How do I clean up the background on this still life please?

Started Oct 30, 2012 | Discussions thread
tom60634 Senior Member • Posts: 2,130
Re: How do I clean up the background on this still life please?

davidevans1 wrote:

tom60634 wrote:

davidevans1 wrote:

This shot has been processed in LR4 but I think the background needs cleaning up and possibly defocusing or something. Any suggestions welcome. The photograph was taken in a very carefully converted old chapel in rural Wales, so I'd really like it to retain that ambience in the finished shot (not converted to a modern background). I can't remember what the background finish is now. It almost looks like woodchip paper but that's unlikely and I think it's probably a whitewash finish.

I have either LR4 or Photoshop CS6 to do this with - please could someone give me step by step instructions on what to do.

My way round LR is improving (I think!) but knowledge of CS6 is still woeful and frustrating. I suspect this probably requires using layers and masks, and I am still completely lost with this, despite having followed through some examples in books etc. There are so many times I wish I could use layers!

Anyway any help really appreciated. Thanks

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To maintain the ambience of the shot, I created an alpha mask of the pitcher and roses.

I then used the Lens Blur feature of Photoshop CS6. The alpha mask protected the roses and pitcher from the blurring. I did not completely blur away the background but left some of stippled effect.

I used a curves layer to bring out some detail in the pitcher, the alpha mask was inserted into the curves mask and inverted this kept the curves edit from bringing back the background detail that I had just blurred.

The inverted mask was then used for some subtle (?) sharpening of the pitcher and roses, once again the mask prevented the background from being affected.

The real power of post processing is to build up subtle edits to the areas that you deem in need of improvement. As you've found out LR falls short in some respects. For a more enjoyable editing experience you should become well acquainted with layers and masks, they are the power behind Photoshop's dominance in the post processing field of image management an manipulation.

Thanks everyone, and in particular thanks Tom for your comments above.

So if you were starting out afresh, how would you go about learning about layers and masks? I did make a start with Scott Kelby's book on this area (I normally find his books good to dip into and pick out bits I'm interested in) but had real difficulty getting to grips with the instructions and the logic of his layers section. I wonder sometimes whether I have a Photoshop mind block!

What would you recommend? If the recommendation is video tutorials it needs to have subtitles as I'm very deaf. Thanks.

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If I remember Matt Kloskowski had a book about layers that was geared towards the new user.

One thing you can do is take a file, do a command j (mac) alt j (PC). This will open a duplicate layer, then start changing the blending modes, just to see their effects.

Stop at one and create a mask by clicking on the "add a mask" icon.

Press b to get the brush tool, press d to get the default foreground and background colors.

Now click in the mask area, then start painting on your file. You can now pick and choose which part of your file will show through, the original or the new blended layer.

Click the eye symbol to turn off the blend layer and your original unharmed layer will appear.

This is just a beginning introduction, but it will show you the non-destructive power of layers and masks. Build from there.

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