The release of Photoshop Elements 14 last week included an impressive new Shake Reduction feature. Tailor-made for mobile phone photos & selfies, this blur-reducing edit actually works well on images taken with any camera.
Like this photo, for example. Can’t you just tell what an awesome person he is from that joyful expression?
Adobe created the Shake Reduction blur reducer to combat the blur that comes from hand-holding a camera and shooting at slower shutter speeds. It’s a major cause of selfie softness.
If you click on the above photo to zoom in, you’ll see that this photo has a similar softness. He was facing me as I stood in the darkest part of the church. There was no natural light hitting his face. My shutter speed was 1/50, which is much too slow to get a sharp photo of a moving person. Not to mention too slow to hand hold a camera.
How to Use the Photoshop Elements 14 Shake Reduction Tool
Shake Reduction in Photoshop Elements 14 is a pixel type change. That means that you can’t access it with an adjustment layer – it will only work on pixels. This is the type of change you want to avoid making on an image’s Background layer. It’s best to make it on its own layer in case you ever need to alter your edits.
To create a new layer, right click on your Background layer and select “Duplicate Layer.” Name the new layer “Shake Reduction” and click ok.
With this new layer active, go to the Enhance menu. You have two options here:
There is an Auto Shake Reduction about a third of a way down on the menu. But you’re not reading this blog because you like to take a computer’s best guess at what your photo should look like. You’re reading it so that you can control your photo’s appearance. So we’re going to go straight down to Shake Reduction at the bottom of the menu.
Above you can see the Shake Reduction dialog box that will open. PSE places a box over the area that it thinks you need to reduce blur on. Click and drag that box to center it over your focal point, or the place where you need to correct blur the most. You can also change its size by clicking and dragging any of the sizing boxes around the edge.
This box is called the Shake Region, and Elements analyzes the blur in this region to assess what kind of blur reduction to apply, and the direction of the blur.
After placing this box, you’ll see a progress bar indicating that Elements is analyzing the image.
You can add another Shake Region by clicking the small Shake Region button at the bottom of the dialog box. This is important because the direction and amount of shake can vary from area to area on your photo.
Next to the Shake Region button you have a zoom tool, if you’d like to look closer at the edits you’re making. You also can toggle a before and after view of the work you’ve done.
The most important setting in this dialog box is the Sensitivity slider. Moving it to the right strengthens the blur reduction. Moving it to the left, on the other hand, leaves more blur.
That exclamation point at the top right? It means that the preview that you are looking at isn’t the highest quality possible. No worries: it’s referring only to the preview and not your image or edit.
Now, if you receive a warning like the image below on your Shake Region, that is something to worry about. It means that Elements wasn’t able to analyze the shake in that region. If you receive this warning, relocate or increase the size of the Shake Region.
The only major decisions you need to make in this dialog are:
- The location of your Shake Regions
- The number of Shake Regions
- The size of the Shake Regions
- And finally, the amount of Sensitivity to set.
The first 3 will depend on the needs of each photo. I can help you with Sensitivity, however. Let’s look at two areas of the photo and examine how this slider effects the edit.
The area I wanted to reduce blur on was his face. His teeth and eyes were sharpened the most by this slider, so focus on them as you look at the before and afters before.
Low Sensitivity (slider moved all the way to the left) – a slight but unimpressive blur reduction is visible.
Medium Sensitivity (slider right in the middle) – now, this is impressive. Look at how his teeth change on either side of the before & after line. A small amount of sharpening artifacts are visible around the edges of his teeth, but these aren’t visible at a normal zoom level.
High Sensitivity (slider moved all the way to the right) – again, the blur reduction is impressive. However, those sharpening artifacts are evolving into discoloration on the edges of his teeth. Also, look at the haloing along his shoulder on the left side of the photo. It grows along with the Sensitivity amount.
It appears that the sharpening artifacts and haloing are worse in areas of highlights. So I created the following three shots for you to examine the edges of the glass panes in the windows.
Do you see how there is somewhat of a colored outline appearing around the edges of the colorless glass in the top section of this edit? This is with low Sensitivity.
Using medium Sensitivity, that colored halo is getting larger.
And by the time we get to high Sensitivity, the halos are creating a double vision effect.
What’s the conclusion about the Sensitivity slider, then? First off, it depends on the size of your image. If you’ve cropped in or aren’t working on a full quality photo, your sensitivity will need to be lower.
Next, it’s always best to go with an effective edit that doesn’t make you second guess whether it’s too strong or not. Use the screenshots in this tutorial to learn the warning signs of over editing: halos, artifacts and discoloration, especially in the highlights. Look at your photo zoomed in as well as from a normal viewing distance and determine where you get the best effect with the fewest negative side effects.
My final edit is here. I used a medium amount for sensitivity, and masked it off the glass in the background and his shoulder. You can click to zoom in, if you’d like.
Photoshop Elements Shake Reduction Summary
- Duplicate the background layer.
- Go to Enhance/Shake Reduction
- Place Shake Regions and adjust their sizes & locations as needed.
- Use the minimum effective Sensitivity
- Double check that you don’t have too many areas of artifacting or haloing, especially in the highlights. Reduce the opacity of the layer or mask out these areas, if necessary.
Sadly, this feature is only available in Photoshop Elements 14. Want to upgrade? Here you go.