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FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos RAW, Post Processing & Printing
Thread started 04 Nov 2017 (Saturday) 17:51
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Isolating main subject - advice please

 
DaviSto
... sorry. I got carried away!
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Post has been edited 15 days ago by DaviSto.
Nov 04, 2017 17:51 |  #1

Below is one of a small number of similar images that I am having problems post processing. It isn't a great photograph ... just a poor snap, really ... and has lots of issues. I've dealt with quite a few of them (up to a point), already, and decided on a few others that I will ignore (like the fact that it is a long way off vertical). And I've taught myself about frequency separation and various other novel Photoshop things in the process.

All good learning but not enough.

The image is one of a few that are very important to me (not everyone in this photo is still alive) and I would really like to get it to the point where I could make a print fit to hang on a wall. The principal issue I have is the background ... which is a mess. It could be replaced or it could be blurred, faded and de-emphasised. Either way, it needs some treatment to allow the main subjects to be better separated from it.

I've 'Googled' this to death and spent quite a few hours going down various blind Photoshop alleys. I haven't found anything that gives me a very precise and high detail mask that allows exact outline (especially the hair) of the two subjects to be retained so that I can blur or simply replace the background.

How can I fix this? I don't mind if I have to spend days of effort over it; the image is important. I do need a solution that can be made to work.

Grateful for your advice.

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Redcrown
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Nov 04, 2017 18:36 |  #2

I don't think just blurring the background will reach your goal. Problem is the bright highlights everywhere but on the subject you want isolated. Knock down those highlights and you've got pretty good isolation.

1. Ran the image through Camera Raw with a heavy dose (-100) of Highlight recovery. Then roughly painted that in where needed with a soft round brush, using a fine hard brush only for the face edges from hairlines down to lips.
2. Add a Levels adjustment, drag white output level down to taste (175 to 200). Paint that in on the window only. You can be real sloppy along the hairlines, and use the fine mask from step 1 for the face lines. Again, does not have to be uber precise.
3. Clone out the small bright spot in the top left corner.

Done. Maybe 2-3 minutes. Even Quick Mask works OK on the face lines. The background is fine that way. Blurring the background would look unnatural. Replacing it completely would be far more difficult given the hair lines, and probably would not look much better.

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DaviSto
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Nov 04, 2017 18:51 as a reply to Redcrown's post |  #3

Thank you for this.

There were originally some very strong large glossy blown out highlights on both subjects (especially the mother) but I managed to reduce these in Photoshop in a way that I was happy with and that didn't look too artificial. The downside of that is that reducing the main subject highlights de-emphasised them against the background, as you rightly pointed out.

I think your approach to toning-down the background works ... and it seems would be fairly straightforward.


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MGibbons:)
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Nov 04, 2017 21:22 |  #4

You could also try a monochrome conversion, should allow the highlights to work in your favour and provide a nice contrast to help the subjects pop right out. Possibly even rotating the image could work too.


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PhotosGuy
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Nov 04, 2017 22:39 |  #5

DaviSto wrote in post #18488729 (external link)
(like the fact that it is a long way off vertical).

In this type of image, I wouldn't be too concerned by a perfect vertical orientation. A pleasing composition is more important to me.

I've 'Googled' this to death and spent quite a few hours going down various blind Photoshop alleys. I haven't found anything that gives me a very precise and high detail mask that allows exact outline (especially the hair) of the two subjects to be retained so that I can blur or simply replace the background.

Russell Brown has some excellent advice here: Russell Brown Tips & Techniques: Advanced Masking (external link)
Look for: "Super Advanced Masking Techniques for Really Bad Hair Days"


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DaviSto
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Nov 05, 2017 05:02 |  #6

MGibbons wrote in post #18488834 (external link)
You could also try a monochrome conversion, should allow the highlights to work in your favour and provide a nice contrast to help the subjects pop right out. Possibly even rotating the image could work too.

I'm thinking a monochrome conversion might be the answer ... at least for the time being. I'm going to have a lot more control over the image if I only have to worry about tonality and don't have to think about colour. I would like to try to get a colour solution as well, though, and PhotosGuy has pointed me in a promising direction for this.

I'm not so sure about the rotation. I think that's partly just due to the fact that I was there behind the camera when the picture was taken ... so I have that instinctive feeling about what is the 'right way up'.

Many thanks for your suggestions.


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DaviSto
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... sorry. I got carried away!
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Post has been last edited 15 days ago by DaviSto. 2 edits done in total.
Nov 05, 2017 05:23 |  #7

PhotosGuy wrote in post #18488882 (external link)
In this type of image, I wouldn't be too concerned by a perfect vertical orientation. A pleasing composition is more important to me.

Yes ... I managed to reach that conclusion, too. Ironically, RedCrown's edit shows up the structure in the window and it turns out that the image is not actually a million miles off vertical in any case. The fall of the drapes was confusing my eye.

PhotosGuy wrote in post #18488882 (external link)
Russell Brown has some excellent advice here: Russell Brown Tips & Techniques: Advanced Masking (external link)
Look for: "Super Advanced Masking Techniques for Really Bad Hair Days"

Thanks for pointing me in the direction of Russell Brown's advice. I think his hair cheat might work. It's still going to be quite a job and I'm going to have build my Photoshop skills a bit. But there's no better way to learn than by doing (well maybe there is for things like juggling knives or handling explosives) and I will have a go.

Incidentally, I had great fun (not) figuring out how to play a .MOV file now that Quicktime is 'verboten' on Windows computers. Cracked it eventually.


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Isolating main subject - advice please
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