Photo retouching Tips: Tip # 2, Quick Background Removal .

19 July 2013

Imagine you the photo retoucher have just 200 images sent to you by your client, and they are expecting them back, like yesterday….Here is a digital photo retouching and editing tutorial, As retouchers we are always looking for shortcuts to help with photo editing, because as we all know: time is money.

One of the most time consuming retouching jobs in my opinion is using the pen tool to mask out a catalogue photo to place on a white/neutral background. If your photos have been photographed in a studio, by a professional photographer, and are of a decent size – not a thumbnail, here is my tip.

digital photo retouching and editing tutorial

digital photo retouching and editing tutorial

Open the retouch in Photoshop, duplicate the layer, so you have a before and after comparison to use as a reference, and sandwiched between the two layers, add a layer and fill it with the desired background mask colour, usually white.

Select the magic wand tool and highlight the top layer you want to retouch. This is where you need to be a bit experimental. the default tolerance of the magic wand is 32 (you will find that setting in the tool bar above), click in the grey part that you want to retouch. Check what the “marching ants” ants are doing, are they selecting all of the grey, almost all or are they selecting part of the image that you don`t want to retouched and removed. If they are selecting the grey and part of the image , then deselect, reduce the tolerance to say 20 and try again. the trick is to select most of or almost all of the unwanted part of the photo. Make sure that the add to selection box is highlighted, situated on the top left next to “sample size”, and add to the selection by clicking in the parts you want removed that have not yet been selected. Once you have a neat set of marching ants surrounding the part of the retouch you want to keep, you are halfway done. with the selection still active click delete ad you will see the grey background disappear and the layer below (white) will take its place.

Retouch tutorial

photo retouching and editing tutorial

The only problem now is, you will see the edges are quite ragged, some of the box lid has been chewed away. The trick is: before you click delete, with the marching ants still selected, click “modify”, in the dropdown menu, click smooth. I usually smooth by around two pixels – this softens the hard lines the marching ants have taken, lastly click “modify” and feather, I usually feather from around 0.5 to 2 pixels. The last two adjustments are really dependant on the pixel size of the retouched photo in question and how the marching ants are behaving. Try a few variations, check the results, by zooming in, once you have your formula for you batch of retouches, you can save hours of toil using the pen tool. Lastly, this tip is very dependent on the photos supplied. I always have a quick look using the magic wand tool, evaluate the result and decide whether to use the traditional pen tool, or the magic wand if it has cleanly removed the background. Always check your results carefully, as you might have inadvertently taken off too much.

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