Composite Photography Basics


Lesson Info

Using Color Range for Composites

Now there's other tools that we're going to talk about next. And what they mentioned was the Color Range feature. So, the Color Range feature allows you to select a certain tonal range or a color range and adjust accordingly. So, let's use another image as an example. This one is also done by Alexis. Who is, as you can see, really great with everything. (Laughs) It's quite talented...bit jealous. Now the same thing will apply here. I'm going to start by just unlocking that layer. Now let's say we want to make it easy on ourselves cause we want to hand mask everything. Right? We wanna actually make it a bit quicker for our lives. (Laughs) Now some things you can't avoid like if it was a really complex backdrop. There's certain pros and cons and that's why I talked about hand masking first, really useful. Now, when it comes to shots like this usually shot on. If you are doing composites, you usually shoot on white or gray or something where it doesn't have a lot of kickback. You know? So...

you can extract it a lot easier for templates. A lot of posters we do will do that they'll just shoot it on a seamless and then extract. The worst is when you shoot it on a busy backdrop, like hey how much for the extraction? Cause that is a really long process. So you want to prepare accordingly. And if it helps, try doing one first in backdrops and seeing what's easiest. Cause if you do it on a black backdrop, the problem is you lose details, like hair. And it's not going to look as realistic. If you do it on white, sometimes you will blow things out. So, you know, it's hit or miss. That's why gray is usually a better option for extracting purposes. Now, in this example let's talk about Color Range. I think the best way to talk about Color Range is - I'm going to switch over back here for just a moment. I'm going to disable these things. Now select, I'm sorry go to the select command on top, under your panel and go to Color Range. The Color Range feature is really useful because it allows you to select something in an image based on color. So let's say that you have a specific color reference that you want to select. It highlights that first. Now as you can see here, it's highlighting all of the colors that are in the backdrop. So if I say, let's say no preview. You can see the backdrop is actually blue. But the problem with this image is that so is the hair and so is the skin. So the Color Range feature doesn't work in this instance. So, that can be really problematic for an image like this and that's why the hand mask is really useful. Because with an image like this, with these tools and techniques that you see work really well in some images don't apply. You know what you can do aside from that. But the way it works is just like that. It allows you to select the actual color itself and what happens is these are different little views. It shows you what's being selected and it allows you to see how it looks on black, how it looks on white and so forth. I typically leave it to none and just look at this preview image here. So I can see both views. So, over here it's picked you know the dark blue backdrop but it's also picked some of the dark blue hair, it didn't work. Now, there's also another area which is basically like red, yellow, green, blues and so forth. So it auto selects the colors in an image. So if you already know you want red selected, it does it automatically. The only reason I prefer not using this is because it makes a predetermined estimate of what reds are, of what yellows are. Cause if we want to pick a certain shade of yellow, that's like an orange. It doesn't really know who to pick. There's no orange. So, it becomes really difficult. So my default is always using sample colors and just clicking on the image itself. Makes it super easy. Now the other thing that Color Range has is, let me put this to gray scale so you can see it quite large format. It has something called fuzziness. I don't know why they call it fuzziness but (laughs) because it makes you feel fuzzy inside. You know? That's all the work you are about to do. But fuzziness I like to think of it like okay; it picked the colors you liked, like the blue backdrop and then when you increase the fuzziness it picks that color in neighboring areas. That's what fuzziness kind of means. It makes it glow a little bit. It selects everything around that blue. That's what fuzziness kind of is. Example is if you, you know push this left or right you can see how soft the transitions are vs. how hard the transitions are as well. So in instances like this, it doesn't really work. But, in instances like this image. It makes things a little bit easier because most of the backgrounds generally white. And so what happens if I go to select and Color Range here and now if I select the backdrop you'll notice that it selected most of the backdrop and a little bit of the skin. But it gives us a better starting point and it's much easier to do too because now if I decide that if I hit command plus and zoom in here. I am going to worry about the insides later, but what I am going to worry about now is the edges cause that's going to indicate what a clean cut out is vs. not a clean cut out. So, I'll increase the fuzziness and compromise a little bit of the insides, which is okay cause - this is again a two-step process. You are not going to get a one step process for extraction. Okay, it's not going to happen. But you know, combining a couple of techniques you are able to get there. So, like I said increase fuzziness and it makes the edges not as hard. If I had a you know, like zero, you see what happens it makes everything really crunchy. It's like compressing levels together. It makes everything really crunchy. So, I'll increase the fuzziness and do it by eye. There's not a figure that I like to use. It's always what does it look like? Is it a good starting point? Etc. Whoops. Okay, so let's say we have something like this, where most of the background is selected and little bit of the skin is also selected. We're gonna use the invert button because we're masking out the background and the background has to be black, right? If you look at a mask, the part that is black is masked out. So, we want the background to be masked out. So, that's why I hit invert cause if I don't what's going to happen is he's going to be masked out and not the background. So if I said okay and then I click on the Mask tool, he's masked out. Obviously, you can also hit Command I, and it inverts it which is fine. But that's an extra step. So again, just select Color Range, I'm going to click on the background cause I'm selecting that white color that I want to be masked out. And then I'll hit the invert command. The reason why that's necessary, is because if I just clicked on him, he has too many different tones going across his body. And so it's going to be impossible to do one click and mask most of him out. That's why I have to click the backdrop because it's primarily white and then hit the invert function. And then suddenly you have a background that's masked as quick as possible. And then I'm going to hit the mask button. So you can see here that most of him is masked out well, except for the body. Now this is a starting point. And this is a common starting point for a lot of people who do composites because no matter what technique you use if you get to a point like this, that's pretty decent, especially considering he had a range of tonalities happening. So, what happens is now that you have this mask, what I am going to do is again. Let's go ahead and put a solid color backdrop underneath. So we see what we are kind of working with. Right? Maybe you decide that you have something that's a lighter shade of whatever. It also helps to photograph subjects based on where you are going to put them. So if you are going to put them in a really bright setting, shoot in a brighter backdrop because it'll be easier to kind of work, hide away the edges. But if you are placing in a darker backdrop, do in a darker gray. Definitely don't do black and make sure nothing is clipped because if the hair is missing there is a problem. Right? So, let's say we have our little check, mask check and now we go to our mask. The mask itself is looking pretty good. I would say, compared to what we've done. But what we want to do next, is kind of tweak that a little bit more. The way we are going to tweak this is by using the brush and dodge and burn. You can see the brush coming back into play. It's not going any where. So, go back to our dodge and burn, which is going to be these little icons here. And we are going to be darkening and brightening the mask directly. So if I go in and say click on dodge, right? I'm going to make sure the exposure is set to and let's start with highlights because I'm going to be just brightening the highlight area. And it says highlights because anything that is white is a highlight to Photoshop. So, I will simply go in and start brushing over some of these areas. It's not going to work completely, but it's going to get a lot of the way there. And then whatever else doesn't work we'll switch over to the mid-tone values and kind of brush it out. So I'm simply going in and brushing it out. Lets switch over to mid-tones for a minute. So it doesn't do a whole lot better. Maybe we'll go to some of our shadows and brush that way. You see if you do shadows what happens it starts brightening the background as well. So, this is where you also run into a problem if you start working on the highlights and you get rid of most of it, what happens is if there are any areas around the edges that are a problem. Like over here with the glove, you simply dodge that out. Okay. And what you want effectively is anything in the middle to be left over. And so now anything in the middle that's left over, I can use my brush tool and just paint white if I want to. So I click on the brush tool, click on a white brush, and then zoom in here, increase my brush size and simply brush over anything that I want to remove. One important tip, if you draw hair make sure you turn your shade dynamics off again cause otherwise the brush won't work as effectively. Okay? So I'll go ahead and start brushing. And you can see here what happens is that as I brush it gets rid of everything aside from the actual outline of himself. And this is really important because by default if you are looking like this, sometimes you don't see those really small areas that you missed. And to be fair, sometimes it doesn't really matter especially if you are say putting this in a really similar color toned backdrop. Then you might not notice so it's kind of like, pick you battles. You can be as precise as you want, or visually precise. When you look at it like this, well it doesn't look so bad, I'll do a couple of little strokes here and make sure that my edges are fine here. And you might miss a thing or two. But if you are doing a lot of artistic composite work where I have a colleague his name is Drake O'Rubio. He does a lot of fantasy composites and he doesn't really make sure everything is perfect as a mask because he knows when he stacks elements together, sometimes its not noticeable. So you really have to pick your battles, you know based on what you are doing. But, regardless of what you do this is the way you would effectively do it. I'm going to go in here really quick. This is why it's really critical to go over brush settings and things because if you don't know it, you would probably be really lost here. Or it would take you a lot longer to achieve very similar results. Now the only part that's difficult in comparisons is things like this where I am simply going to hand mask, like I mentioned before. But at least we aren't hand masking everything. (Laughs) cause that would take a long time. But at least with this you are able to get quite close. So I'm going to spend a couple of minutes. I'm going to be get to back to this in a minute. This is really important topic. Okay. There's another tool, uh what is it, another tool that is quite good, it's called Topaz ReMask. Topaz ReMask is actually has a really amazing engine, in how it works. So, Topaz ReMask allows you, it tells you generally colors in where you want to extract. So you paint green around the backdrop generally and it says paint red or green or whatever color it was on what you want to keep so you generally draw squiggles along the body or the face, whatever it is and then it says also outline the edges of the subject. So then you draw around the edges and make sure it's highlighted. And then it asks you to calculate a mask and it generally does a better job than like Color Range or even Channels. And then you can import that mask back into Photoshop. So it's an extension, I think. I use that sometimes as well, when nothing works. And things like, if something doesn't work at all, I'll run it through that program as a base. So that's good to know. And uh yeah. So yeah, generally like I said I'll do as much as I can here and based on intent and how knit picky the final indent is, I'll tweak it that way it's perfect, without spending an hour trying to mask out everything. You get the idea. The same thing will go for areas like this. So once I have the edge kind of done I don't have to go all the way to the edge, which is a huge bonus and I can simply draw inside of the area. This is why a tablet is really helpful. You are able to go zoom in an out and draw very freely. I mentioned this before as well, if you aren't used to drawing on tablets, its something you just have to kind of practice with and get accustomed to but if you don't have, if you just have a track pad, I definitely recommend at least having a mouse. For sure, if you tried extracting on a track pad, oh my God, you want carpel tunnel syndrome as fast a possible, that's the way to do it. Right? So, this is me being, this is me just getting in there and working my way through. Okay, so let's say for example, I have something that I like and you can see a really nice silhouette outline. And obviously like I said if you want to be more intense with it just get in there and do what you need to. But for most purposes this is way more than enough. Right, you've extracted it really nicely.

Compositing is a part of the process that allows people to tell a story and accomplish their vision. It can be quite tricky, but with this tutorial, Pratik Naik shows you the basic tools and techniques needed to create advanced results. You’ll be able to extract people or objects from backdrops and place them into anything you can imagine.



  • I think the course was not named properly. I'm a big fan of Pratik's work. This was not a class for doing Composite Basics, it was a class for doing Photoshop Selections and Masks. Agreed that that is one small part of doing composite work.... but the name of the class is misleading.