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.”