Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Increasing contrast in Camera Raw, part of Photoshop CS5: Selections in Depth.
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If you're having trouble making a selection, sometimes increasing the contrast between the items you are trying to select and the rest of the image will help. And the best place to do that is in the Adobe Camera RAW dialog box. The good news is that you can do this not only with a RAW file, but also with a JPEG. To open either a RAW file or a JPEG into Adobe Camera RAW, I like to start in Adobe Bridge. Here, I have a thumbnail of a photograph. I'm going to select that thumbnail to view a preview of it over here, and as you can see, there's not much separation between the young man's hair and the background.
I am going to open the image in Adobe Camera RAW to try to change that fact. With the thumbnail selected here in Adobe Bridge, I'll press Command+R, that's Ctrl+R, to open this RAW file or a JPEG into Adobe Camera RAW. Here in the Adobe Camera RAW dialog box, there are a number of things that I can do to try to make more separation between the hair and the background. I'll start by going to the Snapshots tab. Here, I'm going to create a snapshot of the boy with the exposure settings that he currently has, because these are the exposure settings that I want in my final image.
So I will go to the bottom of this area and click the Add New Snapshot icon, and I'll call this "young man good exposure" and click OK. Now I'm going to go back to the basic tab, the first tab, and use some of the sliders here to try to get more contrast between his hair and the background. The most important of those sliders is the Fill Light slider, which I'm going to click and drag way over to the right. And as I do, I'm bringing more light into the image.
However, I now think that the bright parts are too bright, and it may be difficult to select against them. So I am going to take the Exposure slider and drag that over to the left slightly. And I'm going to drag the Blacks slider to the right, to make the shadows stronger. And finally, I'll drag the Clarity slider to the right, which will add some crispness to the image edges. Next, I am going to click on the second tab, the Tone Curve tab.
Here, I'd like to make the highlights lighter. So I'll go to the Highlights slider, and I'll drag that to the right. And I'll do the same with the three-quarter tone highlights, dragging that slider to the right too. Now as you can see, I don't have a very good exposure, but I have managed to isolate the hair quite a bit more against the background. There is one more thing I can do. I can use the Adjustment brush here to make a local correction just to the top of his hair.
With this brush, I am just going to click and drag over the top of his hair, and then I'll change the settings for just that area. I'll drag the Exposure slider over to the right. I'll add a little more brightness. I'll increase the contrast all the way over to maybe 100%. I'll increase the clarity, and I'll increase sharpness. Now none of that is written in stone; I'm simply looking at the top of his hair as I drag the sliders to see which of these controls are helping me to separate his hair from the background.
There is one more thing I want to do before I open the image from Camera RAW into Photoshop to make my selection, and that is to click on this blue link here, and in the Workflow Options that open, make sure that Open in Photoshop as Smart Objects is checked. Also in the Workflow Options, I've made the bit depth 8 bits, and I've made the crop size as small as possible, just to make the image processing faster for this exercise. I'll click OK, and now I'm ready to open the image into Photoshop.
I'll click the Open Object button here. If you're using an older version of Camera RAW, you may not see a button that says Open Object. Try holding the Shift key and clicking on the Open button that's here. And that opens the image into Photoshop, with the adjustments that I made in Camera RAW. You can see in the Layers panel that this is a smart object because it has the Smart Object icon on the thumbnail. Now I'm going to make an initial selection using the Quick Selection tool. I'll click and drag over the young man's body and his hair, and I want to be sure to leave the very top portion of his hair out of the initial selection, so that I can make the most of the refined edge controls.
So I am going to get the Lasso tool and set it to Subtract from selection, and then I'm going to select just the top of his hair and remove that from the Quick Selection tool selection. Now, I am going to click the Refine Edge button, and I'm going to do the same thing here that I showed you how to do in the earlier movies about selecting hair. I'll click the Smart Radius check box, and I'll drag the Radius slider to the right, and as you can see, I am viewing the results against a black background.
I am doing that because I know that eventually I'm going to put this selection against a dark background. I'm also going to try shifting the edge to the right just slightly to try to capture more of the hair at the top of his head. And I'll get the Refined Radius tool, and I'll drag that over the hairs at the top of his head too, to try to bring back some more fine detail. I could try using the Erase Refinements tool to eliminate some of this extraneous background that's showing through outside of the young man.
But in the interest of time, I'm not going to spend much more time here. I'll check Decontaminate Colors and drag the Amount slider to the right to try to minimize any color fringe from the original image. And then I'll go to the Output menu, and I'm going to choose to Output as a New layer with layer mask, and I'll click OK. That creates a brand-new layer here in the Layers panel, the hair3 copy layer, with a layer mask that's hiding the background.
I actually want to put that layer mask on the Smart Object layer. So I'll click on the layer mask on the hair3 copy layer and drag it down to the Smart Object layer and release. And then I'm going to drag the hair3 copy layer to the Trash because I no longer need it. I'll make the Smart Object layer visible, and I'm going to make a brand-new layer that I'll fill with a solid color. With the hair3 layer selected, I am going to hold down the Command key on the Mac or the Ctrl key on the PC and click the Create new layer button to make a layer below the hair3 layer. And with that new layer selected, I'll go up to the Edit menu, and I'll choose Fill.
I'll make sure the Use menu is set to Color, and that opens the color picker, where I am going to select the dark brown and click OK, and then I'll click OK again, and that fills that lower layer with brown. Now I could try to touch this up even more, but the important point is that I was able to make a selection around the fine detail of his hair. But although I have a good selection here, I really don't like this exposure. I'd like to get back to the original exposure that we first saw in the Adobe Camera RAW dialog box.
Fortunately, I did bring this image in as a Smart Object, and I can use that Smart Object to go right back into Camera RAW and change the exposure settings. To do that, I'll double-click on the Smart Object thumbnail, not the layer mask thumbnail but the Smart Object thumbnail, on the hair3 layer, and that will reopen the image in Adobe Camera RAW. I could use the sliders here to try to get an exposure that I like, but I don't have to do that because I saved that exposure, if you remember, as a snapshot, right at the beginning of this exercise.
So I will click on the Snapshots tab, and I'll select the snapshot that I saved, and now I've got the exposure that I want. To bring this exposure back into the Photoshop image, I'll click OK. That takes me back to Photoshop. I have the exposure that I want, and I also have the selection that I want, due to the fact that I was able to increase exposure back in Camera RAW before I tried making the selection here in Photoshop.
- Understanding the when and why of making selections
- Combining and transforming selections
- Selecting fine detail with Refine Edge
- Capturing soft and hard edges in one selection
- Understanding the relationship of selections to masks
- Removing color fringe around selections
- Using the Marquee and Lasso tools
- Working with the Color Range command
- Selecting with the Pen tool and paths
- Making easy selections with the Quick Selection tool
- Working with Refine Mask
- Sharing selections between images