Sometimes you get an image that needs work in specific areas, or part of an image need cutting out. There are some great tools inside Photoshop to do this, i.e. Magic Wand, The Pen Tool and the Quick Selection Tool, as well as many other methods. These tool have been designed to provide a fast way of selecting objects based on an algorithm and the actual image data. Even though these tools are amazing and do a fantastic job, there can be tricky images, where alternatives methods are needed.
In the following example i’d like to work on the two people in the scene. Ideally i’d just like to select them with one of the tools. However, the issue is that whilst there are areas of contrast that the tools can use to find an edge, there are a lot of areas that are going to be challenging (especially around the head of the person in the background). There are lots of ways in Photoshop to solve this problem, this post is just a different way to make this type of selection much simpler.
This method will employ the new Photoshop CC new Camera Raw Filter to increase exposure / contrast / shadows etc in the image , and provide a temporary edge so that the Quick Selection Tool can be used to select the people very quickly.
The image adjustment will be temporary, so the first thing to do is create a way to apply a radical adjustment, which can be undone later. The image layer is converted to a Smart Object (marked in Red below), this option can be found in multiple places in Photoshop, one of these is the Filter menu / Convert for Smart Filters, the other is via the fly out menu on the Layers panel.
Once the layer has been converted to a Smart Object, the Camera Raw Filter command needs to be applied to the Smart Object. This filter is marked in Yellow and available from the Filter / Camera Raw Filter menu option.
The Camera Raw Filter provides most but not all of the tools in the usual Camera Raw filter (used when opening a traditional RAW file). In the following example you can see that the sliders for the exposure, contrast and clarity have been used to radically adjust the image, to create the temporary edge required for the quick selection tool. Once finished, click OK.
N.B. You may need to adjust these sliders differently in your image to create the same effect.
The beauty of using the Smart Object is that the effect is only temporary and can be reset once the selection has been made. You can see in the following screen shot, the Camera Raw Filter is now a child of the layer and has been placed on the Smart Object Filter (marked Yellow). The selection in this example is made using the Quick Selection Tool (marked in Red). The edge selection is now pretty quick and accurate using the new edge from the Camera Raw Filter adjustments.
Once the selection has been made, it can be refined by using the Refine Edge command (marked Red above). You can see the refine edge dialog below. The brush (marked red below), is used to paint on the edge of the selection, in combination with the control sliders to make the selection much smoother and more precise. The refine edge is particularly good when it comes to selecting hair and other complex selections. The brush when first used will make a positive selection. However, by pressing the ALT key the cursor will show a negative sign and remove the selected areas.
On this example, a mask will be created to cut the faces out, but there are other options as well, depending on what result you want out of the Refine Edge command to create (options are marked Yellow below).
Once the mask has been created, it can be refined further by selecting it (marked Red below), then choosing the Refine Edge command (show in red below). This will effectively modify the created mask. Working with the refine edge command takes practice, so if the results are perfect the first time, keep working with it until you have the selection that is required.
Once the mask has been created to your satisfaction, you can either re-open the Camera Raw adjustments by double clicking on the Camera Raw Filter in the layers panel, then reset and adjustments that were made. Or the effect can be turn off by using the eye icon next to the Smart Object Mask (marked in red below).
This is one example of using this technique and i am sure there are many others to experiment with. Good luck with your selections and hopefully this post will give you new ideas.