Portrait Project: Changing a Sky Background
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Using Refine Mask to improve edge detail


Portrait Project: Changing a Sky Background

with Chris Orwig

Video: Using Refine Mask to improve edge detail

In the next few movies, I want to highlight a couple

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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

Using Refine Mask to improve edge detail

In the next few movies, I want to highlight a couple of techniques which will help us to improve our edge detail. And these techniques are especially helpful in situations like this where we're interested in replacing the background. Alright, well let's begin by clicking into our mask. So that we can begin to improve the mask. Next, I want to zoom in on this photograph. And I wannna zoom in past 100%. So, that we can get really close for demonstration purposes in order to identify an edge issue, and then look at how we can solve it.

Alright, so grab your Zoom tool, and then click a few times in order to zoom in on the photograph. And again, zoom in really close, so that you can see, all of the edge detail. Now the photograph appears a bit pixelated because we've zoomed in so far, and that's okay, because what I'm hoping you can see though, is you can see that there's a bit of an edge issue. Where we have a little bit of color contamination. It's a little bit blue on this side, and then there's also sort of this brightness fringe around the edge of this part of the photograph.

Up near the top, it appears a little bit darker, but still we have an issue up in that portion of the image as well. Whenever you have an edge issue, you have to ask yourself, well why is this here? Where did this come from? If you shift click the mask, which will temporarily disable it, you can find the answer. This came from the original capture, with a brighter background you can see we have a little bit of that brightness value here but it doesn't really matter because of the brightness value of the background. When we shift click the mask again, to enable it, we can see that because this is on a darker background, our new clouds there in the background, this shows up a little bit more.

And what this will mean, is that the combination of these two images won't look as good. Well we can solve that by working with refine mask. Let's do that by double-clicking the mask icon. This will open up the properties panel, where we have our mask controls, and here we're going to click on the option for mask edge. When we click on mask edge it will open our refine mask dialogue. Inside of this dialogue we'll be doing two different things. We'll work with shift edge and also decontaminate colors.

In order to illustrate how decontaminate colors works, what I'm going to do first is apply an adjustment which will actually exaggerate the color fringe and the edge highlight. The issue we want to correct. With shift edge, if we drag this to the right, what you'll notice is that we now have more edge detail and more color problems on this side of the image. If I click on the preview checkbox you can see the before and then after. So, I just took something that wasn't that bad, and made it worse.

And I did that because, sometimes, in our images, we'll find that our edges will look like this and they'll need a lot of work. Well, one of the ways we can solve this issue, is by turning on the feature, decontaminate colors. When you do that you have an amount slider. Drag the amount slider all the way to zero and this will remove the feature. But then slowly drag it to the right. What you'll see is it will remove any color issue and it will pull from the color on the inside here. So what was blue is now becoming more brown.

What was bright white is now becoming a bit of a lighter brown. Drag this over further and you can see that it can almost get rid of this issue all together even with edges that look that bad. Alright, now that we've seen how decontaminate colors works, let's go back to shift edge for a moment. We obviously wouldn't want to exaggerate our edge issue by dragging that to the right. What we may want to do is the opposite. If we drag this to the left, we'll see that it will trim off, or clean up all of our edges.

The only problem is if you go too far with this, you can remove some important edge detail in other areas of the photograph. because keep in mind that these controls, they're effecting the entire mask. Not just this little area. So, when it comes to shift edge, it depends upon the resolution of your file. But with this photograph I'm guessing somewhere around -15 works well. Then we also need to combine this with decontaminate colors. And then increase the amount until we see all of those edge details improved.

If we click on the preview check box, you can see the before and then the after. I'm guessing this is going to be tricky to see in your movie. But hopefully you can trust me here that this edge here, which was gray up top, is now brown. The edge which glowed, which had a highlight has now been corrected. When you apply adjustments like this, you'll want to zoom out, you'll want to take a look at the image at the 100% view. Press the space bar key, and pan around. Click on your preview checkbox. Make sure it's improving the edges throughout the photograph and that it isn't doing anything detrimental, like, overly cutting into the edge of the mask.

On my monitor, at least on my screen here, I think the results look awesome. And this is one of those situations where I am so grateful for these controls which allow us to fine tune the edge detail which, in turn, improves the overall project. Alright, well, once you've dialed in the settings there for shift edge and decontaminate colors. Next, you need to determine how you want to output this. In this case, the best option will be this one here which is a new layer with a layer mask. Because that will give us the ability to further fine tune the mask which we actually need to do.

So let's choose that option and then click okay. In doing that, you can see we've created a new layer. This layer has an improved layer mask where we have trimmed off any of that glow, and also corrected any of the color fringing or color contamination that we had around the outer edge of our selection.

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