More on selections
There are other selection tools than what we've used, the main one we'll discuss today is the "selection brush" which is a very useful tool made more simple in Photoshop elements than it ever was as the "Quick Mask Mode" in Photoshop. This tool simply allows you to create a selection by the same means as you would paint something. It can be used in two ways, but the most useful is the "mask" mode whereby the area that will be selected is colored an orange color so you can easily see it. Once byou're done painting your selection, you can switch to any other tool or to the "selection" mode of the selection brush and get your "marching ants" that define your selection area. From here you can choose to do what you will with the selected pixels, such as copy them, apply adjustments to them, or apply filters to them.
This can be a nice way to achieve what we've so far talked about as the creation of shallow depth of field, such as having a blurred background. Try making a selection of some of your background and then choose Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur
There are many different things you can do with Photoshop to improve your portraits and other images. Most of the techniques are quite subtle, however, and you may not notice them right away. For real-world examples, check out Marktucker.com.
You will often want to blur the background of an image in a portrait because very often the background is something which doesn't add a great deal to the image and therefore the portrait would be better without it. Another technique for blurring the background of a portrait or other image involves the use of layers. One layer that is blurred and another layer that is not. Simply, duplicate your image layer and then hide the new layer so that the bottom layer is the only one visible. Apply the gaussian blur filter to this layer: filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur until it is nice and blurred. OK, now make your duplicated layer active and visible again. You then need to simply use a soft eraser tool and erase the parts of the top background to show the blurred background underneath.
Texture overlays are used in many of the portraits by Mark Tucker, even though they are so subtle that you may not at first notice them. A texture overlay is simply an image of texture (usually black and white) that is placed as a layer on top of your image and blended with blending mode (overlay,multiply) and transparency (opacity value).