Advanced photo editing made easy

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Blog entry by Don Butler posted 06-09-2009 03:54 AM 1158 reads 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Editing photos has always been regarded as something best left to advanced geeks and professionals. It seems to me, though, that everybody with a camera, a computer and an Internet connection should be able to get some personal satisfaction from this “advanced” technique.

It isn’t hard to do, but you will need to give it your attention, especially at first until you get some experience with it. Don’t let that bother you. You’ve learned to operate woodworking tools and possibly drive a motor vehicle. They’re lots harder to master. You can do this.

The sort of editing of which I speak is the technique used to take an unsatisfactory background out of the photo and put something else there. A photograph, a plain color of any sort, a bit map texture, lots aof things can be plugged into the space where the original background was.

What’s needed? The main thing is a photoediting program that provides the feature of masking. It’s a process in which you use a tool to draw the outline of the subject. When you get clear around the object, the mask will appear. Depending on how you choose the mask tool to work, either the subject will be covered with the mask or else the background will be. The object is to have the subject amtter you want to keep covered with the mask, leaving the background available for editing. The link below will download a PDF file with pictures and text to illustrate the process.

Get the PDF

Remember this. You don’t always have to replace or remove the background. It can be altered by introducing blur, for example, which will make it look like the background is out of focus. It can be made darker or lighter, it can be “painted” with the pallet colors using the “paintbrush” tool. The effects are many and all of them are available with this tool.

Have fun with your photos.

Don Butler
Working wood and other things in Waterford, PA

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

6 comments so far

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4799 days

#1 posted 06-09-2009 04:44 AM

Don, you make it look easy. I think Photoshop does this, I just haven’t had the patience to sit down and work out all the things it will do. The book that I got for this program is about 8/4. I’ll have to give it another shot.
Thanks for the post.

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14189 posts in 5037 days

#2 posted 06-09-2009 04:46 AM

Hello Don
Thanks for the post. I would like to try this technique, but I have a couple questions.

In your text you stated, “will allow you to draw a mask on the original”

.... is there a easy way to do this with photoshop ?

What method do you use ? a mouse ? do you trace around it ?

Guess I’m not quite getting it.


-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 4450 days

#3 posted 06-09-2009 01:44 PM


Yes, I use a mouse to trace segments around the subject matter. It can be a bit tedious at first, but as you acquire experience it will get easier.

I had the job of taking images of about fifty people, photographed separately, isolating them from the background that was in the original photo, and arranging them in a presentable group against a new background. That sounds like pure torture, but as I went it got easier and easier. Before I was finished I could mask a full figure with complicated clothing and sometimes the limbs were arranged in such a way that the “holes” made by an arm, say, with the hand on hip, would have to be masked separately, and the whole job for one figure would take only ten minutes or so.

Tracing is the apt term. I place short segments all around the subject. This is done by zooming in close. With PhotoPaint it’s fairly easy to do even though the severely magnified image provides only a small work area because when one ‘stretches’ the line being drawn past the edge of view, the view shifts to allow more of the image to come into the field of view.

You might compare it to stretching a rubber band around the subject by pinning it wherever the outline changes direction. When the starting position is reached, a double click of the mouse makes the mask appear.

This method certainly isn’t as easy as a nice, clean setup for the original shoot, but it answers a need for situations where a special background isn’t practical.

I’ll be happy to offer help to anyone, privately by PM or here on the forum where everyone can benefit from the discussion.

Best regards,
“Don Butler works wood”


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 4450 days

#4 posted 06-11-2009 02:14 PM

I wanted to show another photo, one which has greater relevance to woodworkers. This was taken about mid way during the project, thus the open panels and such. PLease note that there are interior areas that had to be masked and over-filled with white separately.

I masked the whole desk outline first, then when the background was filled with white. I masked each of the inner see-through parts one at a time.

Hard to do? But no! The whole thing took about five minutes. All the lines were straight ones, easy to follow. Irregularities are the tedious ones, but there are none in this photo.

First the unvarnished truth in photo #1 and the cropped and cleaned up version.



That’s all!


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5354 days

#5 posted 07-03-2009 03:48 PM

Thanks for sharing your skill!

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4631 days

#6 posted 07-06-2009 06:33 AM

Hey Don
Can’t wait to try this it’s something I’ve wanted to know how to do for a long time. Thanks


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