I’ve covered airbrushing and blurs in photos before, but those are not always good options for enhancing a photograph. One way I’ve learned over the years to enhance a photograph that only needs a slight tweek to make it perfect is by adding a soft touch the image. A soft touch is creating a small blurry glow around a person and smoothing out skin and other features ever so slightly. This gives the model a feeling of near surreality or innocence. Adding a soft touch can be done in many ways, but probably the most effective way can be done by following these steps.

There is not a huge difference but this effect is all about subtle difference.

1) Duplicate the original image, and apply any necessary adjustments to the duplicated image. This is a key thing to remember when editing any photo, since it will keep you from accidentally ruining thee original image. You should apply any corrections such as curve or levels to the duplicate image and create a new composite of all of the images and adjustments before you continue.

This image is fully adjusted but could use a slight Soft Touch to really make it.

2)Duplicate the duplicated image, and apply a 20-25 Box Blur. The intended goal is to severely blur your image without loosing the basic outlines of objects in your image. For example in the image I am working with you can still make out the little girl even though the entire image is blurry.

Image after applying the 24 Box Blur.

3) Change the blend mode of the image to either Soft Light, Lighter Color, or Normal. Which ever blending mode you choose depends entirely on the image you are adding the soft touch to. Soft light work well for images that could use a little more contrast such as the one I am using, Lighter color works well for creating only a subtle glow with out smoothing out features, and normal applies an even dispersion of blur and features over the image.

4) Set the Fill to between 40-70%, depending on the amount of blur and glow you want. I set the Fill on my image to about 66%. If you are using the Normal Blending mode then you might need to change the Opacity as well. This step can be tricky as the amount you should set each to is entirely dependent on the image you are working with and your personal taste.
The final image composite.

That’s it. By doing this you can create more surreal images. There are a few modifications you can make to these steps to get different soft touch look, such as using a Gaussian Blur rather than Bow Blur or using a different blending mode. Try experimenting with different effects and settings to get the look you want.