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Prepping the Basketball Player

This one breaks all the rules on how I’ve been telling you to set up your backgrounds to make the selection process easier. While teaching at a small workshop in Tulsa, OK, I decided to do a live compositing tutorial for the class—the shoot, the extraction, and the Photoshop work all in one class. Well, because of the classroom setup, we didn’t have any seamless backgrounds to use. In fact, we didn’t have any background at all. And all we had were two lights (not the three I would normally use). So, the setup wasn’t ideal, but because the background was light enough and because there was at least one edge light, we’re still able to pull off a great selection.


Open the basketball player photo. It’s a RAW photo, so it’ll open in the Camera Raw window. Our model, a young guy named Tyler, did great here. But, as you can see, the setup wasn’t ideal. The yellow wallpaper from the small hotel conference room isn’t the background I was hoping for (you gotta love the power cords in the background, too). I only had one edge light, and you can see it in the photo here. The only other light, which you don’t see, is a beauty dish with a diffuser just to the right of the camera, above and in front of the subject, to add some fill to his face and uniform.


To make the selection process easier, increase the Exposure setting to +1.00. The brighter the background, the easier job Photoshop will have at selecting Tyler from it. Press-and-hold the Shift key and the Open Image button, at the bottom right of the window, will turn into Open Object (circled here). Click it to open the image in Photoshop as a Smart Object, which means we’ll be able to easily come back to Camera Raw if we need to later.


Believe it or not, the selection for this one is really simple. First, press W to get the Quick Selection tool. Then, paint your selection on Tyler until you have the entire body and basketball selected. As I always say, spend a couple of minutes here to make sure you get all of the edges as close as possible. To remove an area from the selection, just press-and-hold the Option (PC: Alt) key and click on it.


Press the Refine Edge button in the Options Bar to open the Refine Edge dialog, and then press the F key until you have the white background. Since our final background is fairly light, white works best for previewing our selection. For this one, I dragged the Radius slider to 15 px and turned on the Smart Radius checkbox.


Press the F key one more time to switch to the black and white View mode. I’ll do this every once in a while to see if I’m missing any edges in the selection. In this case, zoom in to the area at the top right, where his shoulder meets his ear. You’ll see a jagged fringe near it. If we leave it alone, it’ll eventually pull in some of the yellow wallpaper.


To fix it, click-and-hold on the Refine Radius tool to the left of the Edge Detection section, and choose the Erase Refinements tool. Use the Left Bracket key ([) to make the brush pretty small, so it fits into that area, and then paint along the edge until the fringe goes away (as shown here). When you’re done, set the Output To pop-up menu to Layer Mask, and press OK to close the Refine Edge dialog.


Now, we’ll clean up some fringes around the selection on the layer mask using the Overlay mode Brush tool trick I first covered back in Chapter 1. Click on the layer mask to target it, press B to select the Brush tool, and then set the Mode pop-up menu in the Options Bar to Overlay. Zoom in really close to the edges and start painting with either black or white. Paint with white on areas like you see here, where part of Tyler’s uniform is actually missing from the selection. Painting in Overlay mode with white will bring it back, but it won’t bring back the original background.


Paint with black in areas like you see here, on the left side of his jersey. Remnants from the yellow background are still there, and painting with black will remove them, but not his already-selected jersey.


Now, double-click on the Smart Object thumbnail to go back into Camera Raw and set the Exposure setting back to 0 (zero), since we don’t need it to help with the selection anymore. Click OK to go back to Photoshop.

STEP 10:

Part of prepping the portrait also involves any retouching that needs to be done. There are a few blemishes that we can get rid of quickly and it’s easier to get it done now than worry about it later when we’re trying to composite the two images together. So, click on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a new blank layer. It’s always good to try to rename your layers as you go, too (double-click on the layer’s name to do this). I can’t say I’m always good at remembering to do it, but I do try when I know I’m compositing, because the layers can get out of hand really fast.

STEP 11:

Select the Spot Healing Brush tool from the Toolbox by pressing the J key. Make sure that the Content-Aware radio button and Sample All Layers checkbox are both turned on in the Options Bar.

STEP 12:

Zoom in on the face to get a closer look. The Spot Healing Brush is pretty simple to use, especially when you turn on the Content-Aware option, like we just did. There’s no sampling involved, just position your cursor over a blemish. Use the Left or Right Bracket key to resize the brush to something just a bit larger than the blemish. Then, click to paint over the blemish, and it’ll disappear. Use the same process to remove any tiny spots on his arms and face. Okay, we’re done with the prep work for the portrait, so save it as a PSD file and move on to the composite.

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