Saturday, December 1, 2007

Making your subjects stand out


By Jorge Sosa

Sometimes, if you're shooting at a public event (like say, a car show) it's hard to get just the close-up of the subject you want. You have tons of people milling around and a lot of commotion, all leading to one busy background.

Check out Figure A and you'll see what I mean.


A perfectly decent, if somewhat cluttered photo. (click for larger image)

It's a perfectly decent photo of a red roadster, but I would love to have gotten up nice and close. Because the roadster was actually cruising down the boulevard, that wasn't possible; at least, not without dodging into traffic. That's a good way to break your camera... or your neck.

Instead of playing in traffic, you can use Photoshop to call extra attention to your photo's subject. Here's how.

Sepia tone

Once you've opened your picture in Photoshop, select the Actions tab from your History/Actions palette. Scroll down until you see the "Sepia Toning (layer)" button, then click on it. This will create a sepia-toned version of your photo in a separate layer, on top of your original photo, as you see in Figure B.


Use the Sepia Toning action to create a sepia version of your original photo. (click for larger image)

Re-order the layers

You'll want to start with your full-color photo on top of the sepia-toned layer, so go to your Layers/Paths/Channels palette. Select the Layers tab. You'll see a thumbnail preview of your original photo labeled "Background." Drag it to the top of the list of layers. If your Background layer is locked, just double-click to unlock it. Photoshop will rename it "Layer 0" and you can now move it at your whim.

Eraser magic

Now comes the fun part. Select your Eraser tool and rub out everything but your subject. As you erase the full-color layer, the sepia-toned layer will show through underneath.

Use a big Eraser to wipe out big swaths of color, as you see in Figure C.


Use a big Eraser to wipe most of the background color. (click for larger image)

Then, use your Zoom tool to get in and do the detail works, like in Figure D.


Zoom in to do the detail work. (click for larger image)

Change your Eraser to a small one by selecting the Brushes tab from your Color/Swatches/Brushes palette. Figure E shows how your subject should look after you've touched it up with a smaller Eraser.


A smaller eraser makes it easy to clean up the edges of your subject. (click for larger image)

By the time you're done your picture should look something like the eye-catching effect in Figure F.


Voila! Instant eye candy! (click for larger image)

Pretty slick, eh? Your full-color subject just pops right off that sepia-toned background. And you didn't have to play in traffic.