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This chapter is from the book

Removing People (or Objects) from Backgrounds

One of the most requested selection tasks is how to remove someone (or something) from a background. Luckily, this task has been made dramatically easier thanks to a fairly amazing tool called the Quick Selection tool (and you know if they use the word “quick” it must be true, thanks to rigid enforcement of the truth in advertising laws).

Step One:

You’ll find the Quick Selection tool in the Toolbox (as you might expect) nested with the Selection Brush tool (or you can press A to get it).


Step Two:

Here’s how it works: Just take the brush and drag it over the person or object you want to select (in this case, I wanted to select the whole family from the background, so I dragged across them). The first time I tried it, it almost selected all of them. The key word here is “almost.” Sometimes, it does a perfect job and other times, well...not so perfect. But more often than not, it really works wonders. Now, if you drag over an area, and it doesn’t get the entire person, just drag again over (or just click on) any areas it missed the first time. So, be prepared to drag one or more times to get them all. If you get part of the background in your selection, press-and-hold the Alt (Mac: Option) key and paint over the area you want removed.

Step Three:

Here the family is selected after just a couple of paint strokes. Then I used the Zoom tool (Z) to zoom in, and removed a few areas in between the dad and boy that were selected accidentally.

Step Four:

Well, now that we’ve got a selection, we might as well have some fun with it. Open a different image (in this case, a baseball diamond), then go back to your selected family image (make sure all your windows are floating by going under Window, under Images). Press V to get the Move tool, and drag your selected family right over onto the baseball diamond photo. If the people are too big, press Ctrl-T (Mac: Command-T) to bring up the Free Transform bounding box, then press-and-hold the Shift key (or turn on the Constrain Proportions checkbox in the Options Bar), grab a corner handle, and drag inward to scale them down to size. Press Enter (Mac: Return) to lock in your resizing. Note: If you can’t see the corner handles, press Ctrl-0 (zero; Mac: Command-0).

Step Five:

Since you’re a photographer, you’ve probably already noticed a problem or two. First, the depth of field doesn’t look realistic here. Generally, the people should be in focus in the photo and the background should be blurry. The people also look too “warm” for the surroundings, so we’ll have to remove some of the blue tint from the background to make it look like the family is really in the scene. Let’s take care of the depth of field first. Click on the baseball diamond layer (the Background layer). Go under the Filter menu and, under Blur, choose Gaussian Blur. Enter a setting of around 3 pixels and click OK. This should make the people look more like they were really there, as well as help them pop off the background.

Step Six:

Now, with the Background (baseball diamond) layer still selected in the Layers palette, go under the Filter menu, under Adjustments, and choose Photo Filter. From the Filter pop-up menu, choose Warming Filter (85). If the effect isn’t enough, increase the Density a little, and if it’s too much, reduce the Density (I dragged it to 16%). Now the baseball diamond will better match the warmer tones of the family photo. Click OK and you’re done.

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