Monday, January 11, 2010

Cleaning, Toning the White Background

This tutorial is in conjuction with the shooting on a white background. Ideally, photographers should get the evenly lit, clean white look right out of the camera. But sometimes, either the backdrop is a little old, or there is not enough space for even lighting. So, take a look how to get the backdrop to pure white in 10 easy steps.

The light setup for this image was actually for a midlength portrait. The background in the midlength shot would have been pure white, right out of the camera. The full length shot was a spur of the moment and we didn't have the liberty of time to change the lighting for the background. So, the resulting picture is white in the centre and gray around the edges of the background.

Okay, so lets take a look how to clean this.

First, open the image in photoshop or elements and make a duplicate copy of it on another layer.

Create a new blank layer between these two as shown below.

Select the top layer of the model, and with the lasso tool, make a quick selection around the model as shown below.

Inverse this selection by pressing Ctrl(Cmnd) + Shift + I and then hit delete to get the image below.

Refine the selection by selecting some more gray areas. Do not select the reflection/shadow below the models feet. See the selection below for example, and then hit delete.

There must be some gray patches left out during our quick selection. Open the levels tab from Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels in Photoshop Elements (or Image>Adjust>Levels in Photoshop CS) and using the white eye dropper to from the levels box, select the lightest gray patch that you see around the model as shown below.

After pressing OK, make a duplicate layer of this image.

Now open the levels panel again and using the same white eye dropper tool, select the darkest gray around the model....usually the foot area. Don't select the shadow, but the dark gray around it.

If you see any more gray area left other than the shadow/reflection, then select that to make it white and then press OK to get the following image.

Um, yes...its a little burnt out. Thats why we have it in another layer. Now, all we have to do is erase the burnt out areas from this layer to reveal the proper exposed areas from the layer below. See the layer thumbnail to see what was erased below.

Merge the layers to get the final image on white. 

That was nice and easy, but lets go one step ahead and try something cool. Lets try toning the white background to give a nice radial gradation behind the model. Open the image in photoshop again and on a new layer above, fill it with radial gradation from white in the centre to any light color shade around the adge. Use the gradient tool to do this...and notice the colors selected under the toolbox below.

Now, all you have to do is to select the blending mode of this layer to multiply like shown below.

Close....but not quite. We can see some hint of cyan on the models face and shirt. Select the eraser tool, and set low opacity and soft edge to it and a brush size as big as the models head. Now simply erase out the cyan from the model and some areas around her to give the background a brighter glow. See the image below.

If you are not satisfied with the tone color, you can fine tune it or completely change its color. Open the hue/sturation box from the menu and just move the hue slider to change the color, saturation to reuce color and lightness if you want to make it lighter or darker.

If you are happy then press OK and merge the layers to one or save as a new image so that you still have the white background image.

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