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Everywhere you look, from group photos, to senior and sports portraits, to magazines, movie posters, and DVD covers, chances are, youve seen compositing. In Photoshop Compositing Secrets, Matt Kloskowski takes you through the entire process behind creating convincing, well-executed, and captivating composites. Youll see how to create images that run the gamut from real- world portraits for corporate, graduation, or group photos to sports portraits, templates, and collages, and even the surreal, dramatic composites that clients clamor for. Youll learn: Hehas published numerous bestselling books on Photoshop and is the author of the Lightroom Killer Tips blog.
Typically, you dont want an ex- tremely crisp edge no matter what the subject is. So, feathering has always been a selection trick we used to make things look more re- alistic, but it doesnt have much of a place anymore.
The Radius and Smart Radius settings work much better. But, I usually set Feather to a really small setting, like 0. Contrast firms up any soft edges. Its typically not something well use for extracting people, though, because the Radius setting gives us such a good result. The Shift Edge setting tells Photoshop to shift the entire selection inward or out- ward depending on which way you move the slider.
Again, weve done our work already, so you generally dont need to move the selection edge at this point. Decontaminate Colors is only used when you have your subject on a colored back- ground. Well talk more about what color to photograph people on later in this chapter, so for now just leave it turned off. When youre done with your selec- tion and ready to move on, head down to the Output To pop-up menu at the bottom of the dialog. Instead of just outputting the re- sults of this dialog to a selection, we can put it on a new layer with a layer mask, so we can always go back and change it if we need to.
In fact, well adjust the selection in the next tutorial. For now, though, just choose Layer Mask from the pop-up menu and then click OK.
I say Sweet! Youve successfully selected a person from a background. Now when you look in your Layers panel, youll see the original layer has a layer mask on it.
Some times your selection will look perfect.
Photoshop Compositing Secrets Unlocking the Key to Perfect Selections and Amazing Pho
If it does, then great, but some- times it still needs a little more work. If thats the case, then check out the next tutorial. I know it seems like it took a lot of steps to do this, if you look back through the tutorial.
But, really, it was just because I was explaining things as we went along. Most of the time, after I make a selection with the Quick Selection tool, I gen- erally use the same settings in Refine Edge over and over. Trust me, youll develop a knack for it and, after the first few times you do it, youll see it only takes a few minutes. Sometimes we get lucky and our selection looks awesome when its done.
But other times, it needs a little adjusting. Since we created a mask along with our selection, its really easy to adjust. Thats the cool thing about layer masks for compositing they let us go back and adjust the selection as much as we want with the Brush tool, so we can get really detailed if we need to. We finished the last tutorial with our subject selected on his original layer with a layer mask, so all we see is a transparent background.
If you havent done the last tutorial yet, feel free to download the file and open it here to start from where I left off. Before we go any further in adjust- ing the selection, lets add a new background behind the subject, so we can see how things are look- ing. Command-click PC: Ctrl-click on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a new blank layer below the existing layer.
Now, get the Zoom tool Z , zoom in, and start looking around the edges of the photo. If youre lucky, everything looks awesome and theres no more work to be done. Most of the time, though, you wont be that lucky. In my example here, I noticed that some of his shirt is missing at the top of his shoulder on the right. To adjust the selection, well use the layer mask that Refine Edge added to our layer.
The way that the layer mask works is that wher- ever there is white on the layer mask, the image on the layer is visible. So, if you look at the layer mask, youll see that the white figure is the exact shape of our subject what was selected in the last tutorial. Basically, wherever the layer mask is white, that part of the photo is selected.
In fact, just to prove my point, press-and-hold the Command PC: Ctrl key and click on the layer mask. Photoshop will put a selection around whatever is white on that layer mask on your image.
In my case, I need to add to the selection. Remember, the selected areas are white on the layer mask, so Im going to paint with white on the mask. First, make sure the layer mask is still active youll see a black highlight border around it , then press D to set your Fore ground color to white.
Select the Brush tool B from the Toolbox and use the Left and Right Bracket keys on your keyboard to set the brush size to around 20 pixels. Zoom in on the shoulder or other area that was cut off and start painting until you see the rest of it appear. If you happen to paint too much and accidentally bring back some of the background, then press the X key to swap your Foreground and Background colors. Now youll be painting with black, which is the same as taking away from the selected area.
Paint back over the photo and youll see those areas you dont want to show like that small area of the gray background in Step Five disappear. Ready for a really cool trick? Zoom in and look at the left side of the photo where hes holding his hand up near his face. See how theres a dirty fringe-like edge that follows the contour of his glove? This hap- pens sometimes if your original background was too dark like mine was here. Sure, you could paint on the mask in black very carefully to remove it, but theres an easier way.
With the layer mask still active and the Brush tool still selected, up in the Options Bar, set the blend Mode to Overlay. Then, choose a brush size that is about the size of the fringe you see, set your Fore- ground color to black because black will hide whatever we paint on , and start painting on that fringe. Dont worry if your brush starts to spill over onto the subject. Normally, if we werent using the Overlay blend mode for the brush, wed start hiding part of his hand if we painted in black.
But because of Overlay mode, Photoshop hides the fringe, but still keeps everything else the brush touches. Now, if you kept brushing over and over on the same area, youd eventually ruin the edge. But one quick swipe with the brush will remove the fringe and keep the rest of what you se- lected intact. Best of all, you didnt have to be very precise about it. Give it a try around the rest of him, if you see any other areas where the background shows through.
One last tip for pulling off a good selection: Zoom in on the left edge of his shirt, just above his shorts. Notice that really dark edge or fringe?
Its thin, but its definitely there. It doesnt happen all the time, but I always zoom in to check for it. To fix this, we have to put our selection up on its own layer, be- cause it wont work on a layer with a layer mask. So, Command-click on the layer mask to load our se- lection around the subject. Click once on the layer thumbnail itself to target it, and then press Command-J PC: Ctrl-J to dupli cate the selected area onto its own layer. Next, click on the little Eye icon to the left of the original layer to hide it, along with the layer mask this hides it, but keeps it just in case you need to go back to it later.
Now youll see the subject selected from his background on a separate layer, but without a layer mask. Most of the time, youll immediately see the fringe disap- pear. Like I said before, it doesnt happen for all photos, but if you do see a small fringe around the edges, the Defringe feature works great. Some- times youll think Eh, not that great and other times youll think Holy crap!!! Thats awesome! Go ahead and open a photo that has some wispy hair in it. While the subject here has got some clean, defined edges around her clothing, she defi- nitely has some flyaway hair.
How do you select a person from one back- ground and move them to another background with all of their hair intact? Well, youre in luck. If you followed along with the previous tutorials, youve already learned how to get yourself most of the way there. Theres just one small tool we need to help out with the hair.
Use the Quick Selection tool W to put an overall selection around her. Just like we did earlier, spend a minute or two to get the selection as close as possible around all of the well-defined edges. But dont worry about the hairjust get the overall selection close, like you see here.
Dont even try to select the hair edges at this point. For starters, press the F key to cycle through the View settings until you get to black since the black background shows off the hair selection really well. Its probably a good idea to memorize your favorites like B for black, W for white, and K for black and white. Now, drag the Radius slider to around 10, and you should im- mediately see a big improvement.
Seriously folks, if youve ever doubted how powerful this Edge Detection stuff is, then take a look at what its doing here. Zoom in on the subjects head, press the P key to see the original, and then press P again to see the current selection. All weve done so far is move one slider and were already starting to pick up more hair!
Okay, we still have some work to do. Notice how you can defi nitely see the gray peeking through around the edges of her hair, especially near her shoulders. This is where we call in the ringer. The big dog. The head honcho okay, Ill stop. The big kahuna here sorry, last one is the Refine Radius tool. Its the little brush icon circled here just below the Zoom and Hand tools near the top left of the dialog. Just like other brushes in Photo- shop, it has a size setting that can be controlled with the Left and Right Bracket keys.
Go ahead and resize the brush, so itll cover the entire radius of any flyaway hair. Then simply start painting around the edges of the hair. As you paint, youll reveal part of the original background, so you can see just how far out you have to paint to get all of the hair selected. When you release your mouse button, sit back in awe as Photoshop se- lects the hair, but leaves out the background sometimes it takes Photoshop a few seconds to catch up, so be patient when using this tool.
I know I sound like a total Refine Edge fan boy, but you have to admit, this tool rocks! Now, continue to brush around the edges of the hair to bring all of the wispy hair edges back. You can paint in one long brush stroke around the entire head, or use smaller strokes in more concentrated areas.
Honestly, Ive tried both and I havent noticed better or worse results from either way. Every once in a while, youll use the Refine Radius tool and paint over an area that you didnt want to paint over. You may notice it immediately, but sometimes its hard to spot. Here, you can immediately see that were missing part of her jacket on the right where her shoulder meets her hair. So, press-and-hold the Option PC: Alt key and paint over that area to bring it back.
The selection is looking good now. Now, we have our sub- ject selected from the background, with a layer mask. Open a background image to place the subject on. In this case, Im using something that has a lot of bright natural light in it, since our subject has light on both sides of her hair and I think a bright back ground fits her best.
Once the background is open, switch back to the photo of the subject, select the Move tool from the Toolbox just press V , and then drag the photo of the subject onto the new background and position her on the right. If your subject is larger than the new background, press Command-T Ctrl-T to bring up Free Transform, press-and-hold the Shift key, and then click-and- drag a corner handle inward to resize press Command-0 [Zero; PC: Ctrl-0] if you cant see the corner handles.
Press Return PC: Enter to lock in your trans- formation. If you had to resize your subject to fit in the new background, you may see an outline of your layer mask. Just use a black brush to paint this away on the layer mask. Things are looking pretty good. Weve selected our subject and we have lots of hair detail selected along with her.
But if you zoom in and really look closely at the edges, youll see we have a prob- lem: In the next tutorial, well look at how to fix this. If you re- call, in the Refine Edge dialog, we were previewing the selection on a black background, so we didnt see the original background coming through at all.
That just goes to show that the background plays a big role in compositing. If we were keeping her on a dark background, wed be fine and I wouldnt bother with the edges.
But, since thats not the case, lets take a look at several ways to refine the hair edges even more using the composite we created in the last tutorial. The first method is one of my favorites and has become my go-to technique for refining hair edges. When the Layer Style dialog opens, click on the color swatch near the top of the dialog to open the Color Picker.
With the Eyedropper, click on an area in the hair that is clos- est to the overall hair color around it dont click on any dark roots or shadows and then click OK to close the Color Picker. This sets the color of the glow. Depending on how far the gray background encroaches on the hair, adjust the Size setting to make sure you take all of it away. Then, if needed, adjust the Opacity setting at the top to make the fix brighter or darker, depending on how bright the background is. When youre done, click OK.
This works great, but it does leave us with one tiny problem. The Inner Glow effect is applied to the entire photo, so even the edges of her jacket get the glow. Now, in this photo, I actually kinda like it. I think it works, since shes got so much natural light coming from behind her to begin with.
But if it doesnt work for your particular photo, then we can always remove it from the parts we dont want it to affect. This puts the effect onto its own layer, so its no longer a layer style. Click on this new layer to make it active, then click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Select the Brush tool B and set your Foreground color to black. Then, just paint away the inner glow from any areas you dont want it to affect. Again, this technique is my favor- ite and its the one I turn to the most when selecting hair.
I just wanted to let you know this works for dark hair, too. You just have to change a few settings. Heres another photo with crazy hair. In fact, Im not sure it gets any crazier than this. I used the same exact steps as before to select her and her hair from the background.
The subject is se- lected on her original layer with a layer mask and then I added a white layer below. Since its white, everything looks great.
But look at what happens when I place her on a dark background. Youll see remnants of the brighter background around the edges of her hair. Just a quick aside: In all honesty, Id never place her on a black background to begin with. I just dont think it looks right.
Shes so brightly lit that she fits in perfectly with a bright background. To me, she looks fake and pasted in on the black background, regard- less of whats happening with the edges of her hair.
That said, lets try out the Inner Glow trick just to show you it works here, too. Add the Inner Glow layer style just like before. But, this time, first change the Blend Mode from Screen to Multiply at the top of the dialog , then click on the color swatch to open the Color Picker. Use the Eyedropper to sample a color from her hair and adjust the Size and Opacity settings. So, for brightly colored hair, use the Screen blend mode the default and for dark hair, use Multiply.
Another method for removing that fringe is to use the Matting options found under the Layer menu. You cant use them on a layer with a layer mask, though, so youll want to make sure youve got your se- lection as good as possible before you do this. So, lets go back to our blonde subject and Command-click PC: Ctrl-click on the layer mask to load it as a selection.
Then, click on the layer thumbnail not the mask to target it and press Command-J PC: Ctrl-J to copy the selected area onto its own layer. Click on the Eye icon to the left of the origi- nal layer with the layer mask to hide them, so only the top copy layer is showing. This removes those gray edges and sometimes its amazing how well it does. It does, though, have two bad side effects, which both affect this photo: I know it sounds funny to say theyre fried or crisp, but it just tends to make the edges jagged and overly contrasty in certain places.
I usually use the Dodge and Burn trick as a follow-up to one of the previous techniques. Its really simple for fixing just a few small stray hairs and not the entire head. In our example, our subject has blonde hair. So, when the hair is light, select the Dodge tool from the Toolbox or press O. Now, just paint on the layer along the edges of the hair that are too dark.
The same thing applies to darker hair with white fringes around it. The only difference is that youll use the Burn tool instead. Its nested beneath the Dodge tool in the Toolbox or just press Shift-O until you have it. Use the same settings, though.
Lets start with my favorite choice, gray. Actually, light gray. Heres a photo of a woman on a white seam- less backdrop that has no light aiming at it. Because theres no light pointing at the back- ground, it falls to a light gray. For me, and the selection tools I work with, light gray seems to work best. Once in a while, if the subject happens to be wearing gray, it can miss a few edges, but its always a quick, easy fix.
For hair and detailed edges the hardest part about selecting , gray seems to do the best job. Lets put this one to rest and take a look at all of them white, gray, black, and green.
Youll find that, as long as theres a good amount of contrast between your subject and the background, just about anything will work. In fact, later in the book, youll see we dont have real studio backdrops behind some of the people were working with.
But, if youre in a controlled environment like a studio , when it comes to shooting specifically for compositing and extraction, theres one color that just makes the most sense. Heres a photo of the same woman taken on the same white seamless backdrop, but here it has been lit. In the studio, to keep the back- ground white, you need to point a light at it. If you take a photo of it with no light aimed toward it, the background turns a light or dark shade of gray, de pending on what other lights are pointed toward it, and how far away the entire setup is from it.
White actually works re- ally well for extracting. In fact, Ive found its one of the best colors for Re fine Edge to work with. Here are the problems, though: If youre placing them onto a brightly colored background, its not a huge problem. But, if youre putting them on a darker background, it wont look right. Its hard to describe, but when you see it, theres just something that looks off, because theres so much bright light around them.
These lights make the edges of the subjects clothing and skin almost white. Not all-white mind you, but close enough to confuse Refine Edge and make se- lecting the hair and body a pain. Heres another photo of the same subject and the same light- ing setup we saw with the gray backdrop, but this time were using a black backdrop.
With no light pointing directly at the background our main light will cast some light on it , the black stays mostly black. The problem with black is that dark clothes which are pretty common dont give Photoshop enough contrast to select with. Even worse, some- one with dark hair really presents a big problem. You have to make sure you light all of the hair to give enough separation for the selec- tion tools to work. Other wise, dark hair pretty much blends with the black background and is nearly impossible to select.
Finally, heres a different subject, with the same lighting setup, on a green backdrop. Green or blue has always been popular in the video world. A process called keying allows most video-related programs to automatically extract people from the background and place them on other backgrounds. Movies especially those with lots of special effects use this all the time. But, heres why I dont like it for compositing: Light picks up the color of any surface it hits, right?
So if youre lighting your subject in a studio, theres a good chance that the lights youre using can reflect off the back- ground and spill green light onto the edges of your subject. There are ways around this, though. Standing a good dis- tance in front of the back ground always helps to reduce the spillover, but that also means you need a studio with enough depth and space to accommodate.
You have to light the background evenly, which usu- ally requires at least one, if not two, lights. Then, you need to light your sub- ject. So, lighting can quickly go from three lights to five.
Chances are theres a white backdrop nearby in a photo studio, but unless youre set up only for compositing, green probably isnt as close at hand as white. Im not saying that green backgrounds are always bad. If youve got the setup and are comfortable lighting it, it can work really well.
It just takes a little more setup and know-how to do it. For me, a white background and letting it turn to a light gray is the way to go. Here, we have a background and we have a person who was shot in a studio. The subject is a friend of mine, Justin. But, I also grabbed some photos of him in casual dress, as well. When I shot the photo were working with here, I had an ideaput him in a dark alley with a very grungy feel to it.
During the photo shoot of Justin seen here , I knew that I would be compositing him onto a different background. So, the first thing I did was note the focal length on the lens I was using.
The next thing I did was note the camera height. I had the camera on a tripod about 2. Its really important that you shoot your background at the same height, or your subjects feet wont line up with the ground. From the portrait shoot all the way to the background, I knew this was going to be a composite.
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I also knew it was going to be a full-body composite, which makes things a little more difficult. When thats the case, there are a few things you can do to help make sure everything fits together nicely. Finally, I noted how far away I was from the subject. In this example, I was about 8 feet away from Justin. Again, if you want your full-body composites to line up nicely, youll need to make sure you know the camera-to- subject distance, so you can use the same distance when shooting your background.
Now comes the background.
Once I found a background I liked, I set the focal length of my mm lens to 70mm. I didnt have my tri- pod, but I knew that I was 2. Then, I moved back until I was about 8 feet from where I envisioned placing the subject.
Not 8 feet from the back- ground, though. This is camera- to-subject distance, so I picked a mark on the ground it was a crack in the street, circled here where I envisioned placing Justin. Then I backed up 8 feet from there and took the photo. So, how do you remember all of this info? Write it all down on a piece of paper, or put it in your phone. I have an iPhone, and I use the built-in Notes app to write this stuff down.
It all seems like a lot to remember, but trust me, if youre doing a full-body composite, youll be thankful you did. Youll see in this chapter that everything fits to- gether really easily, because I took the time up front to keep the set- tings for the two separate shoots as close together as possible.
Open the background image for this example. First, lets add a really grungy feel to it. The sun was nearly down behind me, and was casting a warm light onto this doorway, and I remem- bered all of the details of Justins photo: So, I set myself up at the same perspective here and grabbed a couple of frames of this doorway.
The adjustment comes with some presets at the top of its dialog. Choose Photorealistic High Con- trast from the Preset pop-up menu to give us a starting place.
Yep, I know it does crazy things to the photo, but well tone it down a bit next. Bring the Exposure setting down to 3. This should give us a really detailed and grungy look for our image. Click OK when youre done. Now is a good time to clean up any distractions. I like most of the graffiti here, but there is one word on the wall on the left side of the door that I think Ill remove. Im not assuming the word means any- thing derogatory, mind you.
Lets assume it simply means that inside this door is an indoor sports facil- ity where people play with various footballs, basketballs, baseballs, etc. Either way, its easy to remove. Press J to select the Spot Healing Brush or press Shift-J until you get to it if you last used one of the other tools in the group , make sure the Content-Aware radio but- ton in the Options Bar is turned on, and then paint over the graffiti on the left wall next to the door. It should disappear pretty quickly.
If you see a repeating pattern left behind, try painting one more time on the wall and that should do it. To really finish this background off, well add an edge darkening effect to it.
Press Command-J PC: Ctrl-J to duplicate the Background layer and then change the blend mode to Multiply as shown here , which will darken the entire image. Use the Rectangular Marquee tool M to make a rectangular selection around the area where well place our subject. Enter pixels and click OK to soften the edges of the selection. Youll see the edge of the selection gets rounder, but thats about it. It doesnt visibly get soft yet. Ctrl-Shift- ]. This flips the selection because we really want the darkening effect applied on the edges, not the middle, right?
Then, click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and youll see the Multiply blend mode layer gets hidden in the middle where our subject will be , but stays around the edges. Open the photo of Justin. Youll notice the background is a dark gray and, in Chapter 1, I talked about the best background to select people from.
Well, dark gray isnt it. I prefer a light gray instead, especially if the subject is wearing darker clothes, like Justin is. That said, we dont always have a choice. Sometimes we have to work with what weve got, so well cheat a little in the next step.
This overexposes the entire photo, but it brings the background to a lighter gray, which will work well for our selection. Dont worry, well come back and adjust it when were done with the selection. I took the portrait in the stu- dio, and a few days later, while walking around an old bar district in Tampa, I shot the background that we just worked on.
But its the tone and feeling of the photo well work with here that sets the stage for the entire image. Press-and-hold the Shift key and youll see the Open Image button turn into the Open Object button at the bottom right of the Camera Raw window circled here. Click that button to open the photo in Photoshop as a Smart Object. By working with the photo this way, we have the ability to go back and forth between Photoshop and Camera Raw if we ever want to adjust the photo later.
It gives us a lot of flexibility, especially when were working on composites, because sometimes we need to change things as the entire com- posite begins to come together. Now that were in Photoshop, press W to select the Quick Selection tool from the Toolbox, and then use the tool to paint a selection around Justin. Photoshop will select the overall figure pretty fast.
Keep in mind, though, its worth spending an extra couple of minutes here to zoom in and use a small brush to make sure you get all of the tiny edges that the larger brush will miss the first time around. Just paint again to add to the selection, or press-and-hold the Option PC: Alt key to remove part of the selection. Once you get your selection looking good, click the Refine Edge button up in the Options Bar. Press the F key to toggle the View setting until the back- ground turns white.
Thisll be a good color to really see the edges of our selection. Turn on the Smart Radius checkbox and set the Radius to 20 px. Set the Smooth setting to 3, the Feather to 0. Now, youll see that Justin has been masked out and put on a transparent background. If you look around the edges of your selection, you may see some rough fringes or missed edges, like I have here. This happens a lot when the person in your photo is wearing something that matches the background too much.
Back in Chapter 1, we saw a quick way to fix this without having to tediously perfect the mask edge to make it perfect. First, press B to get the Brush tool and choose a smaller, soft-edged brush. Then, in the Options Bar, change the blend Mode of the brush to Overlay. If its not targeted already, click on the layer mask to target it. In this case, part of the shirt is missing, so press D to set your Foreground color to white, and then paint along the edge where the shirt is missing no need to be precise here, its okay if the brush extends beyond the edge.
Photoshop starts reveal ing the missing edges of the shirt, but wont bring the back- ground back in. Thats because the Overlay blend mode is simply fixing the edge of the mask. Even though your brush may be larger and it looks like youd bring the background back into view, it doesnt. Continue the same process around the edges of the selection, until you clean everything up.
Also, dont forget, if you see too much of the background in any areas, the op- posite also works. In this case, the area near his shoes had some back- ground showing through. Press X to change your Foreground color to black and paint on the mask. Since youre still in the Overlay blend mode for the brush, itll bring the edge in closer to what- ever youre selecting. Once the selection is done, we need to fix the overall exposure.
Remember, this layer is a Smart Object, so this means we can go right back into Camera Raw and readjust the Exposure setting. So, double-click on the Smart Object layers thumbnail to open the Camera Raw window. Set the Exposure slider back down to around 0 and click OK to return to Photoshop.
Were done with Justin, now lets put him into the new background. Open the background image if its not open already. Open the photo of Justin where hes been selected from the studio background if you dont still have it open and use the Move tool V to drag him into the background image. Now, you should have two layers: Remember, our background photo was taken at a specific focal length, knowing exactly where wed place the subject, so there wouldnt be any perspective or distortion problems.
By shooting this way, youll be amazed at how easily your subject fits into the background image. Our main goal here is to make it look realistic, and the shadows are going to play a big part in it. Press- and-hold the Shif t key and click-and-drag one of the corner handles inward to resize him and make the photo smaller press Command-0 [zero; PC: Enter to lock in the transformation when youre done.
Were missing one key thing to help pull this composite off shadows. This isnt true for all composites, though. If youve cropped the feet and dont see the ground, then shadows arent as much of an issue.
But any time you try to put someone standing in one scene into another scene, you need shadows to pull it off. The cool thing about the technique youre about to see is that well use the existing shadows, so we dont have to create new ones.
To start, press Command-J PC: Ctrl-J to make a copy of the Justin layer. Set the Use pop-up menu to White and click OK to fill the layer mask with white which reveals the origi- nal studio background again. While we dont want to keep everything from the studio back- ground, we do want to keep the shadows and make them blend with the new background.
So, change the layer blend mode to Hard Light and youll see a lot of the original background disappear not all of it, but a lot. Youll also notice the original shadows look like they blend in with the ground below his feet now.
To get rid of the rest of the studio background, select the Brush tool B , use a medium-sized, soft-edged brush, and make sure the Mode pop-up menu in the Options Bar is set to Normal. Since the layer mask is white right now, we want to paint with black, so press D, then X to set your Foreground color to black, and start painting away the remnants of the original studio background. Paint everywhere except the area around his feet where the original shadows now cast on the ground.
Dont worry if you paint over him, because we have another copy of him on the top layer. If you want to intensify the shadows I think it would help here , then just press Command-J to duplicate the shadow layer and the shadows become even darker. If its too dark, just reduce the Opacity of the layer until the shadows look real.
Cool huh? Instant shadows! While were on the topic of shad- ows, I think we need to add one of our own right below his foot. These shadows are essential when someone is standing on the ground, because our feet usually cast a very dark and thin shadow on the ground right below them.
So, zoom in on the front foot, then click on the Create a New Layer icon to create a new blank layer, and click-and-drag it below all of the other shadow layers, as seen here. With the Brush tool still active, choose a small, soft-edged brush from the Brush Picker, set your Fore ground color to black, and paint a very slight shadow right under the shoe on the right.
Keep it close to the shoe, though, as you dont want this one to spread out. Remember, its just his shoe casting the shadow on the ground and because the shoe is so close to the ground, its not going to be a large shadow.
Another telltale sign that Justin has been placed into the new back ground is the color. Well, remember how the layer that Justin is on is a Smart Object layer? That means we can change the color temperature with just a few clicks. So, dou- ble-click on the topmost layer of Justin to reopen the image in Camera Raw. Its going to vary for each photo, but for this one I moved the Temperature slider toward the right to to warm things up a bit.
Click OK when youre done to update the photo back in Photoshop. Remember, this is one of the main things we need to get right when compositing. But, I dont want to warm the photo any further in Camera Raw, because its going to warm his skin, and I think were good there. This adjustment is the compositors best friend. In the Adjustments panel, it defaults to Warming Filter 85 , which works well for this photo.
Adding the Photo Filter adjust- ment warmed everything in the photo, but we only want to warm his clothes mainly the back of his shirt, which would be picking up that warm light we see in the image.
This forces the Photo Filter layer to only affect the layer right below it the se- lection of Justin. But, its still warming his skin. The Photo Filter adjustment layer came with layer mask, so set your Foreground color to black and use the Brush tool to paint on his skin to remove the warming filter. Now, it only affects his clothing.
In fact, Id probably go a step further and paint on his jeans, too, since theyre already warm enough. We mostly want to warm the black shirt, so it looks like its absorbing all of that warm color we have in the photo. On this particular image, the back- ground is already pretty gritty and edgy. So, lets add some of that grit to the portrait, too. Click on the top- most layer with Justin on it to target it.
Of course, the layer looks horrible because its all gray now, but re- member that this is a Smart Object layer. Since weve applied a filter to it, we get all kinds of advantages one of them being blend modes. If you look at the layer in the Layers panel, youll see a tiny little icon, at the very bottom right, next to the words High Pass circled here. Double-click that icon to open the Blending Options for the High Pass filter.
Here, change the Mode setting to Hard Light to hide the gray, but keep all of that gritty detail. Okay, I like the gritty look every- where but on his face. Youll notice, though, that the High Pass filter has a layer mask its circled in red here.
This means we can paint the High Pass filter away from any parts of the photo where we dont want it. So, click once on the mask to target it. With your Foreground color set to black, paint with a small, soft- edged brush over his face to hide the High Pass filter effect there, but keep it on the rest of his body.
For the last step, lets go ahead and sharpen the overall image. Ctrl- Alt-Shift-E to merge everything below it into one new layer at the top of the layer stack. Hopefully, you can see how this composite is pretty much all just finishing touches. We spent most of the time on shadows and color. But, when it came to perspective and angles, fitting Justin into this new background was simple because some extra time was taken up front to make sure the camera settings, distance, and height matched.
The photographer was tethered into the back of a pickup truck driving down a road, with an assistant holding a light also tethered into the truck.
Now, the photos were great, but it got me thinking, What about shooting the motorcyclist in the studio, where I could control the exact lighting that I wanted, and then placing him onto the background I wanted? To me, a project like this really shows the power of compositing, because the alternative can be costly, requires a lot of setup, and is pretty much just a pain in the neck to pull off.
Open the photo of the tunnel. The first thing we need to do is change the perspective a little. To me, the sidewalk on the left doesnt add any- thing of interest to the background and I envision only seeing the road the motorcycle will be on plus, we need to remove the tripod leg on the far left. So, lets make a copy of the image layer to work on by pressing Command-J PC: Instead of cloning away the sidewalk, lets just stretch the photo a little.
Since the background will eventually have some motion blur to it anyway be- cause the motorcycle is speeding , we can get away with quite a bit here. Luckily, I was in Los Angeles recently attending a workshop by a friend of mine, Joel Grimes an awesome photographer and compositor , and we stumbled across the 2nd Street Tunnel.
So, I grabbed my tripod, went into the middle of the tunnel, and snapped off a few frames with Joel looking out for cars.
Then, instead of just dragging the bottom-right corner handle down- ward which will simply enlarge the entire image , press-and-hold Command-Shift PC: Ctrl-Shift and drag it downward to change the perspective a little, so it really looks like whatever is in the tunnel is coming at us.
When youve got the transformation in place, press Return PC: Enter to lock it in. If we push and pull the background any more, were going to distort it too much, but we still want to get rid of the sidewalk, right? So, grab the Rectangular Marquee tool M and make a rectangular selection on the bottom third of the photo as shown here. Then, press Command-J to copy that selected area up onto its own layer. Next, get the Move tool V and move the duplicated portion of the road over to the left side of the image.
I know it doesnt look quite right yet, but we do have some erasing to do, which well do with a layer mask in the next step. Click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel shown circled here to add a white layer mask to the top layer.
To erase away parts of this duplicate road layer, well need to paint with black on the white mask. So, with your Foreground color set to black, get the Brush tool B and, in the Options Bar, choose a medium-sized, soft- edged brush from the Brush Picker. Now, paint over the right side of the duplicate road to make it disappear and show the road thats below. Continue painting over toward the left and over the car to make it reappear.
What we want to do here is bring back the original road that is under the duplicate copy, but we want to keep enough of the dupli- cate, so it appears that the road extends all the way to the left edge of our image. When youre done bringing back the road, if you see duplicate lines on it, try this: Click on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to create a new blank layer, then select the Spot Healing Brush from the Toolbox or just press J.
In the Options Bar, make sure the Content-Aware option is selected and the Sample All Layers checkbox is turned on, then paint over any extra lines and cracks with a small brush. Theyll disappear in no time flat. The next thing well do is add some blur. Since the motorcycle is going through the tunnel, well want to convey that movement. This creates a new flattened layer of all our work, but still keeps all of our layers below it in case we need them again.
Radial Blur simulates movement from a panned camera, rather than just blur- ring everything in the photo. Set the Amount to something pretty low, like 15 we dont want to blur it too much. Also, the default Blur Center will come from the middle, which wont work for this photo, since the vanishing point of the tunnel is in the lower left. But you can change it by clicking on the Blur Center preview point and moving it to the lower left of the pre- view as shown here.
Click OK when youre done and youll see a slight blur added to everything in the tun- nel lights, car, and road. Lets add a slight motion blur to the car next. Set the Angle to about 8 slightly down- ward to match the direction of the car and the Distance to 80 pixels. Click OK to apply the blur. Press-and-hold the Option PC: Alt key and click on the Add Layer Mask icon to add a black layer mask to the motion blur layer, which completely hides the layer.
Its still there, we just cant see it. Then get the Brush tool, and with your Foreground color set to white, paint the motion blur layer back in only on the car in the lower left. Then, turn on the Colorize checkbox at the bottom of the Adjustments panel and itll apply a tint to the entire photo.
Drag the Hue slider to to add a blue tint and then drag the Saturation slider to We now have the background photo prepped and ready for the motorcycle. Heres a photo of the overall setup for the motorcyclist shoot.
The pose isnt exactly the same one were using for this project, but this will give you a good idea of where the lights are positioned. Pretty standard for this edgy type of photoa strip light on each side with grids and one main light in front along with my buddy RCs elbow at the top right. Now, its time to get the motorcycle photo ready.
Well first take a look at how the motorcyclist was photographed and any changes I made to the photo, before adding it to the tunnel background. An interesting side note on this image is that I originally thought Id go with a head-on straight shot of the motorcyclist. In fact, I created the entire composite that way. Then I started working with a photo from a lower angle on the side and as soon as I dropped it onto the background, I knew this was the angle I wanted.
It conveyed the idea of speed to me more than the straight shot did. Funny how things work out, huh? Goes to show you its worth shooting a few more angles or poses than you think you need. Okay, lets get started. Open the photo of the motorcyclist in Camera Raw.
Right path. Right strategy. Right partner.
Now, I took shots of several different posessome straight on, some from a lower angle on the side, and some from directly on the side of him I just had him turn the bike, so his side was facing me. In the end, this one was the one that really caught my eye for a composite. Theres one problem, though: I normally would move the sub- ject, so the backdrop did fall behind them, but that would have meant moving the bike which wasnt light and the lighting setup. Since I was pressed for time, and I knew the edges along the helmet were pretty hard edges, I didnt worry too much about the selection Id end up making later.
As for the photo, I think theres a lot of detail in the shadows that we can bring out. So, increase the Fill Light slider to about 60 and youll see those shadows open up quite a bit. Theres not much more we can do in Camera Raw at this point, so lets move over to Photoshop, however, were not locked into these settings. We have a trick for making Photoshop and Camera Raw work together, in case we want to come back and tweak any- thing like the overall exposure or white balance of the photo , and trust me, we probably will, once we see the image on the back- ground.
Just press-and-hold the Shift key and the Open Image but- ton will turn into the Open Object button shown circled here. Click it to open this photo in Photoshop as a Smart Object.
Now, lets start making the selec- tion. First, use the Quick Selection tool W to put a selection around the entire motorcyclist. Keep in mind that part of his jacket is gray, as well as the background, so take a few minutes to zoom in and get the selection as good as possible here. Dont forget, you can always open the practice files that Ive provided and theyll already have a layer with a layer mask of the selected image for you.
You can find out where to download them in the books introduction. Once your selection looks good, click the Refine Edge button up in the Options Bar. Were putting the motorcyclist on a fairly dark back- ground, so in the Refine Edge dialog, choose On White from the View pop-up menuthis way, well really see any selection edges that are off.
Turn on the Smart Radius check- box, increase the Radius setting to about 17 pixels, the Smooth setting to 3 since there arent any rough or detailed edges , and the Feather setting to 0. If you look closely at the edges around his shoulder, you might see a dirt-like fringe around certain places. This happens a lot when the background color is so close to the edges of what were selecting.
But we have a trick that we covered in Chapter 1 and will get to in a minute to get rid of it using the layer mask, so just click OK here when youre done. Now, in the Layers panel, Command- click PC: Ctrl-click on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the panel to add a new blank layer under the existing one.
This simulates the same white background we just used with the Refine Edge dialog. Press Z to get the Zoom tool and zoom in to the photo until you can see those dirt-like fringes around his shoulder and anywhere else. Because the original background color was so dark and matched the edges of the motorcyclist so closely, we have this fringe that Refine Edge just couldnt select out that well.
To get rid of it, in the Layers panel, click on the layer mask thumbnail to make it active. Press B to get the Brush tool and, in the Options Bar, choose a small, soft-edged brush and change the Mode to Overlay. With your Foreground color set to black, start painting along those edges. Youll see the fringe disap- pear, but because youre using the Overlay blend mode, Photoshop wont let it affect the actual edge of the motorcyclist. Then, change your brush blend mode back to Normal and use the layer mask to paint out using a black brush or paint in using a white brush any edges basically, any cleanup work that didnt get selected perfectly back in Refine Edge.
If your selection ever cuts out part of the person along the edges, change your Foreground color to white and, while still using the brush in Overlay mode, paint along the edges on the layer mask. Itll bring the edges back without bringing back the original background. The important created invented in the fledgling health by the irrational chapters but Does so involved yet distorted.
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