EDIT SKILLS: BACKGROUND CONTROL
IN NEED OF A PHOTOSHOP FIX TO CLEAN UP YOUR PORTRAITS? THESE QUICK TRICKS CAN HELP YOU GET A SEAMLESS BACKGROUND FROM CLUTTERED CHAOS
Want free of background distractions? Become an editing marvel with this quick and easy guide to retouching
GEEK- CULTURE CONVENTIONS such as Comic Con are a haven for the fantastically weird and a prime place to capture portraits with a lot of character. Where else could you photograph Wonder Woman, Chewbacca or the cast from The Avengers within a matter of minutes of each other? Events with willing models are interesting places to practise your portrait skills and possibly grab some great shots. You can shoot them with an open aperture to also include the context of the event, or isolate them with a darkened background by simply bringing in an off- camera flash, as used here.
By underexposing the ambient light and using a diffused off- camera flashgun to illuminate a willing subject, you can take the first steps towards eliminating background distractions. Unfortunately, given how busy such events can be, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to remove all highlights and people from the background, which is where a little Photoshop editing can help.
If you’ve set your camera to shoot in Raw, then your job is going to be an easy one and it’s likely that you won’t have to stray much further than step two. But if JPEGS are all you've got, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve missed your shot. If you’ve shot only JPEG, jump to step three – the process is a little more intensive and you'll need to use Adjustment Layers, but all is not lost.
YOU IMAGE IN LIGHTROOM OR ACR You’ve the most flexibility when working with a Raw file and the best chances of retaining quality once you adjust the exposure. As this image is underexposed, but the background still has distractions, brighten the overall exposure first using the Exposure and Shadow sliders. If there are hot spots created by the flashgun, reduce the Highlights slider. Finally pull the Blacks slider all the way to the left to darken background distractions.
THE ADJUSTMENT BRUSH With the overall exposure slightly better, click on the Adjustment Brush at the top of the Develop toolbar. Set a Size to suit the background distraction, Flow and Density to between 20- 40 for best control. Pull the Exposure, Contrast, Highlights and Shadows sliders to the far left and carefully brush over all background distractions. This may be all you need to do but if not, go to Photo> Edit In> Photoshop ( or chosen software).
WORKING WITH A JPEG To edit a JPEG in Photoshop, you’ll need to use a Levels Adjustment Layer with a Layer Mask. First adjust the exposure so that the subject is correct using Levels ( Layer> Adjustment Layer> Levels). Add another Levels Adjustment Layer and pull the black and grey triangle to the right to darken the background. Click on the attached Layer Mask and Invert ( cmd+ I on Mac, ctrl + I on Windows) and use the Brush tool set to White to darken areas of the background.
FINAL DISTRACTIONS If you've the odd element still visible, it's an easy fix. Select all your layers in the Layers palette by clicking on each while holding down the Shift key. Then press Shift+ cmd+ alt+ E ( Mac) or Shift+ ctrl+ alt+ E ( Windows) to merge all the layers into a new layer. Select the Clone Stamp tool, set to 100% Opacity, Hardness 50% and an appropriate size. Click alt to sample the area next to the one you want to replace and brush until the distraction is gone.