In a lot of the advertising out today people are shooting what is known as selective focus. Parts of the image are crisp and clear while other parts are very, very soft. There are a whole lot of ways to accomplish this. The reasonably priced LensBaby ® system gives you the ability to shape the focus in camera, while traditional and very expensive Tilt-shift lenses can correct for planar distortion. At Photoshop World an instructor passed on his wisdom that it is far easier to shoot the originals as sharply as possible and add the effects afterwards. You can’t make blurry photos sharper…yet. One of the tools in the next release of Photoshop is a much improved set of filters you can test out as part of the CS6 Beta http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/photoshopcs6/
However, there are some plug-ins which really work well right now. I use OnOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 6.1, but Nik Software and Dfine also make good tools.
The specific tool in the suite is called Focal Point. You can control just about everything about the blur and it creates it as a separate layer. It works from inside both Lightroom and Photoshop. You can also run it as a stand-alone application. You overlay a grid for what you want to keep in focus. You can adjust the shape, the density of the blur among other choices. Here are two examples. I started with this pirate figure and applied a nice circular blur.
A very popular commercial technique makes things in an image appear to be miniature models. This replicates what you can accomplish with that tilt-shift. It basically keeps a narrow band in the middle of the image in focus and blurs both the fore and background. It starts with a rectangular or planar blur instead of the oval from the previous image.
These are just some of the ways you can add creative impact to your pictures as you process them.