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Radial Blur in Photoshop

Photo manipulation of high speed car

Picture 1. High speed car

03.11.2007 Category: Photoshop
Not long ago I found myself out of ideas when it comes to photography. I couldn't find anything interesting to photograph. I had this one idea in my mind but it would have been too difficult to photograph. I wanted to to take a photograph of a car in high speed. I wanted the car to be sharp and the background to be motion blurred. I thought about it and decided to implement my vision with the help of Photoshop.

Photographing the Car


Picture 2. BMW is the car for my composition.

I wanted something more exciting than my Nissan Primera (96) so I went for a walk with my digital camera and found the car in picture 2. I decided to shoot it from pretty low angle to make it a little more dramatic.

Photographing the Background

S-curved road

Picture 3. Road with S-curve is the background for my composition.

Obviously the background would be some kind of road. I wanted the road to make a S-curve. I also wished the photo to have some trees with autumn colors. Unfortunately the winter is coming so most of the leaves were already gone. However i managed to get just a little bit of color into my shot as you can see in picture 3. I took the photo from the same low angle as the photo of the BMW. It's very important that the both photos have been taken approximately from the same angle.

Photoshop Processing

Extracting the Car

BMWs background erased in photoshop

Picture 4. First I extracted the BMW from its background.

Background replaced in Adobe Photoshop

Picture 5. Shadows and right scale make the car fit into the background.

Radial Blur applied as smart filter

Picture 6. Photoshop's Radial blur is what makes this picture.

Radial Blur filter creates the sense of speed

Picture 6. Complete image. Radial blur creates the feeling of speed.

The first thing is to extract the BMW from its background. Since the outline of the car consists of many arcs I decided to use Pen Tool to make selections. This seemed to be fast and accurate method. In picture 4 you can see the car without the background.

Combining the Photos

Next I combine the car with the other background (picture 3). That is just a simple drag and drop operation. Of course at first the car looks like it's been just pasted on the photo. First thing to do to enhance to picture is to scale the BMW to suit the road.

Creating Shadow Under the Car

At the moment the car looks like it's floating. This can be fixed by creating a shadow under the car. The shadow is very simple to create:

Turning Lights on

In the original photo the car is parked so the front lights are off. If I want to create an illusion of a car in motion I should turn the lights on. To do this I use the same method as when creating the shadow under the car except I change the Blending mode of the layer to Hard Light. Shadows and lights can be seen in picture 5.

Adding the Driver and Rotating the Car

Since I photographed a parked car I am missing the driver. I add myself to the drivers seat. I don't do much work here because the driver can only barely be seen. I also rotate the car 1 degree to clockwise direction because the car is in curve and in high speed.

Radial Blur Filter Creates Motion Blur

Photoshop's Radial Blur filter is what really makes this picture. Radial blur creates the feeling of speed to this photo. I apply Radial Blur as smart filter and carefully paint the mask to limit the effect. In this kind of picture the radial blur effect should be strong in the foreground and mild in the background (picture 6).

Finalizing the Image

I boost the brightness and saturation a little to make the picture even more energetic. Finally I flip the whole picture because the car is going to the wrong direction and crop the image to make the composition more effective. Picture 7 is the final picture.

I really like the fact that today's digital image processing tools such as Adobe Photoshop lets one create pictures that would otherwise be very difficult if not impossible to create. See a bigger version of the final radial blur image.