Creating a Black Background using Photoshop

Posted in Photography, Photoshop

Above is the final result of this tutorial. Here is a photo of a brown bear that I took at the Bronx Zoo. I think he came out interesting, but I think that the rocks in the background are a little distracting. I could blur them, or I could turn the background black. In this case I’ll make the background black and see how it comes out. The first thing I do is drop the image into Photoshop: The next thing I do is create a new layer. Hit CTRL-J on the keyboard. You’ll see in the layer palette Layer 1. I’m going to double-click on the word (Layer 1) and rename it to “Bear”. It’s always a good idea to name your layers even though in this case I’ll be using only one: The next thing I’ll do is start painting the background black. For this I’m going to use the paint brush from the tools palette. Make sure the color black is selected and is in the foreground of the color box: Don’t worry about making a sloppy selection. Just try to get out as much background as you can. In my selection I even chopped off the bear’s ears. No big deal. The next step will fix this problem. The next thing you’ll do is create a mask. Just click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette and you’ll see the mask box appear in the top layer labeled “Bear”: Before you start painting back parts of the bear, it’s important to see what you’re doing. In the layers palette go to the Opacity and bring it down enough to see through the image. For this image, 60% looks good. Next, make sure the mask is selected on the bear layer and start painting. Zoom in close to the object and take your time. Black reveals and white conceals. You have to switch back and forth by clicking on the double arrow, and you’ll see the boxes switching back and forth between white and black. Test it with the paintbrush back and forth between black and white to see the results: Tips:
  • When you’re painting back the main subject, lower the opacity of the brush itself around the edges, especially if the subject has fur.
  • Use a soft paint brush, it will allow you to make seamless brush strokes. A hard brush will give the appearance of harsh brush strokes and you don’t want that.
  • Keep going back and forth with the opacity from the layers palette to see how you’re doing.
  • Remember: Anything worth your time is worth doing right, so take your time and listen to music while you’re working. Rushing through a project will look rushed through. A project like this might seem tedious. If you get tired, take a break. And always remember, as long as you’re happy with your work then life is good.
Here’s the finished image: Enjoy!

How to Blur a Background to Get Rid of Distractions

Posted in Photography, Photoshop

Above is the result of this tutorial. Here’s an image of a butterfly that I had taken a while back. I like the way the butterfly came out but I’m not happy with the rest of the image. The leaf on the left keeps catching my eye and the overall feel of the image is just too busy. Time to make some changes: The first thing I do is to bring the image into Photoshop. Here I’ll select the butterfly and the flower that the butterfly is on. The reason I’ll keep the flower in focus too, is that the flower is in the same depth of field as the butterfly. If I should blur the flower too, the image will have an unnatural look. You don’t want your photo to look like it was worked on. So, keep in mind your depth of field. On your keyboard hit Ctrl+J. This will make a copy of your image. You want to make a copy of the original image so that you can add a layer mask to it. This is where you’ll be doing all of your work: Make sure the copy “layer 1” is selected. The layer should be highlighted in blue. Click on the layer mask icon at the bottom of your layers palette: I always label my layers because if you work on a project and have a lot of layers it can get very confusing which layer belongs to what. So, I’ve made it a habit, even though this project will only require one. To rename the layer you double click the word “Layer 1” in the layer copy. You’ll see a box appear around the word “Layer 1”. Then type in what works for you. I’m going to type in the word “Mask”: Now you’re ready to start working. In the mask layer make sure that the picture on the layer is selected just by clicking on it once. You do this because this is the layer you want to blur. The next thing you do is go to the Filter menu on the tool bar at the top of your screen. Click Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur: Here is where the Gaussian Blur dialog box will open up. For the image you’re working on you’ll have to decide how much of a blur you want. Play with the radius slider. The smaller the number the less of a blur you’ll get. The higher the number the stronger the blur effect will be. See the difference between 2.1 and 50. There’s a huge difference. Usually I don’t go higher than 10, but in this case I think I’ll go with a high blur to just get rid of all of the distractions: When you’ve decided how much blur you want, click OK. Here is where the layer mask comes in. On the layer, make sure that you click on the mask that’s the white box in the layer mask layer. Just click it once to make it active. You can see when it becomes active, it gets a little border frame around it. The next thing you’ll do is select a paint brush. Go to the tools palette and select a brush: To bring back the butterfly through the blur you’ll have to paint it back. Before I start painting the butterfly back I make sure that the foreground color is black, and the background color is white: Start painting with the brush. You’ll see the image underneath come out. Do this slowly and with an opacity of about 50. You can make the opacity stronger when you work on the center of the object, but working on the edges I’d use less of an opacity to blend it into the background. Make sure the brush itself is at an opacity of about 20%: Here is the work in progress: Here are the before and after images: Try it for yourself and have fun.

Correcting Halo in HDR

Posted in HDR, Photoshop

Above is an image of a lighthouse that I took using 5 exposures. I put the 5 images into Photomatix for processing. I liked the way the final process came out except for the halo effect in the sky. I’ve discovered that when the sky is a sold blue this happens: I find it hard to correct the halo effect in Photomatix. So, I bring the image into Photoshop to do this correction. The first thing I do is clean up the image by removing any sensor dust spots off the blue sky. For this I just use the spot healing brush: The next step I do is make a selection around the halo using the quick selection tool in Photoshop CS3: Then I use the clone tool, and clone the blue sky from the left, to the part of the sky that’s selected. I recommend bringing the opacity of the clone brush down to about 30%. This will give you more control: Here’s the before and after images: This image was an easy halo fix. Some halos wrap themselves around trees and branches making it very hard to do this kind of fix using the clone tool. This halo was up against a building with a straight edge. Here is the finished product: Here’s an example of a halo embedded in a tree. This is a trickier kind of fix: Adjustments that may help are lowering the “strength” and/or increasing the value of the Light smoothing setting. Look at the difference between the two images and the settings. Just from changing these two setting there’s a huge improvement: Here’s the finished product. I just dropped this image into Photoshop for a little brightness and contrast, and that was it:

HDR Color to HDR Black & White

Posted in HDR, Photoshop

Above is an example of a black and white HDR image that I’ll show you how to create from an original color image. HDR images can look really good if they’re done right. Some HDR images look great when they’re converted to black and white. I don’t think it works for all HDR images so you’ll have to experiment. Experimenting can be a lot of fun. Here’s an example of the Croton Dam in Westchester, NY. Some people I know like the color version better and others like it in black and white. It’s all a matter of taste. If you like your end results, then that’s what matters. This is how I did the black and white conversion in Photoshop CS3. First bring the image into Photoshop. Then go to Image / Adjustments / Black & White. Here the Black and White dialog box opens up. There are red, yellow, green, cyan, blue and magenta sliders. Slide the sliders back and forth to see how it will affect your image. Every image is different and it’s up to your taste how you want the end result. When I decide that I’m happy with the results, I click OK. These are the settings I used for this image: I’m not finished yet. At this point I like to go to the Image / Adjustments / Brightness/Contrast settings: I don’t touch the brightness slider. I just bring up the contrast to about +20, depending on the image. Here’s the end result: Here’s another example with a different image. Instead of leaving this image as a black and white, I gave it a sepia “tint”. In the Black and White dialog box, there’s a check box at the bottom that says “Tint”. Click that check box on, then click OK. Here are the images from color, to black and white, to sepia tint: Here’s one more example of color to black and white:

HDR – Tone Mapping vs. Details Enhancer

Posted in HDR

Above, I have the five images I’m going to put into Photomatix. Here are the images blended together in Photomatix before processing. First I’ll click on Tone Mapping which will open up the processing box. Here you can choose between the tone compressor and the details enhancer: Here I picked the Details Enhancer for my first example. I worked the sliders to my liking. Every image is different so you’ll have to adjust your images to your tastes. The detail enhancer opens up the shadow areas, and can give the image a surreal look. Depending on how you maneuver the sliders you can also get a painterly or realistic and natural effect. It’s all a matter of taste. For more details on the sliders you can go to the Photomatix website: Here I took the same image and put it into the Tone Compressor. The tone compressor gives the image a more traditional and realistic look. It preserves the shadows with good control of tonal range. Sometimes shadows play an important role in creating a mood. This is a very good reason to use the tone compressor over the details enhancement: Here I have the two images side by side. You can see the difference between them. In both images the end result depends on what you want to achieve. Do you want a surreal look or a realistic look or perhaps something in-between? I prefer the in-between look for some of my images and other images I find that getting crazy is a lot of fun. As long as you’re happy with the results then life is good: Enjoy!
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