When a cutout is not as easy as it looks…. patches to the rescue!!

Here’s an image that’s a good example of the flexibility that the patches tool can offer. Patches allows you to blend a large variety of edges with different characteristics independently of each other, to create a successful cut out. The forced edge tool also plays a role. Although this is sometimes seen as a tool of last resort, it allows you the flexibility to decide for yourself where the cutout should start and finish. This ability to create and define an edge can be an enormous advantage, when there’s no discernible edge to find.

©shutterstock_77923723

At first glance this image looks like an easy task, shot in the studio against a plain white background. But zooming in closer you can see that the lighting used to create the high key effect has produced some quite different edges to consider, from the dark shadow area around the feet and jeans, to the soft edges generated by the rim and fill light along the tops of her shoulders and torso, and of course there’s also her hair to consider. No problem for Fluid Mask!   (click the image to see a larger version –  please note this image is © shutterstock )

Here’s my Color Workspace, and here’s what I did:

shutterstock_FM3Workspace

 

First off, edge width threshold at 6 pixels, number of edges at 50% and blend width set to to thin does the job for all of the image except where I’ve applied patches (around her head for the hair and along her shoulders and torso). I’ve added a forced edge with a few clicks along the top of her laptop and where she’s in contact with the floor, as I don’t want that shadow retained in my cutout.

I’ve used the blend brush on her hair and around the shirt, and then applied patches to shoulders and torso and set the blend ratio (controlled by the feather/smart slider in the edge blending pane) over towards feather, (at ratios of 4:1 for left shoulder, 3:1 for right shoulder and left torso and at 2:1 for right torso). It was really just a matter of drawing in the patch and then playing with the slider and previewing what looks best. I then applied another patch over the head and neck and again, after trying a few different ratios and previewing my results, using the preview cut-out tool, I set the feather / smart ratio at 1:1 which gave the best rendering.

©shutterstock_cutout

And here’s the finished cutout below. I’ve placed her against a red background so you can best see the edges (click for high res’). An image which whilst looking to be a simple masking task, actually has a few complications and tricky edges, handled by with Fluid Mask 3 with the use of patches.

You can learn more about patches, getting edge blending right and the forced edge tool from our techniques tutorials.

Work smarter not harder with Fluid Mask.

If all you want for Christmas is a perfect mask, fast.. here’s how:

Here’s a quick Christmas themed example utilising the patch tool & the color workspace. These are workaday elements of Fluid Mask that help you achieve fast, accurate masking. If you’re not yet familiar with them, it’s recommended that you view our online tutorials that cover these functions first.  Work smarter not harder with Fluid Mask.

Happy Holidays from all at Vertus!

XmasCutoutWP

Patch applied using the (polygon) patch tool

Patch applied using the (polygon) patch tool

First, I isolated the area to be masked using the patch tool to take advantage of the advanced blending options this offers. I’ve used the polygon option here, clicking for anchor points as I go, but you could also use the patch brush. However it’s applied, make sure your patch stays reasonably close to the area to be masked, to ensure there’s not too much bleed into the background area to be deleted.

The color workspace, with 'keep' areas selected

The color workspace, with ‘keep’ areas selected

Using the colour workspace, in this instance as a 2D colour map, I then selected the areas within the patch to keep. The colour map allows you to select areas by clicking and dragging a marquee over the area of interest or by sampling a color directly from the image (more about that below). The selection is highlighted yellow in the 2D colour map and also within the image. I then assigned the selection as a keep mask by clicking the green keep mask bucket icon to the left of the workspace. Having made my initial keep selection, I was able to see the results by clicking preview in the patch properties:

'Preview' enabled within Patch Properties

‘Preview’ enabled within Patch Properties

An impressive first pass. To make sure I’ve included all the pine needles and snow, I went back to the colour workspace to apply a blend to my keep selection (see below). It can be easier to see what you are doing by clicking the green eye in the colour workspace, turning off visibility of the keep selection, leaving visible the remaining unassigned pixels in the color map.

fig4

The color map with the green keep selection turned off

Using the colour sampler, I took selections directly from within the image, selecting areas to keep by sampling the colours from the tree’s needles, snow and the bauble. These selections will appear yellow in the color workspace, it was easy to then expand the selections by selecting similar colours from within the workspace. It’s a great way to fine tune your keep/delete/blend selections, you select colors either directly from your image (using the Color Sampler) or in the color workspace display itself. In both cases, the selected colors are highlighted yellow in the image and the color map.

Fig5

Keep mask with blend applied using the colour workspace. Notice there’s now no pixels showing in the workspace histogram, as both keep and blend selections are hidden.

As the whole of the keep area is fairly sharp, I’ve set the intelligent blending slider all the way over to ‘smart’ and set complex edge blending to ‘sharp’ for a perfect result:

Fig6

With one click I then applied delete mask to the rest of the image (the red delete local brush) and hit create cutout. Job done. Work smarter not harder with Fluid Mask!

MerryXmasFromVertus

Installing Vertus Applications on Apple OS X 10.9 (Maverick)

If you’re on an Apple machine and have recently updated to OS X Version 10.9, when launching Fluid Mask (or Play With Pictures and Bling!IT), you’ll now see a message from Apple’s Gatekeeper function, advising that it’s from an unidentified developer.

You simply need to control click on the application within your application folder (or on the applications icon in your dock, if you’ve previously run the program and have just updated your operating system) and select ‘open’.

Your Vertus application will then function as normal.

Whilst it’s perhaps re-assuring to end users to see this extra security function, It’s also a step by Apple to channel all software that runs on their machines through their app’ store.

We’re working to ensure that Vertus applications are identified as trusted by Apple, but there’s more than a few hoops to jump through after our parent company changed hands, so please bear with us.

In the meantime, please ‘control click’ and enjoy using your Vertus application!

Explosify Your Workflow!!

rpg_keys_logoWhat are RPG Keys? An award winning programmable custom keyset, compatible with all major image editing software which will drastically speed up your workflow. We’ve got a special deal for Vertus customers, only through this link:      save $48 and get a 60 day trial for just $10!!

What is your time worth to you?  It’s the one thing you’ll never be able to create more of, or claw back.  It’s also finite (you really do ‘spend’ time, so about the most previous commodity we have). The answer for me depends on what I’d doing with that time, and editing and post-processing RAW files does not come high up the list of things I’d like to ‘spend’ my time on. Anything I can do tweaking my workflow to minimise the time spent is a big win as far as I’m concerned, so when I heard about RPG Keys a small lightbulb went on in my head…. It’s now turned into a million watt spotlight! Read more about how RPG Keys works for me below…

What’s the deal? Pay $10 to cover shipping, and you can get the 16 key set on an extended trial for 60 days. You’ve then got the option of continuing to use RPG keys as a subscriber at $19 per month, or buy the keyset outright for $349 (save another $50). There’s no contract, no commitment. If you don’t want to continue using it, just return the keyset after the trial period.

Do the math: I’m saving over 12 hours per month on time spent editing. Signed up on the subscriber model, works out I’m paying $1.47 for every hour I save, and that’s only on simple editing and correction work. I can only imagine what this tool could do for wedding photographers and re-touchers. If someone came to you with the proposition: for every $1.50 you give me, I’ll give you an extra hour in the day, you’d take it, right..?..                   Here you go!!

RPG_Keys002How RPG Keys works for me: A high proportion of my clients are still newspapers and magazines commissioning editorial for print reproduction, so the work they want me to do on the images I deliver is minimal. Adjust exposure and black point / highlights recovery to ensure there’s no clipping in the histogram, tweak shadow / highlight levels , white balance when needed and I’m done.

Despite that, Even the smaller jobs call for 2 or 3 hours editing, doing the minimal adjustments that the delivery spec’ calls for. I was already using the key command short cuts within Aperture, my primary image editing software, and had further customised within the ‘commands’ menu. But it’s the ability to change a slider adjustment value (with a choice of 3 different increments, using the option buttons) with just one press of a button, that’s really sped things up. No more dragging sliders!

It took less than an hour setting up the keypad – assigning functions and slider values to the keys, straight from the RPG presets. Then tweaking that and re-arranging the keys (which handily just pop off, so no need for a second set of blanks). I now have a key-set customised exactly to how I want it. As with any change, takes a bit of getting used to, and perhaps slowed me down initially but it was worth persevering.
I now find myself ‘touch typing’ my way around the 16 key set and have cut my editing time by about one third, and that’s with just about as basic a setup on my keys as you can get. I haven’t even begun to explore the full functionality that RPG Keys offers – programming macros, actions,  etc. If you’re doing more complicated work in Photoshop (more retouching than just correction), I can see that the efficiency saving that could be made using the bigger keyset could be seriously (work)life transforming.

For me, RPG Keys is a no-brainer. I’m working smarter not harder and saving at least 3 hours a week for 48 weeks a year…  that’s nearly an entire working month I now have free to do whatever I want to be doing… which is currently spending time with the new arrivals in my family, and that time is priceless….                  ~ Sam Friedrich, acumenimages.com

Check out the RPG Keys demo’ on YouTube

Try the KeySet on a 60 day risk free trial for $10

 

Lenstag – helping protect your kit since 2013

LenstagBeing expensive, portable and highly resalable, your Camera gear is mighty attractive to thieves. Lenstag goes some way towards minimizing the ease with which stolen kit can be sold on. It’s a free service that just might reunite a treasured lens or body with it’s rightful owner.

A simple registration process – name & email,  and you’re ready to list the individual items in your camera bag and upload a picture of the serial number as proof or ownership. This is verified by a human and you’re done. Then if the worst happens… you mark items as stolen and Lenstag will create a google indexed listing that will appear in search results should the serial number be searched for. This will go a significant way to making the selling on of stolen gear via auction sites etc just a little bit harder, the developer hopes to one day adapt this system for incorporating into Police databases  – indeed the Finnish police have already endorsed Lenstag unprompted.

So if you haven’t already…  it’s time to Lenstag you gear!!

Adobe Announces Photography Program; CC ‘lite’

Adobe Photography ProgramAdobe announced this package today at the Photoshop World conference in Las Vegas. Until the end of 2013, if you already own a licence for CS3 and upwards, you can subscribe to this lite version of their Creative Cloud, aimed specifically at Photographers.. we’re guessing many of whom who were unwilling to move to a subscription model, have already shelled out for a perpetual licence to CS6? Still, not a bad deal!

 

Painting with Pixels…(the art of Fluid Mask)

“These images are not painted with paint….They are painted with pixels.”

Schrödingers Tree. Digital composite art created by Michael Flynn using Fluid Mask

Schrödingers Tree. Digital composite art created by Michael Flynn using Fluid Mask

Digital Artist Michael Flynn uses Fluid Mask to realise his artistic vision:

“Sometimes I see images or get ideas in my head, and not being much of a painter I wondered why not make these images out of existing photos. And so I do.” 

There’s some obvious Dali influences in this one, I’d be willing to bet the old grandmaster of surrealist art would be experimenting with digital art himself if he were around now..

All The Way Down © Michael Flynn

All The Way Down

“Some of the images you see here have samplings from as many as a hundred photos.”

That’s a lot of compositing! Good to know you’ve got Fluid Mask in your arsenal to minimise the time you need to spend masking.

Outside the Box

Outside the Box

You can see more of Michaels’ work at paintingwithpixels.com, where you can also purchase limited edition archival Giclée prints.  

 

 

 

 

New Fluid Mask Tutorial Online, now mobile & tablet friendly

After feedback from our users, we’ve switched all our tutorials from .flv (flash) format to hosted on youtube. This allow you to view them on your mobile or tablet devices, keeping your desktop screen free for masking :) . Please subscribe to our youtube channel if you’d like to be kept up to date with new content –  we’ve recently added a new tutorial – working with the Forced Edge tool, and there’ll be more fresh content coming soon!

Fluid Mask 3 Tutorial - Working With The Forced Edge Tool

Fluid Mask 3 Tutorial – Working With The Forced Edge Tool

The holy grail of camera attachment systems..?

Get 10% off any order over $20 at Peak Design by using coupon code: pdvertus.

Camera Straps. I’ve never been a big fan of the ‘standard issue‘ that comes with my Canon DSLRS’s. Does the job, but often too garish for my liking, there’s times when I’m trying to be unobtrusive, they scream ‘expensive camera gear’, and having spent many thousands on their lenses and cameras, they’d have to pay me if they want me to advertise for them (Canon, I’m open to offers).

Then there’s other specialist companies making camera straps, and I’ve tried a fair few of these. Their selling point is comfort. They’re both wider and thicker to achieve this and also will have some elasticated ‘give’ in the strap. For me that’s also their downfall. Even just walking at a brisk pace tends to start a bounce going within the strap, encouraged by the weight of your camera (worse when you’ve a zoom attached!). I tend to carry a camera over one shoulder (so I can carry two), but end result is the camera bouncing off my shoulder, unless I catch it as it goes. Not good! (Can I also not recommend not using metal rings to attach straps to the camera body. Been there, done that, and have the erosion marks etched into the body of a 5dMK1 to tell the tale).

So it’s been a bit like a quest for the holy grail, (or the perfect camera bag, but that’s another, far longer story).. you know it’s out there.. somewhere… well that search maybe over.. Ladies & Gentleman, I give you… Peak Design 

I first came across their products on Kickstarter back in December 2012, looking for a hand leash for my Sony NEX-7 (above). I liked the look of the whole system enough to go for the complete bundle: cuff, leash and capture clip. The whole strap system is built around their anchor points (below, on a DSLR), a quick release system that actually works, removing the fear of accidentally unclipping mid-use which under tension, the old style rucksack buckles are prone to (this has also happened to me previously. Also, not good. At all).

Peak Design Anchor System

This is complimented by their Capture Clip, a reliable quick release system to keep their camera secure but at hand locked to your belt/ rucksack/ wherever.  I don’t do much shooting in extreme conditions, but good design realised using quality materials makes this the only strap and stow system I’ll ever need. For me, mission accomplished. Now I just need to find the perfect camera bag…

~ Sam Friedrich, professional photographer. www.acumenimages.com  

The good folks at Peak Design are offering Vertus customers a deal. There’s a 10% discount on any order over $20 waiting for you by using coupon code: pdvertus at their checkout.