TIP: Auto Noise Reduction
By default, the Shake Reduction filter applies an Auto noise reduction to the source image, but if you don’t think it did a great job, you can use the Source Noise pop-up menu to try one of the three different noise reduction amounts (Low, Medium, and High).
Learn more about sharpening in Photoshop in The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers. Also, be sure to check out all the great online Photoshop courses available at KelbyOne.