How to Retouch Your Background


Perfecting Environmental Portraits in Photoshop


Lesson Info

How to Retouch Your Background

We're gonna start with how to retouch your background and eliminating distractions, so we've got a few different images. This is actually from the same photo shoot as our last as our last class, and we've got three great images here. We've got our subject this was taken indoors in a loft using natural light in in chicago, same location, different subject and just in a different part of the image. And then we have our third portrait of of the model from the first tutorial, the ten tips and she's got a really cool portrait with her with a leaf over her eyes, so we're going to talk about some identifying things in each one of these portrait in a wayto use the background to draw a little bit more attention to the subject. So let's, start here. First thing I like to do whenever I'm going to retouch a background or whatever, I'm just going to look a image as a whole. I really like to start off and identify everything that's kind of bugs me about an image and it's nice for me because I'm, uh,...

detail oriented. Some people use the word anal, but I'll just use the word detail oriented I'm very detailed oriented person, a quick example I started making. Pizzas at home I really love to eat so I started making my own pizza crusts and I got a whole book on making pizza crusts and I read it from start to finish and I figured out you know, when measuring wet ingredients very different from entering dry ingredients wet ingredients you want to use like a glass measuring cups if you try to use like just a regular one cup measuring spoon to measure water, chances are you're not going to fill it all the way up to a cup because you're worried about spilling it right? So when you're measuring liquids he used a liquid measuring cup when you're measuring flour, use a regular measuring cup but most people will either overfill or under film so really the only way to measure flower if you're going to making pizza dough breads is to weigh it so I got a scale and now I waive my my dough to the tenth of announced before my flower before it goes into any my recipes I'm a very detail oriented person some might say you know, but my pizzas turnout amazing they really d'oh and my girlfriend I loved us we spend time and they get you mixing ingredients and throwing flower on each other's faces and it's a lot of fun anyway being very detail oriented is great when you're in photo shop because you notice all kinds of things that bug you and we're going to point some of those things out so let's get into that that's that's how I start off my images in photo shop I grab a red pen and I start circling all the things that kind of just just kind of bugged me just, you know, things I think don't really need to be there things like that what is that little handle for? For the window back there that doesn't really need to be there it's not adding to the image, not talk subtracting from the image there's another one over there? I don't really need that in my image either anything that's going to be around the border of my image that calls attention away from my subject I really want to I really want to get rid of um the reason is let's describe it in another color pen here each image should have a focal point and a focal point is basically what you want the viewer to see so the viewer that that's all you guys and it's me when I'm looking at my own photo right that's like a painter will paint in a special a special place in their image, they'll have more detail, they'll have more color and then they'll leave the edges a little bit blurrier maybe a little bit darker because they don't they don't necessarily want you to stare at and you know the corner of the image that that's not where the important part is so in analyzing an environmental portrait it's a great idea to decide beforehand where that focal point is where you want your viewer to actually be looking and for the most part that's going to be right here that's that's going to be on your subject's face that's most of the time you get a couple of subjects he want you want that right center if you guys their wedding photographers and maybe you've got a family portrait, you want people looking at the faces if you know if there are a lot of distractions often different parts of the image, it gives your eye like different areas to look at in the image you tend to bounce around and not really have a clear idea of what you're supposed to be looking at and it can take away from your appreciation of an image as well. So that's kind of the idea behind what we're doing and we'll continue showing you basically how we're going to go about that so focal point most of the time you know it's going to be right there this is what I want our subject to look at the viewer to look at so things that distract from that let's get back to our red brush here all right, everyone with me so far the idea and everything cool not super complicated you know to grasp or anything like that but um pretty important and it could make a big difference so her leg you know kind of coming there that the leg doesn't tell any more of the story would I notice if that leg wasn't showing like would that make the picture look bad no it's just it's just a light colored object that's there on the bottom of my image I don't really need and it's pretty easy to get rid of again we have an area where the dress is not quite covering right there of a little light area on my couch cushion there a couple of distractions especially little spots things like that right near my subjects head we don't want any of those to be there that's visible as well this is a little bit weird here now close stamping this out would be tough this will be tough because I've got so much she tell here that if I want this dress to look like it's going to continue on down there that's going to be a tough tough time clone stamping so we're going to do some other tools to get rid of that weaken try instead of changing instead of getting rid of it we could try just changing the color of that if we tried just to change the color of it it might not be distracting or we can change how the light and the dark look on that maybe if we just made it darker it be less distracting, so general rule, whenever you're looking at an image you got kind of two sides of things we'll start with light and dark anything that's dark is not going to draw your eye you're not going to be tending to look towards the dark area anything that light that's light is going to draw your eye so if you have an area that you want to take attention away from, you could make it darker and I won't spend as much time if you will have a new area the image that you want to draw more attention to you could make it a little bit later if there's an image party your image that is drawing too much attention you can try just darkening that area down and it's going to draw less attention to that area, which in turn will draw more out area to your subject so light versus dark. Another genre for example is color more color first is less color your eyes going to be drawn to objects that have more color and less drawing two objects that have less color so same idea there. If you want someone to be looking at an area of a photo, try increasing the amount of color there if you want someone to not be looking at at an aerial photo, decrease the amount of color another object you can look at is sharpness so we have light we have color and we have sharpness you can do things like add blurs to your image which will take your eye away from an area or you can use things like sharpening filters to sharp in certain areas of the photo so oftentimes when I'm doing editing on a close up portrait you know something like this I'll take this image and all at a blur to the edges which will do in this class a lot of blurred to the edges you can see there's a lot of detail here in her jacket which I don't mind but if it was a little more blurred I might be looking more of her eyes which is really what I want so you can add a blur to certain areas of the photos and then add a little bit of sharpness to other areas of photos and that's going to help take your attention away from one part and give it to another part so all about hierarchy okay now let's see let's get a little more picky shall we? All right we're going to go ahead and circle like this area of her dress it's kind of coming up and I don't really like that armpits kind of weird me out a little bit armpits never photograph weird right you guys you know like this just never never looks good everyone has a armpit that needs retouching. I never want a photograph of my own armpit because I no one wants to see that that's something that never wants to be photographed. But, you know, even even supermodels need their armpits retouched. They just always look weird. Um, all right, there are a couple like little areas in her hair that air kind of distracting me. And then you know what I really like in this image? I really like how she's got a really a nice hair light there. That's really nice let's choose a color here. I like that hair light and what I really like is that hair light contrast id with this dark surface because I can see her hair so easily now, right down below I've got a light surface back here. This is so light I don't see that contrast is much it's, not as it's. The contrast isn't there and it's not helping me to focus on my subject so much. Not only that, but we kind of got a line going like straight through her head and we don't want a line going straight through her head. So what we can do is I can just take this dark area and I can extend this all the way down. Over top of the couch so I created this election remember how we covered selections in the ten tips if I created a selection that looked just like that and one that looked just like this kind of covered right down there and I brought those dark areas down in there that might make the image a little bit less distracting so some of these changes quick, simple easy to do some of these changes are a little bit more complicated things like, you know, making all of this area and all of this area dark so I'm not always sure if it's going to work right I'm not always sure if it's actually going to look good so what I'll do most of the time is when I'm going to go about doing a big change on my image like that I'll do like a quick version I'll make a quick selection all rough it in and I'll just zoom out and I'll say do I even like this? Is it worth doing the refined version because how many times have you spent like, thirty minutes doing something perfectly and then you decide you don't even like it that's horrible, right? You're like oh man, I should have just done this the really quick way decided I didn't like it and moved on um so anything that I would say is complicated and photo shop do it kind of like rough and quick see if you like it and if you do, you can always take the time to come back and refine it, but it should save you a lot of time to not try to do everything perfectly the first go around it's like a person who's going to make a painting, they'll do a sketch first, right? We'll see if they like the sketch first and if they do, they may develop that further and further and further so same kind of idea here we're kind of we're doing some sketches on our image ok, well that's a pretty good plan that's a pretty good plan we got a good amount of ink on the image a lot is marked up and I know that when I go ahead and fix all those little areas, this image is most definitely going toe look it's going to look more compelling and it's going to draw attention right to our subjects so let's, go ahead and get into let's get into actually retouching this image so step one and step to retouching in removing a lot of these described destructions, so I've spent time outlining everything that we're going to do with this image at this point I don't want to get rid of that stuff because it's actually really helpful because at this point that's all I'm really worried about all I'm worried about his circle in stuff super easy right twenty minutes into this tutorial when I got ten things else on my mind am I going to remember that I wanted to reach out your arm pit? Maybe not I don't know I probably would because I got a thing with armpits but you might not so what we're going to do is I'm just going to group those all together we'll double click on this and then I create what's called an extra group I just put this on the top of things and whatever I'm doing that's not necessarily going to make it into the into the final image but it's just there to kind of help me out while I'm in photo shop I put it in an extra group so we're going to keep those we're going to keep them there, I'm not going to delete them we're going to come back and different steps during the image to make sure that I've actually done what I wanted to do. Okay, well let's go ahead and give it a start so we're going to create a new layer I'm gonna hit controller command g two group this with itself and we're going to call this reid took a we're gonna call this retouch um there we go we're going to start with the easier things and we're going to move a little bit harder so let's start off with this guy here retouch and I'm going to grab the clone stamp tool so s for the clone stem tool we are on a new layer remember we said in the ten tips class, be sure you're sampled currents and below here it's going to make sure you're actually if you're on the current layer and I try to sample nothing's gonna happen because nothing's on my current layer so make sure your sampling your current layer and below ok, now we also mentioned there is a great way to see a little preview of what I actually am going to wind up loan stamping if you guys missed it the way to bring that preview back goto window down here to clone source and there's little show overlay okay that's going to really help out so you can see a little preview of what you're going to actually wind up cold stamping great let's go ahead and close up and now it's really easy there's clone stamping and the other really great messages to take care of this is the brush you'll and it may sound like really you could take care of that with a brush hold that that seems like a tall order, but really, you know, without that there, this is just gray, right? So if I did just want to grab my brush tool, I could sample this color that's here on my image and I can just paint gray there you know, the windowsills just gray I'm just brushed all right? So it's not it really is complicated I think a lot of people get like really hung up on like I got to make it perfect I got to use all the perfect sample tools and I got I got to know everything but like, you know, really a brush tool and in the eyedropper tool and you can do just about anything in photo shop I'm sampling a couple of times and kind of blending these back together again and if you ever lose texture or things like that while you're doing where you're painting with a brush tool or any other methods that you've got it's super easy to just add noise to something have has anyone added noise to an image before? Okay, I'll show you how to do it it's really easy to do so they were used company where phil to start really that kind of thing that's a great question content where phil came later in my photo shop career content where phil didn't come around till I've been using photo shop for years and years and I like content where phil it's not one hundred percent reliable and I have some issues with that because if I teach someone content to where phil and it works perfectly on the example but and they try to use it on their image and it doesn't work on their image then they don't have anything to fall back the brush tool is that that's always going to work so let's try the content to where phil and it's a tool that I think it really is great and it works sometimes very well you probably used it before and it hasn't worked perfectly right yeah yeah so with tools like that I'm just like it doesn't make it into my in my tool set unless I know it's going to work every time you know you don't want to like pick up a hammer some days and it's got a jello handle right that's not that's not going to do anything you want you just want oh some wood and some steel and it's just going to bank things and it's going to do the job and that's like the brush tool it's it's there it's not going to do anything unpredictable for you but if he did want to use the content where phil um we could make a stamp visible layer aiken select this area I'm gonna hit shift delete to bring up my fill dialogue and then we're going to go down here to content aware and let's see how it does in this case it actually did pretty well but not as well as my brush tool because it misplaced this line here and this line doesn't doesn't wind up continuing I don't know if you guys were able to see that I think so yeah so pretty well and for most cases you know ifyou're zoomed out to this photo when it's dark and stuff like that no big deal you don't need it to be any better than that um but to me that's not good enough especially if I can just spend you know uh just a minute and do that with even just a brush tool so ok, good question all right? Well let's continue on that same thought process and you know what? We've got a sliver of light here that I don't really need there either so we're going we're just going to use the brush tool for that as well all right? So I'm gonna sample of this area and you could use a clone central brush tool alone stand toe whatever you want the thing about the brush all that I like is that it doesn't it's not sampling from anywhere so if I see a sample with a clone stamp tool here and it's working well over here well I might get over here and like it's starting to resemble my window again you know what I mean? Does that ever happen you like yeah clone stamp is like perfect for here but as soon as I move it it sample and something I don't want any more on but that could just be a little annoying so in this case where what we have is just you know, some dark area why not just grabbed the brush tool and just paint over? I don't have to worry about you know anything else is I'm just painting with great um it's sometimes will have a little bit less texture then your photo may have you can get around that in most cases by adding some noise very simple to do to add some noise just go to filter down here to noise and add noise very simple to do what you want to do is just lower your amount quite a bit and you want to try to match the grain structure that's in the original image to the amount of noise that you're actually editing and most of the time below five percent is about where you want it so you can do that if you like it you can hit ok and there you can see we've got a little bit of noise and if it's too noisy well, we created a keyboard shortcut for galaxy ambler give it a tiny bit of ler and there we go see now we've got a zoom right in there you guys see that so this was painted with the brush tool and it has texture on it pretty cool super easy to do and it'll fly just about anywhere now some areas you don't want to use the brush cool on this pillow things like that there's a lot of texture there that'd be pretty difficult. You could definitely do it. You could definitely go in and start painting your own hounds to pattern if you wanted to. People did it all the time. In the eighteen hundreds you could do it, but in this case a colon stamp tool, maybe a little bit better. So let's zoom in let's grab a clone santo that were hit s for the clone stamp tool. I'm gonna sample this point. I'm looking at a couple things here. I'm looking at this little area that I'm sampling see how it's like this it's a lighter color in my pattern. Well, I'm gonna sample here because I want to paint it right over here on where that lighter color is a swell so I want to sample is close to an area is we're gonna wind a painting and this preview was great look at that. Aiken sample this right here and I can see perfectly where it's going to go. So I'm not confused about about where it's going to wind up being I can put it in the right place there we go, covering it up and with any luck it'll look hold it'll look good all the way up to there now we go and if I needed change it a little bit I can do so just like that pretty nice right pretty nice so there we go before in the after is a little feather sticking out of the pillow and were able to take care of that little areas well so that is a ce faras clone stamp tool I would say that's the perfect application we really will see exactly what we were going to do we didn't need tio it's not an area where I wanted to use the brush tool so clone stamp tool is perfect and the healing brush tool would have just tried to blend things back together again so really what we wanted there is a clone stem tool that's perfect all right looking good let's continue to go down here this area here we can take care of in a bunch of different ways I'm going to try the brush tool again I'm I'm just really if the brush tool were for sale I wouldn't be the best salesman the pastoral oh man because it's just great it's just the more I use photoshopped the more I use the brush hold so I'm gonna grab this color because sometimes like you just don't know what something is then a look like because you really don't have the information for it so in this case I'm just kind of drawing from you know what else is on there so you got some highlight here some mid tone there and some shadow there and some ruffles right? So I'm kind of laying down some base work sample in colors in the image you know, creating basically what would be a shadow it doesn't look very well defined right there so I'm gonna grab a lighter color and kind of defined that highlight there just a little bit better, okay? It's pretty good now I want some like ruffles or something like that so what I'm going to do is I'm going to choose a slightly harder brush and I'm going to create some ruffles things like that painted with a brush will not hard to do um the other thing about using the brush fool is you kind of just it's not something we're like you do it and then you got to undo you can always just paint right over it too so it's not something we're like you have to get it done with like one or two brush strokes if you need to go over something a few different times not a big deal just sample your colors and paint again you can change your brush size really, really easily using that keyboard shortcut we talked about in the earlier class holding down control as well as option all right let's do that get some darker areas going on there all right and you can kind of create your own here we go and we'll just make this a little bit darker to kind of fade that away go because I think it's kind of fun actually to um the first look the first time I tried to like basically do anything or like draw with the brush you'll uh I was not successful it was it was horrible it was just it's like drawing in real life you know it's something that's going to take a little bit practice but you'll find that sooner and soon and I feel you'll be able to draw in just about anything you need to and at that point you know you're really not you're not so concerned about perfecting all the little tools and the features and things like that in photo shop you start to focus more on what's going to make this image a little bit better and maybe I gotta draw a little bit of address in or something like that that's kind of a fun challenge I would recommend having a walk in tablet for anyone who's going to be doing this sort of controlling using the brush full to any any degree there I use a walking this's an into most pro which is their their newest line it's a wireless tablet and it actually works very very well right now we've got it wired it's plugged in by a u s b but on the side here there's a little slot aiken just open it for you there's a little slot that holds a micro usb here so a little slot on the side of the war come tablet that holds a micro usb and with this microbe you just you just plug it into your computer, you go in your preference and then you're good to go in wireless mode battery life on its great and in my experience it's just up the wireless works very well it doesn't wind up cutting out so the's air available somewhere between I think the more basic versions are closer to one hundred maybe one hundred fifty dollars and I think the pro versions go up to two to fifty three hundred yeah, I think this one is like around two forty nine or something like that I've owned like so many welcome tablets of the yeah, so there definitely definitely definitely a great investment for anyone who is going to be spending time on your show because I just think that that dress and look at that that looks pretty not bad really? Um I did a while talking to you guys so that's kind of fun so you have painted it's addressing but let's say you didn't you know let's say you're not the person who's going to come in here and with a brush colin and paint a new dress in that's not a problem either you could you can just grab a clone stamp tool. You can sample something like this up there, and you can paint it in. Down here is well, so you can use whatever tools you have at your disposal. Thiss might not look exactly like it, you know, exactly like it belongs in this case because it's a little bit too light in color, it needs to be dark and down a little bit it's not very hard to do. We're going to control our command, em, which brings up our curves, justin there. We talked about this keyboard shark it earlier, and I'm just going to click here in the middle and drag this down a little bit, okay? So comptroller command and brings up curves, and we talked about curves in our ten tips so I could make that lighter. If it needed to be lighter. I could make it a little bit darker if it needs to be darker. So either way, we can do that and that's going to help things blend in just a little bit better.

Class Description

Environmental portraits make very powerful images – they give the viewer a chance to learn about the subject through every aspect of the photo. Learn how to expertly retouch the background of environmental portraits in this Photoshop class with Aaron Nace.

Aaron will help you eliminate distractions and use basic retouching so your subject shines through. You’ll learn how to manipulate light and independently color the background and subject to add contrast and interest. Aaron will also show you how to combine images so you get the perfect backdrop for your environmental portrait.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2014.2.2