June 13, 2010
Before & After
I received a Before and After request the other day via Facebook from Meagan and her friend Randi. They sent me a picture of this adorable little girl, at what looks to be a cookout with a request to either blur, change or remove the background. It’s really hard to create bokeh from an existing background like the one below. However, you can completely replace the background. For this photo, I chose to replace the background (mostly because trying to remove the blue background from her hair on the right proved to be difficult).
614 Before and After
Even with your snapshots, you can start your photos in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), so I did just that. I didn’t really make any adjustments, but it’s just part of my process. I then brought the photo over to PSE7 and applied Amy McMaster’s Squeaky Clean. I always make a few tweaks to the action (and really, in order for any action to look right, you need to adjust each layer). 

I then did a 4×6 crop and subtle rotate. I could have tried cloning out the time/date stamp in the lower right corner, but that seemed like a lot of effort if it was unnecessary. 
At this point, it was time to eliminate the background. You can essentially apply these steps to any photo anytime you want to change out the background (ex. adding or changing the sky). 
  • Use your quick selection tool to select the little girl. Pay special attention to your brush size (8 px), hardness (12%) and spacing (15%). 
  • Right click, select refine edge (I tend to use a slight feather and will expand or contract the selection just a hair).
  • Now, right click and select inverse (just the background). Then click ctrl J. This will create a new layer. 
  • Use your eye dropper to select the shade of blue in her hair line (like I said, it was going to be very difficult to remove the background entirely). Create a new blank layer (there’s an icon in your layer tray that looks like a sticky note) and use the paint bucket to fill the layer with that shade of blue you selected with the eye dropper. 
  • With the top layer (blue) selected, click ctrl G to group that layer with the previous layer. 
  • Merge those layers. 
At this point, I started adding texture (always be sure to use layer masks and remove the texture from faces and bodies). Below are the textures I used, the blending modes and opacities: 
  • Painterly Effect, Overlay, 73% opacity
  • Vintage Tissue, Soft Light, 100% opacity (with this layer, I simplified and applied a motion blur)
  • Vintage Grain Overlay 5, Soft Light, 59% opacity
  • RVT Blue, Overlay, 50% opacity
  • Merge those layers.
 Finally, I applied Paint the Moon’s Vanilla Pop – here are those layers: 
  • Vanilla Pop at 75%
  • Make it Darker at 10%
  • Make it Lighter at 16%
  • Milky at 12%
  • Boost Contrast at 22%
  • Warming Filter at 5%
Out of curiosity, I went back into my textures and tried adding another photograph’s bokeh. I think it’s kinda interesting but I don’t like how the blue in her hair line looks. The point is that when you remove and replace a background, you can choose to have a portrait backdrop type of background or something more natural.
614 After 2 Blog

Thanks Meagan and Randi for reaching out to me. I’ll send you an email with the full files of each “after.”

    omg! I love it and I think Randi will love it too!! I love the bokeh background and if you wouldn’t have said anything about the blue in her hair, I would’ve never noticed!!

    you are so talented! this is amazing!

    Girl, this is awesome! GREAT job!

    You did a great job! I, like you, am distracted by the blue in her hair. Could you zoom in 100% and add in some green?? (that’s coming from a beginner in editing-ha! So that may be a stupid idea)

    all in all, I’d be ecstatic if I were this adorable little girl’s mom. You did a great job!

    Wow I am so impressed!!

    I’m the little girls mom and I’m so thrilled with the outcome!!! They both are so awesome! Thanks a bunch Ashley! (rjbear21 on the bump if you remember me or not…)

    Tyrant of Texture, you’ve come through again!!

    you can do this a million other way, but i’ll do it your way anytime of the day.

    wow. that last one is AMAZING.

    I love the second one because I feel like it matches her skin tone a bit better and gives more depth to the photo. I’m a bit distracted by the blue in her hair and the subtle outline around her head. Maybe the blur tool can help with the outline, and you can use the clone tool to help bring some green in around her hair?

    Really, really great job. Extractions can be tough to make them look real and I’d say this is one of the better of examples of how it can be done well.