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purrsia
darkening background with people in front
on Feb 14, 2006 at 7:18:28 pm

Hi I'm working for a photographer who just gave me a huge load of photos. He wants me to darken the backgrounds on all of them. Problem is that there are people standing in front of the background. Do I need to cut around every person before darkening or I'm sure there is another method that would be easier. I'm not real familiar with layers, but could I do this with layers. I have 50 photos that need to be done by the weekend. Any help would greatly be associated. Thanks in advance.


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Timothy Kurkoski
Re: darkening background with people in front
on Feb 14, 2006 at 11:48:32 pm

Unless the people are standing against a solid-colored background, there's no especially easy way to do this. You have to in some way define for Photoshop what you want darkened and what the people are. Your wrists are going to be very tired.

There are a couple of different approaches I would take. All of them use an adjustment layer with a mask, but use different ways of generating the mask. Some are more accurate than others, but accuracy costs time (and aspirin for your aching wrist). And in many cases, you may not be able to notice the inaccuracies. It depends on the image and how dark you're making the background.

So to start, choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels (or Curves or Brightness/Contrast, whatever darkening method you want to use). Click OK on the first dialog, and then in the Levels (etc.) dialog, set the picture to be as dark as you want the background to be. Don't worry about accuracy, you can come back and adjust this later, this is why you use an adjustment layer. Click OK, then lower the opacity of the adjustment layer until you can see the people fairly well, but the whole image is still generally dark.

Next, follow the instructions below for the different methods. I prefer the first, but sometimes the others work better in different situations, and can be more accurate.

1. Brush in the mask. In the Layers palette, click on the mask icon on the adjustment layer. (The box to the right of the link icon.) Then grab the brush tool, set the color to black, and set the brush size to something reasonable. Then paint over the people. You should see them lighten up as you brush over them. Use a smaller brush with a little bit of feathering towards the edges. If you go outside the lines and reveal some of the background, you can fill in the mistakes by painting with white. Finally, turn the opacity of the adjustment layer back up to 100%.

This method is quick and dirty, but if you're careful around the edges and use a little bit of feathering, it looks good.

2. Use the magic wand tool to select the background. This only really works if you have a solid colored background, like a blue sky. You also may have to tweak the tolerance and other tool settings. Also remember than you can hold Shift and select multiple colored areas. Once you've got the background selected, in the Layers palette, click on the mask icon on the adjustment layer. Then choose Select > Inverse. Then choose Edit > Fill, for the Contents choose Black, and hit OK. Then turn the opacity of the adjustment layer back up to 100%.

3. Use the Magnetic lasso to draw a selection around the people. This works well if there's a lot of contrast between the people and background. Like the magic wand option, first create your selection, then select the mask for the adjustment layer. No need to inverse it this time, just fill it with Black. Then turn the opacity of the adjustment layer back up to 100%.

And remember that with both 2 and 3 you can do cleanup work afterwards using the brush to change the mask.


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purrsia
Re: darkening background with people in front
on Feb 15, 2006 at 12:25:54 am

Wow, you said a mouthful. I printed out your instructions so I can see if I'll be able to follow them. In the meantime, is there any way I can send you a photo so you can see what I'm talking about?
You are talking about alot of tools that I've never worked with. BUT, I need to learn because I've taken on some major retouching jobs with several photographers. Unfortunately, this project I have 54 pix's to do and not only the background darkening, but he wants the alter removed. So, all of this by the weekend..YIKES!!
Thank you for replying. You def. sound like you know what your doing.


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Timothy Kurkoski
Re: darkening background with people in front
on Feb 15, 2006 at 8:22:26 pm

I think I've got the general idea of what you're trying to do.

54 images is a lot of work. You can create an action to automate some of the work for you (such as creating an adjustment layer to darken the image), but because each image is different, you'll have to do a lot of the tweaking by hand. It's going to be time consuming for so many images. You may want to ask whether or not the expectation of having it done by the weekend is realistic.

I did prattle on a bit in my last post, didn't I? ;)

In general, I would recommend using the paint brush option. It's really pretty simple. The mask on the adjustment layer allows you to cut out holes in the layer. Painting with black makes a hole, painting with white fills it in. So if you brush with black where the people are, you can cut a hole through to the normal brightness version of the photo.

Again, you can get away with sloppy paint strokes if you use a slightly feathered edge on the brush around the edges of the people.

I'm sure that there are actual tutorials out there that cover this sort of topic. The Internet is awash in Photoshop tutorials. I could also recommend Scott Kelby's tips and tricks books for Photoshop- they're easy to read, easy to follow, and show you how to do some really cool stuff. You don't need to know how the program works, you just have to click on what he tells you to.


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