What's the best way to edit the subject differently from the background?

Explorer ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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Sorry for this being such a simple question but I'm just setting out and learning Photoshop.

I want to make my subject (two people on a sofa) stand out more than the background (a room). I also want to edit out some objects in the room.  The final image will be in black and white.

 

My efforts in experimentation have shown that selecting the subject allows me to do some things and then inverting the selection allows me to edit the second part of it.

 

Isn't Photoshop all about layers?  What about masks?

 

Any simple lists, suggestions or advice would be gratefully recieved.

 

I have the Creative Cloud version which is fully up to date and I have Windows Home 64bit on my PC.

 

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Community Expert ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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Hi,

Welcome to Photoshop.

 

Where possible make a selection then add an adjustment layer to make your adjustments. When you add an adjustment layer with a selection made it will automatically have a mask in the shape of the selection. This has the advantage of keeping the adjustment editable, so you can change it later. You can also alter the mask later should you spot that it was not perfect.

Similarly, carry out any cloning or healing on a new empty layer. 

These techniques keep everything editable and do not alter your original image layer.

Save in a format that supports layers e.g. PSD, PSB or TIFF.

If you need a flattened jpeg to use elsewhere, either use Export or Save a Copy. That way you never flatten your master file.

 

Dave

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Explorer ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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Thanks for your reply, Dave.  I've seen some descriptions of the fine-tuning of the selection that copes with things as fine as a hair.  A lot of work but worth it.  You will see on the image that I have posted that there are some areas that will need some careful selection.

I will try your methodology on my image.

Thanks for the tip on saving files as well.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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Totally agree with Dave.

Lee- Graphic Designer, Print Specialist, Photographer

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Community Expert ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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Hi

It would help if you could post the image in question, one thing you could do is to slightly blur out the background, making selections and copying them to there own layer would be a good start.

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Explorer ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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Thanks for your reply Ged.  Here is the image before converting to B&W.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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The true power of Photoshop is not just that you can make global adjustments, but that you can adjust selected portions of your image. Masking is one tool, layers and channels another, and its often helpful to be able to go back and make changes later in the process. The major downsides are that adding layers and masks will increase file size and open/save times, your file formats are limited, and not all applications can work with layered images.

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Explorer ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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Thanks for your reply Lumigraphics.  I'm guessing that there are some Adobe tutorials for these features of Photoshop?

 

The image itself is to appear in an exhibition so I was thinking of printing from a much smaller file such as a jpg?

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Community Expert ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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Adobe has tutorials, YouTube is full of them, and there are numerous classes and paid training outlets such as lynda.com if you need additional help.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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@FyxIt wrote:

My efforts in experimentation have shown that selecting the subject allows me to do some things and then inverting the selection allows me to edit the second part of it.

 

Isn't Photoshop all about layers?  What about masks?


 

It’s possible to do everything without any layers or masks, with only selections as you have done. In fact, that’s how it was done in the earliest versions of Photoshop (in the 1990s), and in very basic image editors today. So the way you are currently doing it has a long tradition.

 

The reason that is not a preferred workflow today is that with selections only, your edits are applied permanently (unless you Undo, but undo history is lost when you close the document). You have to be sure you got it right, because trying to rework it later might be too destructive to the remaining data. It would be too easy to overwork the edits, with no way back.

 

If instead you put a selection on its own layer (Layer > New > Layer via Copy), now you can make all the mistakes you want on that, and the original data is still safe on the layer below if you need to start over.

 

Masks provide a way to hide part of a layer so that layers behind it show through. For example, if you duplicate your image, copy the Background layer, and select the subjects on the layer copy, if you next create a mask from that selection, all of the areas outside the mask (the room) are hidden on that subject layer, so you can apply a correction to the entire layer but it effect will be seen only on the subjects (because they are outside the mask). Of course another way to do that would be to delete the background outside the selection of the subjects, but then you can’t get it back. With a mask, unseen areas are only hidden, not deleted, so you can always get them back. Any hidden areas can be revealed again by painting black into the mask. This is especially useful if you later find that you accidentally shaved off part of the subject area that you need; if you had deleted the background outright that extra area would not be recoverable. But with a mask you just reveal the area that you want to show again.

 

So that’s the deal with layers and masks. Both provide different ways for you to achieve fully reversible edits, so that you can backtrack, change your mind, or improve the image further, at any time in the future, with complete access to the original quality image data.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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Photoshop didn't have layers until version 3.

There are ways to preserve intermediate versions of your work, such as snapshots and simply making backups.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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Just noting that snapshots have the same problems as the undo History: They are lost when the document is closed.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 11, 2022 Aug 11, 2022

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@Conrad C wrote:

Just noting that snapshots have the same problems as the undo History: They are lost when the document is closed.


 

Indeed, which is why I once requested help with a script, as I could only go so far with Actions:

 

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Community Expert ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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The use of history snapshots and the saving of versions as you go are both good practices which I would recommend. However, they don't replace the advantages of working non-destructively with layers and masks. Let's say you had added 25 layers - a mix of adjustment layers , cloned layers etc and you wanted to readjust the 5th one. Then you just do that. With sequential snapshots , stepping back to the 5th one loses the following 20.

Snapshots have their place and saving versions as you work is very good practice to guard against crashes and making mistakes, but they go hand in hand with layers and masks.

 

 

I know the folk answering above know this, but my addition was for the benefit of new users who may not.

 

Dave

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Explorer ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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Thank you for your reply Conrad and the methodology in it.  I'll make a copy of my original and try it out.

One of the things that I will have to learn is how to visualize these layers when "looking down" through them, which I am finding very hard to do!  My plan is to create an image in B&W with the background lightened so as to reduce its impact while still retaining its integrity enough to give context to the two people on the sofa. Probably by increasing its exposure by a quarter or half stop. It's going to need a little work on sharpening as well.  It is an old jpg original dredged up from my archive.

 

The subjects will have their exposure dropped away a bit to give me an overall increase in contrast.

 

I also want to introduce a retro theme across the whole image so I guess a plug-in such as Topaz might help here.  Where would this layer go?  Right at the top?

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Explorer ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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quoteIf instead you put a selection on its own layer (Layer > New > Layer via Copy), now you can make all the mistakes you want on that, and the original data is still safe on the layer below if you need to start over.
quote

OK, I've had a go but I've run into a problem.  I successfully made a selection (using the object selection tool) and was able to make another layer with just my subjects on it.  I then inverted the selection and tried the sequence again but it resulted in just the checkerboard and no background.  I've gone wrong somewhere.  Can you help?

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Community Expert ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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After inverting your selection make sure you switch back to the original layer before using New Layer from Copy. 

Dave

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Explorer ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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quote

After inverting your selection make sure you switch back to the original layer before using New Layer from Copy. 

Dave


By @davescm

 

I had a go but looks like I'm being a bit dense here!  I've attached a screenshot to show my efforts.  Where do I go from here, please? 

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Community Expert ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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With your selection inverted, re-enable the background layer (eye icon) click on that in the layers panel then use layer- new layer from copy

Dave.

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Community Expert ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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Simply use the select subject tool

Then with command (Mac) / Ctrl (PC)+ J place the selected subject on his own layer

You can the work separately on these 2 layers.

Note that to apply an adjustement layer only to the immediate belaow layer, press Alt and clic on the edge between both layers in the layers panel

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Explorer ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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OK, so I have had a go and I think that I have got somewhere (attached).  I "clipped" the adjustment layer to the layer below.  If I add other adjustment layers, do they clip to the one below?

 

Also, I want to do some minimal cropping.  Can this go on a layer too?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.  I have just put a brightness/contrast layer in to practice the technique.  I "clipped

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Community Expert ,
Aug 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022

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@FyxIt wrote:

Also, I want to do some minimal cropping.  Can this go on a layer too?


 

Cropping isn’t available as a layer, but if you want to crop nondestructively, when the Crop tool is selected you should make sure that Delete Cropped Pixels is deselected on the options bar. When it’s deselected, the cropped out areas become hidden, not permanently deleted.

 

Photoshop-Crop-Delete-Cropped-Pixels.jpg

 

If in the future you want to be able to un-crop that photo by revealing the hidden edges, you can use the Crop tool again to pull back the crop rectangle, or increase the canvas size (Image > Canvas). Or, if you just want to restore the entire original un-cropped image, choose Image > Reveal All.

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Explorer ,
Aug 13, 2022 Aug 13, 2022

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Thanks Conrad.  All very helpful.

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