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Thread: selecting hairy objects - advice please

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    davidedric's Avatar
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    selecting hairy objects - advice please

    I do quite a lot of wildlife photography. Quite often, I want to select the background, for example to blur it. However, because the main subject is usually furry, hairy or feathery I find it very difficult to make a sufficiently accurate selection with my current tools, which are LR4 and PSE9. I have been reading about the "refine edge" tool in PSE11, which seems to do just what I want. Has anyone experience of using the tool, and would it work in that context. (It's not for one specific image, more a general requirement). Thanks for any suggestions.

    Dave

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    Wayland's Avatar
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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Does elements have a select colour range tool?

    I use it a lot in PS because it selects with a degree of transparency which is often helpful.

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    I have done similar work using CS5; but never easy. Even if the professionals make it appear simple in their books or video tutorials.

    Part of my reply to a recent question by Christina may initially prove to be some interest

    Gaussian Blur in Photoshop Elements 9

    But perhaps an example will be the best next move.

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    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Thanks, Geoff

    I've read your reply to Christina - I think it will be back to school for me. I confess I haven't made much use of PSE since I got into LR.

    However, here is an image I would like to improve(barred owl shot in Florida).

    I've cropped and done limited global edits (it was a RAW image), but not attempted anything local. I'm sure you can see the issue with the light background. Any advice gratefully taken.

    Dave

    selecting hairy objects - advice please

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    I would probably do this is Photoshop and make a selection with the pen tool, staying just inside the branch and owl by a few pixels. Once the selection has been made, I would feather iit, invert it and apply a gaussian blur.

    A really quick (4-5 minute effort here) and I did nothing to refine the selection edge at all (something I would normally do).

    selecting hairy objects - advice please

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Hi Dave,

    I tried an edit of your photo because so many people here have helped me that I thought I would try and do the same by sharing the process.. And because I love your owl, and I think it is not as hard to select as hairy cows, and because it is good practice for me..

    Keep in mind that I'm using a mouse to select (one of those pens would make selecting things a lot easier) so my selection and edits are far from perfect but I hope it helps you see what could be done. (using photoshop elements 9)

    Plus I'm just playing to learn and I really don't know what I'm doing yet.

    1. Added a layer, increased contrast to make the selection easier
    2. Using the quick selection tool I selected your owl.. Went to levels changed red to 121 and blue to 13
    3. In-versed the selection and decreased brighteness and contrast.. Went to levels and changed green to 110 because it made the background greener.
    4. Blurred the selection using Guassian blur by a factor of 12
    5. Applied a warming filter (#85) set at 40% opacity
    6. Went to refine edge, contracted the edge by -13 and feathered by 1
    7. Then I selected the tail feathers, decreased the mid tone contrast by 100% and highlights by 11%
    8. Added a softlight adjustment layer Refined edge by -22 and feathered by -1

    Then I noticed that there was some chromatic aberration in the photo so I used a healing brush along the edges size 7 to try and erase it out but it was beyond my skills to fix properly, so only half done.

    selecting hairy objects - advice please

    with soft light layer

    selecting hairy objects - advice please

    And here I did the same but changed the background to white using a Filter Gradient map... My edges are so obvious but I think that someone more skilled and with a pen could work magic with your photo.

    selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Hope this helps, and sorry for the poor selections but I hope you can see the potential for your photo.. And if a beginner can do this think what someone with more skills could do with it.

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Have you tried using the adjustment brush tool in LR utilising the auto mask feature when nearing the bird? I have found this works very well.

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    I hope you don't mind but here is a quick edit in LR using the technique I described. I removed that twig top right using the spot healing brush in LR.
    If you enlarge the image you can see how effective the auto mask is.

    selecting hairy objects - advice please

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Hello my friend, I took a go at your image. The easiest way I know of to make local changes to an image is using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom. At the bottom of the Adjustment Brush window make sure auto-mask is checked when working the edges of a bird or animal and in the bottom left side of the screen make sure Shjow Mask is checked. That will show the areas to be adjusted in red or whatever color you choose (red is the default). If your mask extends beyond the edge of the bird hold down the ALT key with the cursor to erase the area. Once you have masked the around the edges turn off Auto-Mask and fill in the middle with the mask. Looking at the image at 100% or higher will show areas you may have missed so the correction is applied evenly. For this image in Lightroom I moved the Highlights slider all the way to the left to knock down the highlilghts in the blown sky. Then using the Adjustment Brush as described above I chose Dodge (lighten) from the pop down menu. Turning off Show Mask I then moved the exposure slider of the Adjustment Brush to the right until I liked the exposure of the bird.

    selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Looking at it in Lytebox here I maybe could have gone a tad bit lighter on the exposure. The Adjustment Brush enables local adjustments to any part of an image quickly and easy, and if you don't like it... delete and try again.

    Smiles... Mike and I think alike.

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    In reality, I would probably have altered this using a simple Curves Adjustment Layer then edited a mask with brushes to selectively apply the effect.

    However, as we are discussing Selections and Masks I did a Quick Selection then improved it with the lasso tool. Used a slight tweak with Refine Mask, but this probably wasn't necessary.

    Then used curves to darken the background. Also did a little tweak to brighten the bird and add a little saturation boost with a layer set to Soft Light mode at 30%.

    Not quite sure what colour the bird should be so I haven't changed the actual colours. And I've left the background without any additional blur. But I have cropped slightly tighter.

    selecting hairy objects - advice please

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Gosh. Don't know where to start. Many, many thanks for all your ideas. I will spend some time putting them into practice, and repost.

    This is a great community

    Dave

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Dave, it would be completely unfair to criticise any of the techniques demonstrated here, mainly because we have all started with a small jpeg image, and have I suspect all tried a relatively quick fix to illustrate the workflow. I would suggest however that you look at an enlarged view of each technique and note that all of those involving a selection still leave a slight halo around the bird. On a higher resolution image and with the skill and patience I know our colleagues possess this can be eliminated, but just for comparison look at the image edited in LR with the adjustment brush and auto mask. Even at this resolution, and with a quick fix, any haloing is difficult to detect, if present at all. It really is a very useful tool if you are not into layers etc. in PS.

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Dave, it would be completely unfair to criticise any of the techniques demonstrated here, mainly because we have all started with a small jpeg image, and have I suspect all tried a relatively quick fix to illustrate the workflow. I would suggest however that you look at an enlarged view of each technique and note that all of those involving a selection still leave a slight halo around the bird. On a higher resolution image and with the skill and patience I know our colleagues possess this can be eliminated, but just for comparison look at the image edited in LR with the adjustment brush and auto mask. Even at this resolution, and with a quick fix, any haloing is difficult to detect, if present at all. It really is a very useful tool if you are not into layers etc. in PS.
    Thanks, Mike, I will certainly give that a go. In fact I already tried it and ended up with some nasty chromatic fringes in places round the bird - which was what prompted the post. I can see it's my technique and not the tool that's not up to the job! It's clear that I need to go back and try again, before having to re-immerse myself in layers, which I will do if necessary.

    Do you have favourite settings for Density and Flow when using the adjustment brush in LR?

    Dave

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Hello my friend, I took a go at your image. The easiest way I know of to make local changes to an image is using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom. At the bottom of the Adjustment Brush window make sure auto-mask is checked when working the edges of a bird or animal and in the bottom left side of the screen make sure Shjow Mask is checked. That will show the areas to be adjusted in red or whatever color you choose (red is the default). If your mask extends beyond the edge of the bird hold down the ALT key with the cursor to erase the area. Once you have masked the around the edges turn off Auto-Mask and fill in the middle with the mask. Looking at the image at 100% or higher will show areas you may have missed so the correction is applied evenly. For this image in Lightroom I moved the Highlights slider all the way to the left to knock down the highlilghts in the blown sky. Then using the Adjustment Brush as described above I chose Dodge (lighten) from the pop down menu. Turning off Show Mask I then moved the exposure slider of the Adjustment Brush to the right until I liked the exposure of the bird.
    Many thanks, Joe, I'll try to follow those instructions.

    Dave

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    Clactonian's Avatar
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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by davidedric View Post
    Do you have favourite settings for Density and Flow when using the adjustment brush in LR?

    Dave
    To be honest no, although my preference with all tools is to turn everything down and build up slowly.
    You might find THIS video tutorial useful.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Quote Originally Posted by Clactonian View Post
    I would suggest however that you look at an enlarged view of each technique and note that all of those involving a selection still leave a slight halo around the bird.
    Carefully said, you will either have a slight halo around the bird or will have a slight clipping of the edge of the feathers, depending on the method you use. I personally prefer losing a bit of the subject as this is easier to deal with than with the halo. The moment we try to extract something from a background, there will be a light level of edge contamination where the background and the part of the image we are trying to clip out intersect. The anti-aliasing algorithms do a fine job making the image look good, but complicate matters when we want to isolate part of the image.

    When we make a selection, don’t want a hard edge that makes it look like we cut the image out with scissors and pasted it to a background, so we feather the edge a tiny bit to facilitate the blending. The issue with most blending techniques is that if we don’t feather properly (and the amount will vary by image size), we take along a tiny parts of the background and this creates the halo effect. We really have to stay inside the main image by a few pixels to ensure that we get a clean image to insert into the new background.

    The other issue is of course image size. Here bigger is better. My first experience with a larger image was working with a native (roughly 50MP) image out of a Hasselblad a few years ago. There were so many pixels available (and it was shot against a white background) that it was an absolute pleasure to work with. I didn’t have to be as precise in making my selection as I would in a smaller image and still got great results.

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    I'm using CS5 so this might not be available with other software, but I find using the Decontaminate Colours option (from the Refine Edges menu) used towards the end of editing really makes a noticeable difference to edge problems. A lot of the noticeable halo, fringing and harshness around the edges gets blended into the background.

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    I can't find it in PSE 9.. Nevertheless all these replies are very informative. thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    I'm using CS5 so this might not be available with other software, but I find using the Decontaminate Colours option (from the Refine Edges menu) used towards the end of editing really makes a noticeable difference to edge problems. A lot of the noticeable halo, fringing and harshness around the edges gets blended into the background.

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Christine I've just seen a tutorial on youtube:"Quick Mask Tutorial With Commercial Photographer Michael Herb" and I thought of your question, have a look and see if it helps I thought it very in depth but full of useful hints !

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    Re: selecting hairy objects - advice please

    Hi Mat,

    Thank you for that... I found the tutorial very informative, and even though Elements 9 does not have all those tools, it was very helpful for me to watch just to gain an understanding of what masking and painting away a selection edge means, and using a brush as opposed to the other available tools.

    Here is the link for others needing help with this.


    http://fstoppers.com/quick-mask-tuto...r-michael-herb


    Quote Originally Posted by moopy goops View Post
    Christine I've just seen a tutorial on youtube:"Quick Mask Tutorial With Commercial Photographer Michael Herb" and I thought of your question, have a look and see if it helps I thought it very in depth but full of useful hints !

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