5 Reasons to Blur Images at Work (When in Doubt, Blur it Out)

You want to share something, but there are things you’d rather not (or can’t let) people see. So what do you do?

Wait, don’t share that yet!

Sometimes there is sensitive information you don’t want to show others, yet you need them to see the rest of the document. Or, there’s something distracting you’d rather minimize, so they can focus on the important stuff.

You could remove info within your original document by restricting permissions or versions – but beware. There can be ways to get around this type of security, exposing what you want to hide. There’s a better way (and it’s simpler, too!).

The advantage of screenshots

Instead of sharing the original file, take a screenshot. This flattens the info to a static image file, completely stripping out all underlying data and removing any chance that something could be uncovered later.

You can even grab your screen when it scrolls up, down, or sideways, to capture everything at once.

Chop, crop, redact, or blur?

Now that you have your screenshot, how do you block out stuff you don’t want people to see? You could redact it with a black rectangle.

But that’s kind of ugly and pulls attention away from your actual content. You could visually cut or crop out the parts you don’t want, but that can look choppy and make it hard for people to understand the context of what you’re trying to share.

Consider your audience

For some categories of information, redaction is your safest choice – black boxes on top of a screenshot completely obliterate what’s underneath. However, there are many occasions where information isn’t restricted per se, but it’s extraneous for your reader, so you’d rather remove it.

Blur is preferred

When the information isn’t classified, but simply unwanted by preference, blurring is great. Instead of covering up the offending content, you can blur it out, so you don’t ruin the aesthetic of the image.

It de-emphasizes the unnecessary information yet doesn’t completely obscure it – people can tell that there used to be something there and can see how it fits into the larger picture.

You can increase the level of blur, based on who you’ll be sharing it with. Better to over-blur than not blur enough. Start with 8% blur intensity for mild fuzziness, 25% for a stronger mask, or go with 50%+ to make sure it’s indistinguishable to the human eye.

1. Before you hit ‘send’…

Blurring comes in handy when you’re sending documents, memos, purchase orders, or any information internally that contains client contact info you’d rather keep private.

Mailing addresses, phone numbers, account numbers, and similar, can all be easily hidden with a quick blur, leaving the rest of the document intact.

2. Spreadsheets, reports, and other sensitive numbers

Sometimes you need to share financial trends, but don’t want the actual numbers getting ‘out there’ for everyone to see. Blur out the sensitive parts, and leave the rest, so you can show important data without giving away the details.

3. Login details, domain names, and more

You want to show coworkers (or trusted clients) how to login to the system, but you don’t want them to see your username or password length. Blurring lets you share a screenshot that shows them all they need to know (without giving away info about your own account).

Use blurring when creating screenshots for IT help desk, manuals, common workflows, how-to docs, and more.

4. Extra things that get in the way

When you’re making training tutorials, sometimes there are a lot of things on the screen. You want to focus viewers’ attention on a particular button, or action, so they know what to click on, or the right way to do something.

You can easily blur out the nonessential things, so they can focus on the workflow they need for that task, and so you can better tell your story.

5. Patient information and other protected data

When it comes to certain types of data, it’s best to take a cautious approach and hide anything that must be protected, particularly in healthcare (protected health information, PHI), human resources (employee confidentiality), or any type of personal identifying information (PII).

Some protocol requires old-school redaction with black rectangles. However, many times blur will do the trick (especially if you use 50%+ blur intensity) when you’re sharing information internally with colleagues, for training, or with those who already have access but who don’t necessarily need to see all the data.

Bonus! Faces, objects, and visual noise

Blurring works with photos, too! Hide anything you don’t want people to see (or would rather they don’t see), such as background faces, house numbers, or anything you want to obscure from your image.
There are endless ways that blurring makes communication easier.

It helps beyond digital files, too – after blurring your screenshot, you can print it out and share with colleagues.

How do you use blur? Do it you use it the most for work, or at home?

Ready to get your blur on? With Snagit, you can take screenshots and then blur out whatever you don’t want, in just a few clicks. View the tutorial.

Don’t have Snagit yet? Try it for free today.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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