Continued from the Previous Page
Replacing the Background
6. After completing the mask as shown above, open the Channels palette and (Cmd + Option-click) [Ctrl + Alt-click] on the RGB icon. Or, use (Cmd + Option + ~) [Ctrl + Alt + ~] to load the layer as a selection.
7. Return to the Layers palette, turn off all the layers except for the Background layer, and double-click the Background Layer icon. Click OK and then click the Layer Mask icon to transfer the active selection into the layer. You should now see the family with a transparent background (figure 5.34). It is now safe to discard all the layers used to make the mask. Select Edit > Save As and save the file with a new name, such as family with mask, and choose the Photoshop or TIFF file format.
figure 8.34 After transferring the mask to the figure layer, the background is completely concealed.
8. Figure 8.35 reveals I missed the correct contour of the little boy's right ear. To refine the mask, click the layer mask and paint with black -- to hide more background -- or with white -- to reveal more layer information, in this case the little boy's ear.
figure 8.35 Working on the layer mask refines the silhouette. Working with Adjustment Layers and blending modes to build image contrast and then using the tonal and painting tools to define the differences helps in creating realistic masks.
Adding the New Background
By replacing the background, you change the environment and mood of the image, which is really where the creative fun begins.
In this example, I opted to take the family on a trip to a park, but I could have used an abstract texture or a studio backdrop. This all depends on the look and feel you are trying to create. To unite the elements cohesively, it is better to try to replace the old background with a similarly toned one. This will reduce the need for cleanup later in the process.
1. Drag the new background -- in this case the tree file -- over to the family with mask file. Position the tree layer underneath the family layer by dragging it underneath the family in the Layers palette.
2. Press f to enter full-screen mode. Select Edit > Transform > Scale to size the trees up to fill the entire frame and position them as shown in figure 8.36. (I find scaling and transforming to be simpler to do when working in fullscreen mode.)
The trees are visually busy and distracting. By throwing them out of focus with the Lens Blur filter (available only in Photoshop CS), you can mimic the classic photographic technique of photographing portraits using a wide-open aperture to blur the background and focus attention on the people. When using the Lens Blur filter, a layer mask or alpha channel will create the most realistic results.
3. Activate the mother and child layer, click on the Channels palette, and drag the mother and child layer mask to the Mask icon to transfer it into an alpha channel (figure 8.37).
figure 8.37 Transfer the layer mask into the alpha channel.
4. We need to protect the mother and child from getting blurred. Select Image > Adjustments > Invert (figure 8.38) to invert the channel mask, click on RGB, and then return to the Layers palette. With the trees layer active, select Filter > Blur > Lens Blur.
figure 8.38 Invert the layer mask, so that it is white where you need to see trees and black where the people are.
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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).
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