Skylum Luminar AI – Portrait Bokeh AI

To tell you the truth, up until 10 years ago we had never really heard of the expression “bokeh” (let alone how to pronounce it tongue-out), even though the expression has been around since the late ’90s. As Travel Photographers, generally, most of our people shots are taken in their environment so depending on the background and scenario, we would usually try to get as much in focus as possible. The only reason for us to de-focus the background was on the odd occasion when we wanted to blur the distracting background or to make the subject really stand out in the image eg. the image at the top of this post which was taken in the old town of Narai-juku in the Nagano Prefecture in Japan.

So, what is “bokeh”? For the uninitiated, the technical definition is as follows –

“Bokeh is a Japanese word that defines the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in out-of-focus parts of an image. Bokeh has also been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”. Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause very different bokeh effects.”

And how do you pronounce this weird word? Well, to avoid other photographers snickering behind your back the correct pronunciation is “boh-keh” (don’t worry, we even had to look this one up!)

So, back to the subject of this post. Skylum has just released their fourth free update of Luminar AI. The update introduces the all-new Portrait Bokeh AI. If you are a follower of our posts, you will see that we are huge fans of Luminar AI (and Luminar 4). For us, as travel photographers, we really love the amazing technology that this software offers. In our style of photography, we don’t always have the luxury (or time) to switch lenses when in the field. So, on the odd occasion, having some control over the background blur in post-processing that is fast and easy to use would be a real benefit to our workflow.

So we were quite keen to check out Portrait Bokeh AI when it was introduced in the latest update to Luminar AI. With the use of AI (artificial intelligence), Portrait Bokeh AI does a great job of recognizing individuals, groups of people, or unusually posed people in an image. The AI combined with the 3D depth-mapping technology can calculate distances in a photo, making it fast and easy to create background blur in seconds.

Though this type of processing is available in other software it can be quite complex to achieve and is usually best created in software such as Adobe Photoshop. It can involve using multiple layers and masking which can be time-consuming. Luminar AI’s –  Portrait Bokeh AI does all the heavy lifting for you (similar to using the Sky & Sky Augmentation tools) if you want to create realistic background blur to your portraits with just a couple of clicks.

As this is the first release of Portrait Bokeh AI it currently only works on portraits of people. However, there are plans to release future versions that will work on animals and other subjects as well.

As is the case with all the editing tools in Luminar AI, it is all non-destructive to the original image.

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Luminar AI Portrait Bokek AI auto-detects the person and creates a mask that allows you to apply as much (or little) background blur.

Luminar AI Portrait Bokeh AI auto-detects the individual (or group) and creates a mask that allows you to apply focus control to the background.

Skylum’s Luminar AI can be used as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, plus more. It can also be used as a standalone application which is a great option for those not wanting to pay a monthly subscription fee for editing software. It has a multitude of great editing tools. To see some of our favourite features in Luminar 4 check out our post Top 5 features we use in Luminar 4

As mentioned, Portrait Bokeh AI is a free update to existing owners of Luminar AI software. You can update by clicking on the  Luminar AI icon and choose Check for Updates (MAC) or Help>Check for Updates (WIN).

For new users, don’t forget that you can download a trial version to test before purchasing. If you like the software then just click here and use the coupon code “widescenes” at checkout to get up to 15% off.

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Getting Started

Getting started is super easy. You just need to open an image in Luminar AI, either as a single image, from the catalog, or via the plug-in from Lightroom, Photoshop, Apple Photo etc

Firstly, click on Edit from the top menu to display the tools panel on the right-hand side of the interface, then open the Portrait Bokeh AI section. As soon as you activate the Amount slider the software will auto-detect the person/s and generate a mask and apply the bokeh. You can then further control the amount of blur to apply with the Amount slider to achieve the desired look.

It’s as easy as selecting the image and using one slider!

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Works with Any Lens

Normally, to achieve that dreamy bokeh effect you would require a fast lens (eg. f1.4 – f2.8), a dedicated portrait lens (eg. 85mm f1.4), or a lens with a long focal length to achieve a level of background blur and bokeh. With Portrait Bokeh AI, you can use it with any lens to enhance existing blur/bokeh or create the blur from scratch.

To view the mask simply hover over the person and the red mask will appear.

Paint in areas that the mask may have missed.

Select Defocus to paint out areas of the mask

Masking

In Portrait Bokeh AI a mask is generated automatically if people are identified in the image. In most cases, it does a great job at creating a mask to separate the subject from the background. If any spots are missed (or added) you can simply use the Brush Control to adjust the mask. With the brush, you can paint in/out the area that you require in Focus or what needs to be blurred (Defocus).

  • Press the left or right bracket keys ([ or ]) to change the size of the brush.
  • Press Shift + bracket key ([ or ]) to adjust the softness of the brush.
  • Press the X key to toggle between Focus and Defocus.
  • Press the / (forward slash) key to toggle the visibility of the mask.
  • Use the Restore brush to paint back in the original mask.

Tip: Don’t worry about trying to get the perfect mask as you can use the Amount and Depth sliders or lower the Opacity brush when editing to achieve the desired results.

Apply background refinements for more depth and focus.

Background Refinements

The software also allows you to make adjustments to the background via multiple sliders. These handy tools can provide more depth and attention to the subject.

  • Brightness: Use this slider to lighten or darken the background.
  • Highlights Glow: This slider adds a glow to bright areas of the background.
  • Warmth: The slider warms or cools. You can control the background’s colour temperature.
  • Depth Correction: The slider allows you to adjust where the in-focus area of the photo ends. It basically moves the blur closer or further away based on the mask created by AI  & 3D mapping.
  • Edges Correction: This slider is useful for fine edges like hair as it expands or contracts the mask.

Tip: To further enhance your subject try using the other AI powered Portrait Tools such as Face AI, Skin AI and Body AI.

Works great with shots during the day and at night.

Verdict

Even though Portrait Bokeh AI is really only de-focusing the background and cannot be technically compared to the traditional “bokeh” produced by a lens, it does a reasonably good job.

As travel photographers we don’t usually shoot posed portraits, however, we have found that using the Portrait Bokeh AI works just as well with our candid street photography. Even though the results may not be as intuitive as shooting at a wide aperture in-camera, this first version release of Portrait Bokeh AI is still very good. Moving forward we can only imagine it will get better with future updates. Naturally, we would not rely solely on this software to achieve bokeh, however, knowing we have it in our arsenal to rescue images taken on the fly is incredibly useful to us.

If you like shooting portraits, weddings, or just a beginner in photography then Luminar AI Portrait Bokeh AI in combination with Face AI, Skin AI, and Body AI could possibly make it an ideal portrait editing workflow. The software is great value for money (and even better when you use our discount code to get up to 15% off laughing). If you’re still sitting on the fence, why not download a trial version (it is free) and give it a go for yourself. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Rated: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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