In this tutorial, I will show you a nondestructive process for color-editing and retouching photographs. These techniques will make your images “finished” and professional. My main weapon is the Selective Color adjustment layer. Let’s get started.
Below is our starting image of a couple on a beach. We also need to download a photo of a beach that we’ll use to improve the water and sky in the base image. We’ll see this second image later in this tutorial and in the PSD download available for Plus members.
First, the base photograph looks washed out. It just isn’t that interesting. Who wants to visit this boring beach? We’ll be fixing that. Regardless of what I’m working on, I always separate the foreground subject matter from the background. Most times, I use the Extract Filter located in the Filters Menu. Extract is easy to use. More often than not, it does a good job of isolating your subject. Make a copy of the base layer. Place it on top of the original. Hide it. Then open up the Extract Filter.
Using the Extract Filter, trace the subject. Then use the Fill Bucket to fill in the area you want to keep. When using the extract filter on complex details like hair, remember to outline the whole problem area so there is definite ink overlap where the detail starts and ends. Otherwise, Photoshop has trouble calculating what to
remove. Notice on the hair area, there is good overlay on the sky portion as well as the man’s head.
First, I extracted the people. Later on, I moved the umbrella portion to its own layer (easier for me to keep track of, but that’s optional).
After a successful extraction, there’s still some touch-up that needs to be done. Using the History Palette, set the state you want the History Brush to go back to. We want to paint back the duplicated layer before we extracted it.
Zoom in tight and you will see some artifacts that weren’t extracted correctly. Sometimes there’s too much background showing. Or there’s foreground that was extracted by mistake. Using the History Brush(Y) and the Eraser Tools, paint back in the foreground and Erase(E) the extra background.
Remember to change the softness of your brushes to match the outline of your subject. Use a harder brush when the edges are sharper. Use a softer brush when you are in an unfocused area of the subject. That’s how you keep it realistic.
Turn the visibility of the original photo back on after touching up the whole outline of the subject. You now have a perfectly separated foreground object on top of your background.