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Photography Tips & Tutorials Weekly photography-related tips, tutorials and lessons for your review.
Related to our ongoing Click-a-Pic Challenges.

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Old 04-07-2011, 11:19 AM
shutterspeed's Avatar
shutterspeed shutterspeed is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Texas
Posts: 4,727
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CAP tutorial: How to Change the Background of Your Photos

Something I've been experimenting with these past few weeks is changing or adding backgrounds in my photos. It's not as hard as it might sound.

As with any photoshop techniques, there are numerous ways to achieve the same results. One of the ways I change my backgrounds is by using colored textures & layer masks.

I was working on this week's photo for my Project 52 (the theme this week was yellow), I found a big patch of yellow wildflowers on the side of the road, gathered up a large handful and brought them home, arranged them in a mason jar and decided to photograph them. I grabbed one of our glass topped end tables and placed it near a large window that wasn't receiving direct sunlight. I knew when photographing the flowers that I didn't want to use the existing background, the sage green walls of my bedroom wasn't the look I was going for. This was one of the resulting shots:

ISO 500
Auto White Balance (created a grayish background, while keeping the flower color accurate)
Aperture: 2.8
Shutterspeed: 1/80
Focal Length 52mm

As you can see, not really an impressive image. There's no pop, no pizazz, no spark. But we can fix that. (Note, make any editing adjustments to the photo before changing the background, such as fixing the exposure, color balance, etc.)

I decided that I wanted to use a blue colored background, something that would make the yellow flowers really stand out. I looked through my textures folder and found the perfect texture in color and consistency.

In photoshop I opened the photo I wanted to manipulate and the texture I wanted to use. I copied & pasted the texture onto the photo creating a new layer.

Now I have to stretch the texture to cover the photo. Hold down CTRL T and the texture will be selected, then press SHIFT T and drag from the corners to stretch the texture out to fully cover the photo. Once you have the photo layer covered press ENTER.

With the texture layer selected in your layers palette, change the blend mode to OVERLAY.

Play around with the blending modes, another choice may work better for your specific photo. Also try changing the opacity of the layer to tone down the intensity. (I left mine at 100%)

With the texture layer still selected, we want to create a layer mask, so at the bottom of the layers palette click on the gray rectangle with the white circle in it (add layer mask). You'll notice that now there's a white rectangular box next to the texture in the layer. This is our mask.

Click on the white rectangle, so that your mask is selected. Choose a feathered brush from your brush palette. Make sure your foreground color is set to black. Then take the brush and brush over all the areas where you want to remove the texture. Changing the brush size periodically will be necessary to mask over smaller areas.

For my example photo I masked over the flowers and their stems to make it appear that the jar of flowers is in front of my new background. After you make all the necessary adjustments just flatten & save.

The finished product will look something like this:

It looks like I used an expensive studio backdrop and all I did was add a texture.

Maybe you don't want all the texture and you're going for a more smooth, flat background. There's another technique you can use to do that.

Again start with the photo you want to edit, open it in Photoshop.

ISO 500
Auto White Balance (created a grayish background, while keeping the flower color accurate)
Aperture: 2.8
Shutterspeed: 1/100
Focal Length: 24mm

Create a new layer by clicking SHIFT CTRL N, name it, and click OK. (You'll see a new layer appear in the layers palette over your photo). Go over to your foreground/background colors and select a color you want to change your background to. Again I chose a blue color to make the flowers pop. Select the gradient tool in your tool bar and then choose linear gradient in the top tool bar.

With your new layer & the gradient tool selected, move over your photo and start at on end, dragging the gradient across the photo. (I dragged from left to right because my light source was to my right, I wanted the gradient to be lighter on the right-hand side.)

It should look like this.

For the next step I usually lower the opacity of the gradient layer down to 50% (so you can see your photo underneath), create a layer mask (like we did for the first example), choose a feathered brush and erase over the areas you don't want the gradient tool to show up.

When you're done masking out all the parts you don't want, change the layer opacity back to 100%. This is the finished product:

Pretty neat huh? Changing your background doesn't get much simpler. Try it out on your next still life photo and see the incredible results!
portraits & weddings
art & digital prints

Last edited by shutterspeed; 04-07-2011 at 12:39 PM.
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Old 04-11-2011, 02:06 PM
zachandavasmom's Avatar
zachandavasmom zachandavasmom is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2011
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How cool! I will have to play around with this.

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Old 04-11-2011, 07:14 PM
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iScrap iScrap is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2011
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I have always wondered how to do that! I will have to try!
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Old 04-11-2011, 07:46 PM
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hmlentz hmlentz is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: MidMO
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VERY cool! I love the textured background... Thanks for the inspiration.
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Old 10-20-2014, 07:34 AM
elizakeir elizakeir is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2014
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very informative content.. i love such kind of creativity and using photoshop from last few months. so not an expert. but try to do this work.
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Last edited by elizakeir; 10-21-2014 at 03:18 AM.
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