Photoshop CC – Neural Filters

Shiras Bull Moose
Bull Moose With A Neural Filter Applied

Adobe have added a number of new features to both Photoshop CC and Adobe Lightroom Classic over the past several months.

Today, I’m playing with the Neural Filters in Photoshop.

One dilemma I encounter photographing moose in the wild is the environment. Moose tend to be found in areas of thick forest or underbrush, and the backgrounds tend to get a little busy with sticks, twigs and other distractions. Good photographers know that the quality of the background, or more specifically, the busyness of the background, can make or break a good photo.

When you add to the equation that many of the common telephoto lenses being used today don’t have a full range of aperture for controlling depth of field in these settings. One can always purchase expensive f/2.8 lenses, which give a good range of DOF, but for most of us using less expensive equipment, we’re probably going to be lucky to get an aperture of f/5 or maybe not even as open as that. I normally set my camera to f/7.1 to photograph moose. It gives me enough depth of field to get most of the animal in focus, but at that aperture, more of the background is going to be present and therein lies the problem.

Enter Photoshop Neural Filters.

By using the Neural Filter function in Photoshop CC, you can now create a more blurred background without distorting or softening the primary focal point of the image.  Case in point, today’s photo of a Shiras Bull Moose with a lot of trees and branches as a background.

Here’s the original photo taken with the aperture set for f/6.3. I had to open the aperture a little bit as this animal was in early morning shade and I wanted to get as much light in the shot as possible for good exposure. But, even at f/6.3 you can see the amount of background distraction as a result. Those sticks and tree trunks are quite noticeable and create a distracting element to your photo that can be reduced using the neural filter, and without looking over processed as a result.

Neural Filters in Photoshop
Original photo with normal processing applied

Compare the original photo to the first image in the post which has a neural filter applied. The difference is obvious. The first photo in this post has a lot less distracting background. I didn’t adjust the filter to it’s maximum effect, but I could have blurred that background even more.

The bottom line, the new neural filter function in Photoshop will allow me to further isolate distracting backgrounds for moose and other wildlife. A technique that when done manually in Photoshop, was always tedious and time consuming and difficult to do well.

The neural filters are executed via the cloud, so if you aren’t connected to the Internet when creating the filtered effect, you won’t be able to accomplish it. It also takes a little time, as I assume it uploads the image to the Adobe neural filter processing server where the calculations are done.

The neural filters aren’t limited to simple tasks such as this either. There are filters for doing portraits and other subject matter manipulations. I haven’t played with people shots yet, but I can see how they may be of benefit to other photographers using different subjects and compositions.

If you’d like to learn more about neural filters, click this link.

As for me, I’m glad to see Adobe adding advanced tools to their software. This particular enhancement will greatly benefit many photographers by giving them editing solutions that simply haven’t existed up until now.

Your mileage may vary.