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Photoshop extractions for lens-based art

I market myself as a lens-based artist because all of my source material comes through the lens of my camera. After that, all bets are off. I blend, add depth and dimension, color shift and so much more. Photoshop extractions play a part.

Photoshop extractions

photoshop select subject
When any selection tool is active, (upper left box). Select Subject and Select and Mask are available in the tool options bar.

Solid art pieces start with subject extractions that are well done and blend with the image. There has been much art I’ve viewed that looks very cut out. This is a result of edges that are not handled properly. You need to include all of the subject, and no more, with soft edges.

Photoshop has some pretty slick tools to help with your selections and I’ll share a few tips for making the most of them here.

Hummingbird extraction. Looks good even on a white background.

Select Subject

The Refine Edge dialog box houses powerful tools. Refine Edge Brush (top left) is a quick way to select or remove pixels based on the selection it already sees. Top right box is a way to show your selection against various colors. Showing is Quickmask at a low opacity, but black, white and other options are available. I highly recommend the Output almost always be set to New Layer with Layer Mask.
Result from choosing Output to New Layer with Layer Mask. Allows for additional modification of the layer mask if necessary.

Select Subject can be a solid choice when you have a subject that is in focus against a softer background. It looks for sharp edges, contrast and color, and has been programmed by looking at well over a million images to help it make those decisions. I find it keeps getting better and better as time passes. After that initial selection is made, you access the selection tools to enhance that by using the Select and Mask button.

Select and Mask is a section that could use an entire tutorial to use to full advantage. Learn this area by watching some in-depth videos or getting in there and playing with the settings, pushing them to the limits, to learn their use and capabilities.

In the meantime, here’s a couple things to think about. Extractions need a soft edge to blend with the area behind. Gently add a feather, some smoothing and a little contrast after invoking the Refine Edge brush in places where the initial selection needed some help.

I recommend to always use the output New Layer with Layer Mask. When you do you have the option of cleaning the selection when placed against the background where it will live. This is where you can check for halos or dark lines. If it needs too much work I recommend going back a step and change your settings to complete the process.

Blend modes and layers

After subject selections have been made it’s time to take them to their new home. I use textures collected over the years with blend modes changed to make them interact in different ways. I’m going to continue building this image of the hummingbirds using those techniques in the next article.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob

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Rafael Jones

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