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4 posts from January 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How To Erase A Background From An Image In Photoshop - Pt. 2


Since I seem to be on the subject of erasing a background from an image, I thought I would share with you one of the other ways to achieve this successfully.  But, that all depends on the image you are working with.  Let me explain.  Take this image for instance - I am going to show you how to erase the sky from the image, leaving only the trees, the barn, and the foreground.

This can be challenging, especially since I want to also erase the small remnants of sky that are visible between the branches.  This is where the Background Eraser Tool can come in handy over the Magic Eraser Tool.  Keep in mind, though, that the Magic Eraser Tool is great for when you want to erase a color that is prominent in the background and can be erased in one click as described in Pt. 1 of this tutorial.


Before I get started using the Background Eraser Tool, I will want to select it and adjust the settings for what I want to achieve.  In the case of this image, I have selected "Sampling: Continuous (on the left), Find Edges, and 60% Tolerance.


Now, I will start by placing the Background Eraser Tool over the area that I want to erase.  See the plus sign in the middle of the circle?  I want to place that plus sign over the color of the sky that I want to erase then I want to "option-click" the tool in that area of the image.


DO NOT DRAG the Background Eraser Tool!!  If you do, you will end up erasing far more than just the sky.  When you use the Background Eraser Tool it is best to adjust the size of the tool to your image.  For instance, if you are erasing a large area of an image that is the same or nearly the same color, then a larger tool is a good idea.  In the picture above, you might have noticed that the Background Eraser Tool is also hovering over the tree and the barn.  No problem.  Why?  Because by "not dragging" the tool, placing it over the area that includes all or part of the background you want to erase, and then just clicking (not dragging), you will cleanly erase the color you select, and in this case, the sky disappears, not the tree and the barn.  Pretty cool, eh?


As you can see, I am now getting down to the nitty-gritty - erasing the sky from between the branches of the tree, and not the tree.  This is where the Tolerance setting of your tool is critical, because the higher percentage of tolerance, the more sensitive the tool and you may end up erasing parts of your tree.  Even at 60% tolerance, I will probably be erasing some of it, but we might be surprised.  Let's see how I do.  But first, I am going to zoom in on this area to better see the pixels so I can be more exact in choosing the color to erase. See the dropper?  I am holding down the Option key which shows me the eyedropper where I am going to select the color for the tool to erase in the area where I am placing the circle of the Background Eraser Tool.  Have you got a headache yet?  Dang, this is harder to explain than it looks. It really is easy.  Hang in there with me!


Making progress.  The Background Eraser Tool has done a great job of erasing "only" the sky and preserving the rest of the image. 

So there you go.  I think that pretty much explains 2 ways you can erase the background successfully.  No dragging!!!! 



Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How To Erase A Background From An Image In Photoshop - Pt. 1


Since I've been messing with the re-design of my site, I've had to learn a few new tricks in Photoshop to create the images and effects that I wanted.  And, I thought that since I was learning all these cool new tricks, I would share them with you.  Take this image for instance.  I'll call it "Stack of Pictures."  I know the background is white, but the background is still part of the picture.  So, if I were to move the image to a darker background, the image would still be framed by the white background.  Instead, I want the foreground image of the Stack of Pictures to be the only part of the image that I use.  Okay, so how to do this in Photoshop? 


There are several ways to erase the background from an image, but I am going to share with you my favorite way to achieve this.  First, click on the Magic Eraser Tool.  I like this tool even better than the Background Eraser Tool sometimes because it doesn't make a mess of the image that you want to preserve in the foreground. 


See the Magic Eraser Tool cursor on the background of our image? - You want to position it over the color on the background that you want to erase - pixels and all.  Then, you want to hold down the Option key and click.   When you hold down the Option key your Magic Eraser Tool will turn into an eyedropper to show you that the position of the cursor is where it will grab the local color.  In this case, the local color of the background is "white" and that is the color of the background that I want to erase.


Next, check the settings of your Magic Eraser Tool.  In the case of the image that I am working on, I set the Tolerance to 10, made sure that Anti-alias and Contiguous are checked, and set my Opacity to 100%.  If you set your Opacity to less than 100%, then your background will not be erased 100%.


Next, place your Magic Eraser Tool over the background and click.  Magic!  Your background, and "just" your background have disappeared, leaving only the perfect outline of the image in the foreground that we wanted to preserve.  Pretty cool, eh?  But, I want to check my work and make sure that the image that remains has clean lines.


So, I click on the Move Tool, grab the image and move it to a darker background.  Since I had not yet created the new background for this image, I just opened a new file in Photoshop that was larger in dimensions than my image of the "Stack of Pictures" and set the background color to be this dark forest green.  It doesn't matter what color the background of your new file is, as long as it was darker than the original white background.  We want to be able to tell if the image was extracted from its original background.  And, as you can see, it was.  Hurray! 


Now here's the kicker.  You've successfully extracted your image from its background and you want to save it, right?  Well, this was my experience, and if you have anything you can add to this tutorial, please pass it on in the comments section!  But, I found that if I saved this image as a .jpg, once again, it will have a white background.  If, however, I save it as a .png, then the image is preserved as you see it here, extracted from its background, and can be used again.  I can also place it over another .jpg image as its background.  On the other hand, if I save it as a .gif, then for some reason it cannot be placed over top of a .jpg image as a new background. 

So there you go.  That's my tuto and I'm stickin' with it.  Of course, if you are a Photoshop guru and have anything to add to this, please pass it on in the comments.  I'm all for learning new ways to do things in Photoshop!



Sunday, January 11, 2009

Managing Design Suite Workspaces in Photoshop CS4


I have spent this weekend learning a bit more about Photoshop CS4 and Dreamweaver CS4 if for no other reason than I am determined to learn how to create websites and blogs that are really nice, and the fact that this education is free makes it even more enticing - especially since I am currently broke.  But that's beside the point.  Anyone who knows me knows that when I get determined to do something, I usually do it.  Thanks to www.Lynda.com, and Adobe TV, I have been watching video after video tutorial on Photoshop CS4 and Dreamweaver CS4.  Some I understand, others I don't.  Sometimes the instructor speaks too fast, and other times the instructor is pretty darn good.  As in the case of the tutorial I have embedded in this post - I was starting to get a sore butt from sitting for hours watching videos when I came across this one.  The information is fairly basic, and the instruction is easy to understand, making this tutorial really good for understanding your workspace within CS4. 

I hope you enjoy this video.  If you don't have CS4 yet, don't fret - neither do I, but I'm going to get that CS4 Web Premium Suite for my birthday in April if it's the last thing I do.  That, and hopefully a large hard drive for storage (and no, my mind is not in the gutter), and maybe a new Mac computer, and a million dollars, and...and...you get the picture.  That's another thing you should know about me - when I have goals, I'm not one to let anything stand in my way of reaching them.  So, I thought I would try to learn as much as I could about the CS4 Web Premium programs and how they work together (especially Photoshop and Dreamweaver) so that I would be able to dig right in and enjoy the new toy when (notice I said "when") I'm able to afford to get it.  Gotta think positive.

Here is a short and basic tutorial that I found very interesting.  If you are using Photoshop CS4 (I'm jealous) Well, not really, but hopefully, this video will be helpful.  I think it is fantastic the way that all the CS4 programs integrate together seamlessly.  Wow!  What a program! 



Sunday, January 04, 2009

Composition in Photography


So many of us want to be better photographers, and so we point and shoot. Now that's a laugh, but really, especially since the invention of the digital camera, more of us find it to be a whole lot less frustrating not having to hand over our film for developing, then waiting a week to pick it up only to discover that we just paid for 8 out of 10 photographs that stink. I can even remember going through a number of packages of photos thinking "What the heck is this?" 

Resting boy

No more.  We no longer have to suffer with such things unless, of course, we enjoying self-inflicted pain.  Still, instead of taking several hundred shots on your digital camera hoping that one is good, how about taking this excellent tool of technology - the digital camera - and learn to use it - and use it well?  It truly is a creative tool in many ways that don't involve Photoshop.  Of course, for me, I'd almost rather learn Photoshop and try to fix the screw ups, but that is just stupid if you ask me, and time consuming, and although it is fun to play around in Photoshop, I'd much rather know a bit more about my camera and composition and spend less time in the photo-repair-shop (if you know what I mean). 

Now I'm not saying Photoshop is a bad thing - as Tony the Tiger would say - "It's Grrrreat!," but how about we give our Photoshop something awesome to begin with?  Sound like a plan?  Good. 

Just so you know, I am not a photographer, I am an artist, and although I know a lot about composition of the painting, and can apply some of that knowledge to photography, I have been simply lucky to have taken some very nice pictures with my camera (the Nikon D300), but prefer that it becomes a little less luck and a lot more professional understanding


And so, I turn you over to my friend, Sheila, better known as Dr. Cason, who is a Pediatrician, a passionate photographer, a wife (to a man who could pass as Tom Cruise's brother), and a mother.  Oh, and she is a blogger too!  You've gotta stop by and say hello to her at Drcason.org.  She'll be happy you stopped by, and be sure to comment!  Also note, that she is currently living overseas, in Guam, with her beautiful family.  How exciting is that? 

Take it away, Sheila! ...

Composition in Photography

Hi everyone, my name is Sheila Cason and I run the photoblog- http://DrCason.org. It’s my pleasure to explain a little photography for Raisin Toast readers! First off, let me say that I’m a doctor, not a photographer, but I take both pretty seriously. Okay, I take the doctoring more seriously, but I’m really crazy about photography!

I carry my camera everywhere and when I’m not taking photos or processing them, then I’m reading about taking photos or processing them!  In particular I love reading about what makes a good photo.  For me it comes down to composition.  With the advancement of digital photography and the ease of auto programming, it gets easier and easier to take a clear and sharp photo, but is it good?  Is it interesting?  Does it move you?  This is where doing your homework can help you.

There are a lot of rules within composition and you don’t need to follow them all.  Like they say - "rules are made to be broken," right? But, it’s nice to know what they are before we go ignoring them.  So let’s get into some details of composition.

1. Remember the Rule of Thirds

Most people have heard of this one. To put it simply, just take your image and divide it into nine equal parts with two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. Then place your subject matter along these lines or at their intersections. Hard to imagine huh?

Let’s look at an example.  Here is my middle girl.  Isn’t she cute eating her corn? Man - what is it about kids and corn?  Mine love it!  Anyway… Look at her… Her body lies along the first vertical line and her sweet face is right at the intersection.

Photo 1 Rule of Thirds copy

2. Use Lines

Lines are a great way to lead our eye to your subject.  The main focus here is my boy and the lines all lead to him.  Isn’t he cute?  BTW - that is an ear of corn in his hands!!  LOL.

Photo 2 Use Lines

3. Fill the Frame

Too many times I see a picture that would have been better if only the subject had been closer.  Get close!  Dare to interact and make your audience really see what you saw.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.  I didn’t crop this photo - I was really this close to those sweet boys.

Photo 3 Fill the Frame

4. Show Texture and Color

Don’t forget that you are really trying to show your audience what you saw and the more texture and color you include, the better it will be.  I took the following photos at a Balinese cooking class.  Are you drooling?  I was!

Show Texture

Photo 4.1 Show Texture

Show Color

Photo 4.2 Show Color

5. Shoot Upright or Horizontal

This is a question you’ll have to answer every time you take a photo. Don’t get stuck into shooting horizontally. Sometimes the vertical choice is the best!

Photo 5 Shoot Upright

6. Use Scale

Scale is a great way to illustrate what it is that you are trying to show.  For example, I was really impressed at the enormity of these tree roots and I took a lot of shots that failed to show the size appropriately.  It wasn’t until Jake walked right in front of the tree that I knew I got my shot.

Photo 6 Use Scale

7. Select Viewpoint

Actually move around and get down to the eye level of your subject.  Don’t forget that sometimes the best picture is above you!

Photo 7 Choose Viewpoint

8. Keep it Simple

Many photographers overly complicate things and include too much activity in their photo.  I think people want to capture it all… with as few photos as possible.  If you start thinking this, STOP and just take a photo of something small.  If you lean toward the sparse side, then you’ll usually end up with a better photo.

Photo 8 Keep it Simple

9. Photograph with Passion

I can’t stress enough that you need to photograph with passion and sometimes forget about the rules.  When I take photos I don’t consciously think of all the rules of composition, I just look through the viewfinder and take what I think looks great.

Have you seen enough?  Learned enough?  Are you dying to go take some photos?  Yeah, me too!  So go now… you have nothing to lose (and everything to gain!).

Photo 9 Photograph with Passion

Dr. Sheila Cason

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