Monthly Archives: November 2014

Using Masks in Photoshop

Masking in Photoshop

In the last blog I discussed blending images to get a better final result, specifically replacing a perfectly clear blue sky with one that had more character (clouds).

There are many ways to create selections in Photoshop, including the Color Selection tool, the Magic Wand tool, the Pen tool, the Lasso Tool, as well as the use of plugins, such as TopazLabs ReMask. Depending on the image you are working on, any one of these tools can be helpful. In this blog, I am going to layout the steps for masking using the Color Selection tool in Photoshop.

Step 1:

Select your base image. In this case, I selected an image from the Montgomery County Fair, of the swing. As you can see, there is NO sky here and I am getting aberration (vignetting) from my lens. To get this image ready, I processed the image using an HDR technique, to pop the beautiful undercarriage of the ride and the people in the seats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2:

After collapsing my layers, I duplicated my background layer, then I created my mask selection by through Select, Color Range, and used the dropper to pick up the areas of the sky. In this case, I picked the sky near the top and the bottom of the image, so that I got both “blues”. use the dropper to choose the “colors” to pick up. Then hit OK. This will give you the marching ants.

You can see in the image below this “marching ants,” indicated my selection. It doesn’t matter in this case that the corners are not in my selection. I will be able to fix that later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then click the Mask tool button shown below. This will create a mask. You must remember to duplicate the background image before selecting your color range.

 

 

 

Result, you can see our duplicate layer with a mask next to it in the layer panel on the right hand side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3:

Next select the appropriate sky image. Remember when making this decision, angle of the sky is important. For incorporation into this particular base, I would not select a sky taken on the horizon, it would simply be too far away. Also, consider the color (hue and saturation) of the sky you are going to use. Although this can be manipulated in processing, you can save yourself time by selection something similar. Lastly, you need to consider “light”… say from the time of day perspective. I could not use a night sky here, because there is too much light on the faces of the people on the ride and direction of light should be considered as well. I chose the sky image below.

 

I did do a bit of processing on this image. Deepened the blues in the sky and lightened the clouds, through Brightness and Contrast adjustment in Photoshop.

 

 

 

 

Step 4:

Duplicate the mask, so that it is also on the sky layer. To do this, hold down the option (or alt) click, click and hold the mask you want to duplicate and drag it up to the sky layer, and unclick. This will copy the mask you created and place it on to the sky image, allowing the background layer (base layer) to show through.   As you can see in the image below the vignetting in the corners is back and the masking is quite complete on the top left, but never fear… we will fix that next!

 

You can feather your mask at this point, but for this image, feathering would have created a small blue line around the ride, which would not have allowed the sky to look natural. Therefore, I left the feather control at zero.

 

 

 

 

Step 5:

To clean up the mask, you need to show the mask on the screen, instead of the image. To do this hold down the option (or alt) key and click the mask (on the sky layer). This will bring the mask on to your Photoshop workspace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depending on how clean your Select, Color Range was, you will have more or less black or grey in the sky. In my case, I could have clicked the corners during the range selection and that would have made this cleaner. In either case, we can fix it, but selecting the Brush tool and making sure white is selected as our “color” to paint. Then start painting the unwanted blacks and grays white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that we have cleaned up all the excess black (on the area that is supposed to be white) and cleaned up the excess white (on the area that is supposed to be black), we are ready to reveal our final image!

Again, holding the option (or alt) key, click on the layer mask (on the sky later). This will return to image to your workspace and presto chango … we have an image with some character in the background now!

 

 

 

Remember, this technique can be used for all sorts of images. Maybe head shots taken against a boring white background and you want to add color or textures.  Adding a moon to an otherwise featureless night sky. The possibilities are limitless.

 

 

 

To see a video tutorial on masking, click here for our videos on YouTube.

Macphun Black Friday Specials Are Coming Early This Year!

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BlackFriday is fast approaching and Macphun has some great gift ideas!

 

Save $80 on the Creative Kit Plus (Black Friday Special) & get a $25 Amazon or Apple iTunes Gift Card with purchase.Valid: Nov 25 – Dec 1
copy_1_ckplus_icon_92Details: Creative Kit Plus includes 4 award-winning Mac photo software products worth $210 (if purchased separately) for JUST $129.99. Nearly 40% off (an $80 savings). Plus, customers from the United States get a $25 gift card of their choice from the Amazon or iTunes stores with purchase of the Creative Kit Plus.Black Friday special is only valid on Creative Kit Plus (Black Friday Special). Gift Card only available to customers in the United States.

Use our discount code ROADRUNNER, if you are interested in purchasing individual products such as:
tonpro_icon92Tonality Pro – Awesome program for creating stunning black and white images! Great flexibility as the plugin has its own layer and masking capabilities!

 
 
 
 
 

intpro_icon_92Intensify Pro – Create powerful images with unprecedented drama, clarity, and detail! Great flexibility as the plugin has its own layer and masking capabilities!

 
 
 
 
 

shpro_icon_92Snapheal Pro – Easily remove unwanted objects, heal skin imperfections, get rid of pesky dust spots! Snapheal Pro features multiple erasing modes and adjustable precision for pixel-perfect results.

 
 
 
 
 

focpro_icon_92Focus 2 Pro – Create images with selection focus, lens blur and tilt-shift effects with just a few clicks!

 

Shoot the Sky!

As photographers, we are not always graced with the perfect sky. In fact, I have found that more often than not, I get to my destination and find perfectly blue, clear, no clouds, not even a whiff of clouds in the sky! If you have the luxury of being in a single location for a few days, you may get lucky to have the sky change, but that is not always possible. So no fear, there is a solution! So shoot away.

Through the magic of masking, you can add the perfect sky to any image. Some purists (and I used to be one) will say that is cheating. But the way I see it, if you are an artist creating a pleasing image, you have the right to manipulate your image in any way you wish; whether that be making it an abstract, making a color image black and white, using selective color, or even adding a better sky. Images are your creation, and unless you are just recording the location as a journalist, you should feel free to modify and improve upon it.

So with that in mind, here are some tips…

Tip 1: Shoot the sky. If you are out and about and see an incredible cloud formation or sky structure, shoot it. If you see an amazing sunset or sunrise… shoot it. I can be found taking sky shots through my car sunroof, if I see something that I may think will be useful later. I have a collection of over 2500 sky images readily available.

Tip 2: Shoot at varying degrees of angle. For example, don’t just shoot straight up, because if you have an image with a distant horizon, a sky shot facing nearly 90° to the horizon will look out of place, so collect distant horizon shots as well every possible angle of sky.

Tip 3: Collect sky images with all types of hues and saturation. This will allow you to select a sky that most “easily” fits your image, reducing processing time.

Below are some examples to illustrate my point. The original images were ok, but by changing the sky, I believe I have improved the mood and therefore, the story behind the images.

_DSF8599 _DSF8599-Edit

_XT15052 _XT15052-Edit

_DSF4544-Edit-2 _DSF4544-Edit-2-2

 

 

For masking techniques, check out this tutorial on YouTube!

Challenge Yourself

Many of us are weekend shooters. Some of us may not even leave our yards or neighborhoods. Others may venture into Washington DC or to one of the many parks throughout our region. As a result, we are often “shooting” the same or similar subject matter from one weekend to the next. And, frankly, there is nothing wrong with this, because each new day carries with it new light, new weather challenges and new results. The question though, is do our images feel new to us.

For me, as badly as I may want to go out and spend the day with my camera, I often find that I have already dismissed the day’s results, knowing that I will be seeing the same views, the same monuments, or the same type of flowers or falls. To overcome the urge to stay in and nap in front of the TV, I try to come up with ways to challenge myself!

I change how I shoot or how I post-process my images. Sometimes I restrict myself to a single lens, such as a wide-angle lens (16-35mm) or to a Lensbaby optic. Sometimes I restrict my subject matter to only people, buildings, or gardens. Sometimes I spend time creating through the use of software; Photoshop CC, Topaz Labs, or Macphun Software. In all cases, I try to approach the day’s shoot with a new focus and viewpoint to challenge myself to see and think differently.

You may not be familiar with Lensbaby optics. Lensbaby has created a suite of optic that are creative effects lenses that adds varying levels of blur and distortion to an image. The amount of blur or distortion is in the hands of the artist and controlled through both the optics and aperture rings chosen. When you first pick up a Lensbaby, you may think that it is best suited for macro flower photography, however, Lensbaby lends itself to every type of subject matter, from not only flowers, but objects, buildings and structures, to people. The results are only as limited as your imagination.  Challenge yourself to see our world through a new lens!

Everyday subjects found throughout our region transformed by Lensbaby. These images were taken with the Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Double Glass Optic. Aperture rings and shutter speed noted below.   For more information on Lensbaby, equipment, and examples of the types of images that can be created with their optics, see www.lensbaby.com.  If you are interested in purchasing a Lensbaby kit, contact us for our discount code!!

The images below were not only taken with a Lensbaby, but also include various processing techniques, such as the use of selective color, black and white photography, and HDR. Using all the tools available will give your images unique perspective!

  • f/4 aperture ring, 1/125 sec

    • f/4 aperture ring, 1/20 sec

  • f/4 aperture ring, 1/1250 sec

  • f/4 aperture ring, 1/100 sec

Post Processing Fall Images!

Fall is an amazing time of year, as the air cools and colors appear. However, it can also be a challenging time of year for photography, as often the cooler temperatures at night create fog in the earning morning hours. Although beautiful, fog can leave your images looking flat and lifeless. In our newest video tutorial, you learn how to add color and pop back into a foggy morning fall image. You will see this image:  _XT10831 become this image: _XT10831-Edit-2

in just a matter of minutes. You will also learn dodge and burn techniques that will easily become part of your image processing arsenal!

To watch this tutorial, please click here.  While on our YouTube Channel, please subscribe, as we are always adding new videos tutorials!