5 Replies Latest reply on Dec 19, 2017 11:20 PM by D Fosse

    Masking for white background

    D Fosse Adobe Community Professional & MVP

      This is something we see all the time. Product shot or portrait, and the spec is that it needs to be on a clean white background.


      OK. It's shot against a white wall or a white cloth/paper - but it doesn't look clean enough out of the camera. Maybe it comes out of the camera like this (a common scenario with auto exposure):



      So, what's the first instinct? Right: cut it out, select and mask. We need that white background! The hair takes a lot of work, but let's say it gets reasonably clean:



      But this still doesn't look good, does it? In fact it looks exactly like what it is: a cutout. There is a better way.


      Work globally! Get the whole image right. Work with the white point and the white balance. In this third example, there is not a single brushstroke of masking. No magic wand, no Select and Mask, no edge detection to get the hair right. It's all done with global adjustments all over. Looks much better, right?



      If the background isn't perfectly even, or still falls slightly short of pure white, this can easily be handled by raising the white point further locally, but no intricate masking is needed for that. A large soft brush will do just fine.


      Those of us who grew up with analog photo learned all this the hard way. But today, there is this idea that anything can be fixed in Photoshop later. So no need to start with a good photo - it can be as sloppy as you like, nothing that a little Photoshop magic can't put straight. And strictly speaking that's true - if you're prepared to put in hours of work.


      Bottom line: Get the whole image as good as it gets first. Then, only then, start with masking and local adjustments. You may need a lot less of that than you think.


      Thank you. I just had to get this off my chest.