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Image ProcessingBaby step in PS: Ta Dah!

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Matt Quinn
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Baby step in PS: Ta Dah!

Post by Matt Quinn » Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:00 pm

Am 1/4 the way through an Adobe PS Tutorial for Beginners and I thought I should try masking. Here is the before and after. Be kind. Matt

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Matt Quinn

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Post by Duck » Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:04 pm

Masking is one of those tools that, once mastered, will be used ALL THE TIME. It's handy for more than just changing backgrounds. Any time you need to isolate an effect to a particular part of an image you need to apply a mask.

As you have (or will learn) there are multiple ways of creating masks (selection tool, pen tool, painting directly on the mask, etc.). The problem with first learning about masks is the frustration level of not getting a proper mask. The one piece of advice I can offer is to have patience and realize that slow is fast. If you try to rush the process you will always run into issues.

For the longest time my favorite way of masking was to use the Polygonal Lasso Tool as it allowed me to follow the outline of an object simply by creating points along the outline. The only problem is that PS creates a straight line between those points so to get a curve I would have to create points closer together (shorter lines) in order to give the illusion of curvature. This is still my go to choice as I have gotten pretty fast at making selections this way.

Lately I have been forcing myself to use the Pen Tool. It's a lot trickier to use but the added benefits are greater. I can create curves between point as well as edit those curves and points before committing them to a selection. Since I have a strong background in vector illustration the pen tool is very familiar to me and it's just a matter of getting used to it in PS. Either way, both these methods of making a selection are only the first part of the process.

The second part is controlling the edges of the selection. In your example I clearly see that while you may have created a nice selection around your subject the edges are too big for the selection. This is controlled by the feathering (blending of the edge transfer) and the edge contrast. This is assuming you created a selection using one of the selection tools.

As I mentioned earlier, another way of creating a selection is by painting directly on the mask (brush set to black and white). With this method you simply choose a brush and paint black on the mask to hide and white to reveal. This may just be the easiest ways to learn about masking but there are inherent problems with this since as you apply the mask it removes the image from view, making it difficult to see if you messed up in the selection. Specially in tight inside angles where you need a sharp corner but are working with a round brush. And even then, the feathering on the brush plays into the edge transition of the final mask.

Whichever method you find easiest then use that (for now, you can refine that later) to make your selections. Just take your time to make sure your selection follows the edge of your subject closely. Clean up inside corners, don't use a soft brush and it's okay to be a little off. A lot off... that's a bigger problem.

Once a selection is made you should get into the habit of using Select and Mask or Refine Edge to really fine tune your mask. Smooth the mask to resolve any frayed edges from an automatically created mask. Use feathering to remove funky color halos and so on.

The nice thing is, once you have created a mask around your subject you can use that to generate other masks just by copying your original. For example, you create a mask of a ball to separate it from the background. You make adjustment on the bal using the ball's mask but later find you want to make an adjustment to the background and need a selection of just the background. Simply copy the ball's mask and invert it an, voila, you have a mask for your background. Let's further say you only need half the ball. Again, copy the ball's mask and working directly on that new mask simply use the brush tool to paint white to remove the area of the ball you need.
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Post by minniev » Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:26 pm

Matt Quinn wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:00 pm
Am 1/4 the way through an Adobe PS Tutorial for Beginners and I thought I should try masking. Here is the before and after. Be kind. Matt


photoMentoris-196.jpg
Duck's given you more expert advice than I can. You are on your way. I agree that painting with a brush is the easiest way to make sense of it, and for some people that is the only way they do it. All the more mechanical tools for selection have ways to trick you, and they will. Here the bare limb on the left side played a little trick on you. But overall, your first effort is FAR and above better than my first effort was - and some of my current ones.

I'm waiting for Duck to offer us one of his cool video tutorials about masking, particularly using the latest PS tools. So far, the ones I've found are less helpful and more idealized than I'd like. I think he could sell it like hotcakes if it presented a real life practical solution that didn't make it look like it was as easy as pushing the Select Subject button.
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Post by PietFrancke » Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:35 pm

your feet are wet and soon your head will be under and you will swim the length of the pool that way! All-In!!

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Post by Duck » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:38 pm

minniev wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:26 pm
I'm waiting for Duck to offer us one of his cool video tutorials about masking, particularly using the latest PS tools. So far, the ones I've found are less helpful and more idealized than I'd like. I think he could sell it like hotcakes if it presented a real life practical solution that didn't make it look like it was as easy as pushing the Select Subject button.
You're giving me way too much credit her, but I appreciate it. I am better in a live classroom environment than I am with videos. :(
I'll see what I can do. I promised Matt I would help him.
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Post by minniev » Sun Apr 22, 2018 11:50 pm

You know what I mean. All the lessons, classes, tutorials and books are by big name pros using cameras and lenses we will never own, unlimited time in the field, travel paid for by their sponsors or students. Pp lessons are sponsored by software companies and are designed to sell software. I think there is an untapped audience of people who want to learn how to maximize what they have, in spite of realistic barriers like money, time etc.
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Post by Matt Quinn » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:08 am

Duck, In the tutorial, the instructor used the brush tool, and suggested clicking ctrl + opt which turned the brush into a red circle on the visible photo. Dragging l or r, changed the size, up or down changed the softness. To work the tiny edges, i used the smallest brush I could which was still visible but I knew I was messing the edges. I thought it was more important to get the hang of masking than to get it precise.

Minnie, Piet, Many thanks for the encouragement. Splash, splash. Good thing I am in the shallow end of the pool. Matt
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Post by Charles Haacker » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:31 pm

I've been a masking nut for as long as I've been in digital, now more than 10 years. I started with PS Elements which has most of the important PS tools. Three or so years ago I got into full-dress Photoshop and lately have been using the relatively new Select and Mask tool. Duck is SO right: "...slow is fast." Patience, patience, patience. Many folks simply don't have the patience. Fortunately I do. You may recall that I hand-retouched large-format B&W portrait negatives using needle-pointed graphites (drafting leads of various hardnesses), dyes, and even etching knifes to shave density away. The average negative took 1.5 hours. If I hadn't been patient I could never have done it. Maybe that's where I learned it.

Anyway, Select and Mask replaced the older Refine Edge, and while it took time to get used to I am finally beginning to feel comfortable with it, but fully acknowledge that it is a bear to learn. Once you get into it, though, I find it works wonderfully, but patience, patience, patience. Slow is fast. High magnification is essential.

The tool can be used any number of different ways, including starting with any of your favorite selection tools. I confess I cannot use the pen. I suspect it might be easier to learn with a tablet. I like the selection brush best, and occasionally one or other of the lassos. You can begin before entering the Select and Mask or you can do the whole job within the tool, but not if you like the pen because right now the pen is not included in the tool. I don't want to get all technical but the tool is fabulous but requires quite a bit of use to get comfortable with it. Once you do, though, I find it does the most seamless masking I've ever been able to do.

With your kind permission, Matt, here's a most recent example (horribly low Rez 'cuz I had to downsize it):
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DSCN5551-Edit--smaller.jpg
The clouds in this picture have been added. The original sky was just blaaaaah. I tried everything to pull something out of it but the only solution I could see was replacement. I keep a file of "cloud negatives". The clouds are on a separate layer and the original sky was masked out. This one has a lot of fussy bits around the lighthouse, especially at the top. In Select and Mask those fussy bits were all done at 300% magnification with a fine brush on the mask within the tool, but there are other ways it could have been done. The railings all had to be worked so the clouds would show realistically through them. The couple's heads had to be worked, especially the woman's hair blowing in the wind. The resolution of this sample is unfortunately poor.
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Post by Matt Quinn » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:32 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:31 pm
I've been a masking nut for as long as I've been in digital, now more than 10 years. I started with PS Elements which has most of the important PS tools. Three or so years ago I got into full-dress Photoshop and lately have been using the relatively new Select and Mask tool. Duck is SO right: "...slow is fast." Patience, patience, patience. Many folks simply don't have the patience. Fortunately I do. You may recall that I hand-retouched large-format B&W portrait negatives using needle-pointed graphites (drafting leads of various hardnesses), dyes, and even etching knifes to shave density away. The average negative took 1.5 hours. If I hadn't been patient I could never have done it. Maybe that's where I learned it.

Anyway, Select and Mask replaced the older Refine Edge, and while it took time to get used to I am finally beginning to feel comfortable with it, but fully acknowledge that it is a bear to learn. Once you get into it, though, I find it works wonderfully, but patience, patience, patience. Slow is fast. High magnification is essential.

The tool can be used any number of different ways, including starting with any of your favorite selection tools. I confess I cannot use the pen. I suspect it might be easier to learn with a tablet. I like the selection brush best, and occasionally one or other of the lassos. You can begin before entering the Select and Mask or you can do the whole job within the tool, but not if you like the pen because right now the pen is not included in the tool. I don't want to get all technical but the tool is fabulous but requires quite a bit of use to get comfortable with it. Once you do, though, I find it does the most seamless masking I've ever been able to do.

With your kind permission, Matt, here's a most recent example (horribly low Rez 'cuz I had to downsize it):
Thanks, Chuck. I am a very patient man so I will take my time. I will look up Select and Mask to find out what it is and where it is on PS. The tutorial has not yet covered that.

Reading about the amount of time you spent doing the work on the photo made me realize that the PS processing requires some cost/benefit analysis. At the moment, I don't believe I have too many photos, if any, that would merit an hour or more of reworking. Maybe I should practice so I can learn it and try it out on some photos I like to see what develops. And then I can decide. All good stuff from you, as always, especially doing the work at high magnification. Thanks. Matt
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Post by minniev » Wed Apr 25, 2018 9:28 pm

Matt Quinn wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:32 pm
Charles Haacker wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:31 pm
I've been a masking nut for as long as I've been in digital, now more than 10 years. I started with PS Elements which has most of the important PS tools. Three or so years ago I got into full-dress Photoshop and lately have been using the relatively new Select and Mask tool. Duck is SO right: "...slow is fast." Patience, patience, patience. Many folks simply don't have the patience. Fortunately I do. You may recall that I hand-retouched large-format B&W portrait negatives using needle-pointed graphites (drafting leads of various hardnesses), dyes, and even etching knifes to shave density away. The average negative took 1.5 hours. If I hadn't been patient I could never have done it. Maybe that's where I learned it.

Anyway, Select and Mask replaced the older Refine Edge, and while it took time to get used to I am finally beginning to feel comfortable with it, but fully acknowledge that it is a bear to learn. Once you get into it, though, I find it works wonderfully, but patience, patience, patience. Slow is fast. High magnification is essential.

The tool can be used any number of different ways, including starting with any of your favorite selection tools. I confess I cannot use the pen. I suspect it might be easier to learn with a tablet. I like the selection brush best, and occasionally one or other of the lassos. You can begin before entering the Select and Mask or you can do the whole job within the tool, but not if you like the pen because right now the pen is not included in the tool. I don't want to get all technical but the tool is fabulous but requires quite a bit of use to get comfortable with it. Once you do, though, I find it does the most seamless masking I've ever been able to do.

With your kind permission, Matt, here's a most recent example (horribly low Rez 'cuz I had to downsize it):
Thanks, Chuck. I am a very patient man so I will take my time. I will look up Select and Mask to find out what it is and where it is on PS. The tutorial has not yet covered that.

Reading about the amount of time you spent doing the work on the photo made me realize that the PS processing requires some cost/benefit analysis. At the moment, I don't believe I have too many photos, if any, that would merit an hour or more of reworking. Maybe I should practice so I can learn it and try it out on some photos I like to see what develops. And then I can decide. All good stuff from you, as always, especially doing the work at high magnification. Thanks. Matt
How many and which images you take into advanced PP is always your choice, Matt. Remember that Chuck has a wealth of travel images from fabulous locations, that haven't had the benefit of his newer processing skills. Your decisions will be based on what you have, and how much you're adding to that. I definitely don't take every image into PS, only those that I'm not able to reach my own goals for in LR alone. That includes those that I want to turn into something artistic, those that have significant cloning or masking needs, those that I want to print at enlarged sizes, and many of my monochrome conversions. Of 100 shots, I delete about half and then may take 2 into PS on the average. You will find your way when you learn what PS will and won't do for you, and may only spend the extra time when you really want to. But for those special shots you really want to maximize, it's a great toolset.
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