How Jim LaSala adds value to his photography business with Fluid Mask

We talked to Jim previously in the Vertus blog about how he uses Fluid Mask in the workflow for his fine art photography. This time we’re focussing on the kind of jobs that are a working photographer’s bread and butter. Let’s start with portraiture. Over to Jim;

“…remember the days where we all ran out and bought the latest and greatest backgrounds? Let’s see. There was backgrounds for babies, seniors, engagements, weddings, high key, low key… the list goes on and on. We would spend a fortune just keeping up. So how do we work around that? What are some of the things that we can do to show our creativity. FLUID MASK!!!!!!

20140129_maggie_isaac-0020Here we see a before and after that was shot just using a plain white background. Now, many people will say, well you put it on a background that was easy to mask (we will get to one that was more difficult in a minute). My answer to that is (duh) yeah!!!!! Part of the planning is understand what you want the final image to look like. If I know i’m going to shoot a young model with black hair and a black dress, you better believe I won’t being using a black seamless paper. The idea of masking and montaging is to make your job as easy as possible. Think ahead, pre visualize.”

See how Jim uses Fluid Mask in his commercial portraiture work in his Portrait Backgrounds Video Tutorial.

“My backgrounds are endless. I can go as far as my imagination will take me. “

 

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Here’s another job that Jim’s put Fluid Mask to use on, masking both foreground and background elements from 2 separate images to realise his vision:

20140706_camiolo_miata_006520110905_landscapes_0006“A client who’d just got a new toy (his car), wanted something other than a plain background. So, we went out towards the end of the day and found an empty schoolyard. I used a fisheye lens. Although it is a lens that has so much distortion, I put the subject in the middle of the lens as to lessen this effect. I then went into my background library and was looking for something that would compliment the product as well as tell a story. The camera angle on both subjects works nicely together, and just take note of the transparent areas (windshield), as well as the trees in the second image. The original sky was ok, but I was looking for a bit more drama knowing that I would be turning this image into black and white. So, once again, back into my bag of goodies and pulled out a sky.

20140706_camiolo_miata_0084This was a fun project to work on and would have been very very difficult without having the right tools.”

“The right tool for me is Fluid Mask. Thank you Vertus for a software that has changed the way I do business.”

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Thanks to Jim for sharing his work with us, see more at www.jimlasala.com

For a limited period… click here to save 40% and get Fluid Mask for $89

See how far your imagination can take you…

Download this Fluid Mask 3 Key Commands and Shortcuts sheet.

A Happy New Year to all readers!

Here’s a handy reference sheet listing key commands for Fluid Masks’s tools and commonly used actions via the menu bar. You can really speed up your workflow by getting to know and using these shortcuts. Please click on the image to view and download the .pdf version.  Work even smarter with Fluid Mask 3!!

FM3_Shortcuts

 

Elmo, meet Maleficent!!

Photographer & Art Director Mark Magner uses Fluid Mask in his role as Design Director at Sesame Workshop. He recently demoed on the Wacom stand at Comic-Con International in San Diego last month, where two very different characters met for the first time…

Elmo says hi to Malifecient, (with a little help from Mark!)on the Wacom stand at Comic-Con International '14 in San Diego last month.

Elmo says ‘Hi!’ to Maleficent, (with a little help from Mark)on the Wacom stand at Comic-Con International ’14 in San Diego last month.

HIs workshop was very well attended with an audience keen to see his workflow, and Fluid Mask plays a big role: “I have found that Fluid Mask is one of the best applications available for masking the kinds of textures that our characters have.”

Here’s Mark to explain a little more:

“Working with Sesame Street photography has one challenge that is unique, masking images of the characters while maintaining enough soft hair on the outside edges to still look natural…… There is no end to the masking software that’s available as well as methods that you can do in Photoshop alone. We’ve tried them all with varying degrees of success. Most do very well on smooth edged objects, human hair or animal fur, but the Sesame Street Muppets have very fine fur which is often so lightly colored it’s difficult to find the edges between the background and foreground…..

Another challenge we have is completely removing the white background that is visible between the hairs. If the masked photo is used against white or a light color it’s not a problem, but if the photo is placed against a darker background a halo of the residual background color often appears and this doesn’t look natural. I have found that Fluid Mask is one of the best applications available for masking the kinds of textures that our characters have. The program is intuitive and the process is reasonably fast. However, for best results, if the artwork is going to be seen large I tell people that the results are directly related to your patience and knowledge of the software.”

Here's Mark (center) with Diana Leto, Freelance Illustrator and Douglas Little, Sr. Public Relations Manager  at Wacom

Here’s Mark (center) with Diana Leto, Freelance Illustrator and Douglas Little, Sr. Public Relations Manager at Wacom

Maybe it’s just the childhood memories the thought evokes, but we’re stoked that Elmo, Grover and the rest of the Sesame Street gang benefit from Fluid Mask!

If you haven’t already, it’s worth spending a little time browsing the learning resources on this blog, and check out our tutorials in full on YouTube. Work smarter with Fluid Mask!

See more of Mark’s design and photography work on his website http://www.magnergraphix.com , or re-live your childhood a little, over at the Sesame Workshop.

It’s a sunny day, everything’s – A-Okay, and we’re off to where the air is sweet..

Fluid Mask Training: project file and video tutorial

Here’s a Fluid Mask training project file. This is designed to be worked on while following the short instructional video on our YouTube channel. After applying a patch to the whole image, you’ll be shown how to easily mask out the sky, without losing any of the fine detail. This utilises the color workspace, one of Fluid Mask’s key tools to help you achieve perfect masks, quickly and easily.

Fluid Mask Training - before/after image

Here’s the original image and the final mask, click for larger image to see the detail

..and here's our image with a new sky added

..and here’s our image with a new sky added.  A definite improvement!

Please download the .vfmp file here, and view the accompanying tutorial on YouTube.

The project (.vfmp) file will download automatically after accepting license conditions, and can then be opened in Fluid Mask, either by launching Fluid Mask, then in the menu bar going to ‘File’ -> ‘load project’ and selecting the downloaded file (FM3_Training_1.vfmp).
Or you can just double click the project file which will launch Fluid Mask and load the project.
Upon first opening, the project shows you how your completed mask will look. You can clear this and apply the mask again, working along to the video, by going to File -> ‘Revert Mask’. As always, remember when adding to your blend selection, that you must extend your blend by brushing all the way into your keep and your delete selections.. it’s leaving a selection out, however small, that confuses Fluid Mask and results in contamination.

As always, we welcome any feedback.

 

Jim LaSala featured in LensWork

LensWorkCongratulations to Jim LaSala, whose documentary work in Haiti is featured in the latest edition of LensWork Magazine. As well as an interview with Jim, one of his images also made the cover. LensWork is a bi-monthly print magazine that’s also available as a digital version.. “about Photographs (rather than cameras!)” … how refreshing!

We’ve previously featured some of Jim’s work from Haiti on the Vertus blog, as well as his use of Fluid Mask. You can also see his video masterclass using Fluid Mask in his digital studio on our YouTube channel.

Blending, Brushes & Edge Finding Overview

Here’s a 3 min cutout of a bride and her veil that gives you a good overview of the functionality of brushes and blending settings – the nuts and bolts of masking technique.

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Top tip: The #1 cause of a poor quality mask showing some background contamination is not extending your blue blend mask fully into both your green keep and your red delete mask. Turning up the mask opacity slider can quickly show you any areas that need attention using the blue blend exact brush.

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.

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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.

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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!