Issues with Isolation

posted on 23rd of january, 2008

I don't know about anyone else, but isolating images is one of my least favorite tasks in Photoshop.

I see that there was a blog on this topic in late December, but that was focused on shooting within a lightbox, or in other conditions that you can manipulate. Lots of times, I'm trying to isolate a large object that I found in natural conditions, rather than a small subject that I can get in a lightbox.

I have tried just about every method I can find to isolate my subject, and then create credible, realistic transitions between the image and the background. Magic Wand, Quick Select, Extraction, Calculations. . . None of these are easy, and few are satisfying. I end up spending hours on a single image, trying to get things just right.

What do other people do? I have seen many beautiful isolations on Dreamstime. Look at this image, for example:

Steve McSweeny (I don't know him--I just like his work) has done an incredible job with those feathers (and I doubt he was able to get that eagle to pose cooperatively against a neutral backdrop!).

Here's another seamless isolation, from Pumpa1:

this time with an amazing semi-reflection.

I'm not asking for trade secrets, but I would love to know how and where people learned to create such beautiful work.

Comments (15)

Posted by Pinkerpie on August 10, 2010
HI Thank you, so if I extract an image from the background and fill with paint brush in any color, the color fill doesn't add back the pixels lost from extracting? And If I have an 12x8. When I submit to DT with this process, will the isolated image be accepted without enlarging the MP
Posted by Fleyeing on August 06, 2010
HI, When I isolate my subjects , How do I retain original file size? When I isolate and add a white background with paint bucket or brush tool, I lose file size in the "save file as" even though the image size in adjustments shows the original file size. I go from 4.5 MB down to 2.1 or so. Which is below DT minimum.
Thank you, This has been frustrating for me.
I think you are confusing file size with size of the image in X-px * Y-px.
It's normal the file size in JPG format goes down since you eliminate the (unwanted) information in the white area. The picture dimensions should stay the same.
PS - you will get the same file size reduction when you reduce the noise, for instance in a sky, at least in the compressed JPG format. In a bitmapped uncompressed format like TIFF, the file size will stay the same.
Posted by Fleyeing on August 06, 2010
Both of my tutorials are here
Wow Olga, these are one of the top tutorials I ever saw. Especially the part about the fluffy objects. I bookmarked you.
Posted by Pinkerpie on August 06, 2010
HI, When I isolate my subjects , How do I retain original file size? When I isolate and add a white background with paint bucket or brush tool, I lose file size in the "save file as" even though the image size in adjustments shows the original file size. I go from 4.5 MB down to 2.1 or so. Which is below DT minimum.
Thank you, This has been frustrating for me.
Posted by Charlesoutcalt on February 14, 2008
I see that your technique has been working. I think I need to amp up my light so that I have overexposed backgrounds from the beginning. Trying to remove them via PS is not nearly as easy (for me) as getting the exposure the way I want it in the first place.

Posted by Pumpa1 on January 31, 2008
Sorry, that it was so easy ;-)
But for such a complexe composition you thought you need in my opinion to much time in relation to the microstock earnings.
Posted by Charlesoutcalt on January 30, 2008
Hah! I would not have thought of something so smart--just take the photo as you want it to be. Here I was imagining all sorts of layers, inversions, rotations. . .
Posted by Pumpa1 on January 30, 2008
Hi Charles, my secret ist very simple. I´ve made the photo like it is. In Photoshop i`ve only made some level-adjustments and dust retouche. You need a polarizer- filter to control the strenght of the reflection.
Posted by Rabidbadger on January 26, 2008
I always mess around with the contrast on the raw image to create the biggest colour difference between the subject and the background. This makes it easier to select background colours with the magic wand and once you have your selection outline you can apply it to the original image to isolate the subject.
Posted by Fertographer on January 25, 2008
I guess this is just what I need to try my hands on too!
Posted by Charlesoutcalt on January 24, 2008
Wow! Mask Pro is GREAT! I was able to isolate a very, very tricky bird skeleton in just minutes. I owe you big time, Cecelia.
Posted by Creative_heart on January 24, 2008
Many years ago I picked up a plug-in for Photoshop called MaskPro which has proved to be an invaluable tool and tiime saver for me. I frequently have to extract images from photographs and then combine them in others. People are always amazed by what I do! You select colors you want dropped and what colors you want to keep. There is always some hand cleanup that needs to be done which takes time and patience but starting with this definitely minimizes the time involved. I believe it is now being sold by OnOne software now. Worth every dollar especially if it is something you need to do often.
Posted by Charlesoutcalt on January 24, 2008
Printtrax, I hear you when you say patience. I think that so many things come easily and instantly on the computer that I get discouraged when making a mask turns out to be laborious work. What tool(s) do you use for making your mask? Which are most useful for you--the polygonal lasso, the regular lasso. . . ?
Posted by Leecappsphotography on January 23, 2008
Charles the secret is having the patience to cut a mask. I have worked in the industry for years and have had to isolate everything from a saw with a hundred blades to a christmas tree. I would say after years of practice, I could cut a mask on the fruit in 5 minutes and the eagle in 15 minutes or less. Practice makes perfect! When cutting the mask, make sure you zoom in 200%. After cutting the path, make a copy of your original layer and work on the copy. Load the selection on your clipping path and hit (Shift F7) to reverse the select to the background and hit delete. You then have a layer that only has your subject. Make a new layer underneath your subject and go crazy. Let me know if you have any idea of what I just said. GOOD LUCK!
Posted by Notebook on January 23, 2008
Coincidence :) I just wrote two isolation tutorials, check out my two most recent blog entries. Remember, there is no easy way with isolations, and if you are going with "easy" selection tools - magic wand, extraction, etc - you need to do it wisely and there is always post-processing required. Quick tip: when using magic wand & other "quick" isolation tools - remember to right click your selection and set feathering to about 1-2pixels!!! I also have a tutorial for isolating feathery/furry/fluffy objects (see "advanced isolation)

Both of my tutorials are here

Good luck, message me if you have any questions!

Comments (15)

This article has been read 1455 times.
Photo credits: Pumpa1, Stephen Mcsweeny.

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