Photoshop Tips and Tricks presents Removing Backgrounds with Katrin Eismann
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A note from Fred:
      I've promoted Katrin's books many times, and after the 1001st reader asked the "how do I select hair" question and "How do I remove this person from the background?, I decided it was time to get Katrin in here, and have her answer the question correctly once and for good.
      This is the ultimate tutorial on selection of fine details because it uses no selection tools. It's based on isolation of "values" to let the image itself build your mask. Selection tools are used only for rough selections.
If you hear anyone ask how to do this -- well, bookmark this page.
      We're delighted to welcome Katrin once again to the pages of DTG -- and we're truly thankful to Katrin and Peachpit Books for sharing this with our readers.

Selecting Hair and Fine Detail in Photoshop

from Photoshop Masking & Compositing
by Katrin Eismann

It would make my life a lot easier if all the portrait photographs I work with had an evenly lit, texturefree, contrasting background -- but life has a tendency to be complex, and our snapshots reflect that.

We'll begin with a classic snapshot of a happy mother with an even happier baby, standing in front of the family car. The challenges of this image are threefold --
* a busy background,
* a lack of contrast between the subjects' hair and
* the dark background, and the mother's fly-away hair.

All of these factors make this a challenging, yet not impossible, mask to make. Rather than thinking about all the problems it presents -- try thinking in black and white about separating image elements from one another to gracefully solve this challenge.

Before and after

Selecting Hair and Fine Detail

The original photograph captures a candid moment. In the following example, we will use a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer and layer blending modes to boost contrast while maintaining edge detail. The idea is to quickly create as much contrast as possible and then use the fill and painting tools to refine the details. In the process, you'll add a number of nondestructive production layers to build up the mask. Finally, we'll take the family on a trip to a park and use the Lens Blur filter to defocus the trees, as shown above, left.

Simplifying the background subliminally encourages the viewer to concentrate on the people in the picture.

Building the Initial Mask

1. Open the Channels palette and look at the individual channels. You can do this by clicking on each channel name or using (Cmd + 1, Cmd + 2, Cmd + 3) [Ctrl + 1, Ctrl + 2, Ctrl + 3]. Look for the channels with the most contrast and the smoothest tonality. In this image, both the red and the green channels contain contrast (figure 8.17) that we can take advantage of and accentuate to make a mask. Click RGB or (Cmd + ~) [Ctrl + ~] to return back to the color image.

figure 8.17 Look for the channel with the most contrast and smoothest tonal range.

2. To apply the "thinking in black and white" approach, add a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer, select the monochrome box, and move the red and green sliders to the right. In this instance, I used the extreme values of +100 for red and +132 for green.

Channel Mixer
figure 8.18 To increase the difference between dark and light, use the Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer.

3. To push the contrast even higher, take advantage of layer blending modes, which impact how the layers interact. The contrast-enhancing group is the largest group, beginning with Overlay. In this case, choose Hard Light as shown in figure 8.19, which screens the lighter areas, making them lighter, and multiplies the darker values, making them darker.

Blending Modes
figure 8.19 Changing the Layer blending mode increases the contrast even more.

Next: Increase the Effects with Contrast and Blending Modes


Photoshop Masking & Compositing

coverAre you enjoying the tutorial so far? Well, Katrin can make a huge differece in all Photoshop users' lifes, by studying her step-by-step examples. She'll take you through tools and techniques you'll seriously need for masking and combining images. She will focus you on the techniques used to create compelling compositions, including making fast and accurate selections, mastering Photoshop's masking tools, and implementing the concept and photography from start to finish. The book teaches you the inside poop on selection tools; selecting and maintaining fine details and edges; working with difficult image elements, such as cloth, hair, or translucent objects; and green-screen techniques -- like no other book available on the market today.
      If you want to be the very best -- you need this book.

Katrin Eismann is an internationally respected teacher and lecturer on photographic imaging, restoration, retouching, and the impact of emerging technologies on photography and the arts. Katrin received an undergraduate degree in photographic illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology and her Master of Fine Arts degree in design at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her other books include Photoshop Masking & Compositing and Real World Digital Photography.
      In 2005, she was inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. She is the author of Photoshop Restoration and Retouching 2nd Edition (Below), and is the co-author of Real World Digital Photography 2nd Edition (Peachpit Press).

Photoshop Restoration & Retouching


Whether you're a professional photographer or the family shutterbug, you can't afford to miss the third edition of the now classic Photoshop Restoration & Retouching. Katrin Eismann and co-author Wayne Palmer have reviewed, updated, and revised every single technique to address the most important features in Adobe Photoshop CS2. Whether you're a professional photographer or the family shutterbug, you can't afford to miss the third edition of the now classic Photoshop Restoration & Retouching. Clear step-by-step instructions using professional examples highlight the tools and techniques photographers, designers, restoration studios, and beauty retouchers use to restore valuable antique images, retouch portraits, and enhance glamour photography.

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