Portrait Project: Changing a Sky Background
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Portrait Project: Changing a Sky Background

with Chris Orwig

Video: Refining the selection and building a mask

In the previous movie, we created a good selection of the sky.

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Watch the Online Video Course Portrait Project: Changing a Sky Background
41m 56s Intermediate Feb 07, 2014

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What do you do with a sky that's dark and stormy, blown out, or just plain ordinary? You can spend hours trying to enhance it, or you can replace it in just a few simple steps. Chris Orwig shows you how in this Portrait Project. He'll show you how to make and refine a selection, mask out the sky, and insert a new, more dramatic sky—all in Adobe Photoshop. In order to make your replacement look natural, Chris spends the second half of the course showing how to improve the detail, color, and tone of your new composite.

Chris Orwig

Refining the selection and building a mask

In the previous movie, we created a good selection of the sky. Yet if we go into refine edge, as I'm going to do here. We won't actually be able to see the results very well. Let me show you what I mean. So here, when I click on refine edge, we can view this selection a few different ways, by going to our view mode pull down menu. What I want to do is view this on layers. Now when I view this on layers, what I see is that it's actually replacing the opposite of what I want it to replace. Rather than replacing the sky, it's keeping the sky, and replacing everything else.

So, what we need to do, is to cancel out of refine edge and after we've built our selection, we actually need to invert that. There's a really easy way to do that. You go up to the select pull down menu, and in the select pull down menu, we click on the menu item for inverse. So again that's select and then inverse. Now, that we have everything else selected, what we can then do is go back to refine edge. Now here in refine edge what we see is our surfer, the beach, the ocean and what we don't see is the background.

And what's really fun about this view is we can then change our view pull down menu to on layers and we'll instantly see to one of our underlying layers where we have some clouds. Now, the cloud layer isn't in the right position, yet this still can help us to evaluate some of our edge detail. So, here, let's go ahead and click that view option of on layers. Then, next, I'm going to zoom in, press command plus on a Mac, or control plus on Windows, and let's take a look at some of our edge detail. You know what I'm seeing here is the surfboard actually looks really good, it's a little bit choppy, the ocean edge looks okay, over here it looks a little bit like it needs to be straightened out a touch.

So let's turn on smart radius. Smart radius almost always helps. With this photograph I think we'll only need a really small amount just for the surfboard. Again, we'll need to touch up the ocean a little bit later. I'm going to smooth this out just a little bit, and then add some contrast to add a little more intensity to the edge. If we use the shift edge slider what we can do is we can bring our edge in or extend it out. And what I think might be nice to do here is just to add a little bit of a shift edge effect, maybe a minus two.

You want to click on your preview checkbox to look at the before and after. What I'm seeing, at least on my screen, is that the surf board looks a little bit better. Let me zoom in just a bit more here. But the ocean actually looks a little bit worse. So again, I'm looking at my before and after. I like the surfboard edge for the most part. I like the way that the hair looks. This gap area, it looks pretty good. So, in this case our Refine Edge isn't doing a ton, but it is helping us out in some small ways. Once we have dialed in the Refine Edge settings here, made some subtle adjustments, increased the radius, added a value of one for the smoothing, increased our contrast to add some density or intensity to the edge, and then we shift the edge a little bit in by having a minus two value.

Alright, well next, let's choose to output this to a layer mask. If we click on the output two pull down menu, we can choose layer mask, it's the top option there. Then when we click okay, what we'll see is it will build a layer mask based on the selection that we had, so that we can now see our subject here and we're seeing underneath to these other layers. If we click in one of these layers, we could then use the Move tool, the top tool in the Tools Panel. And we can move this around. So, we can change the position of the clouds, which we have there, in the background.

All right. Well, we'll get into some of the details of working with our new backgrounds and of cleaning up these edges in the next few movies. For now, I think this is a pretty good place to pause. So, go ahead and leave this file open. As we'll continue to work on it in the next few movies.

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