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Landscape Photography – creative sky replacement using the color picker

 

landscape-cutout

 

Mother nature’s rich color palette at this time of year is a gift for landscape photography, often accompanied by mellow light and artistic skies that further enhance an image.. but not always. If conditions aren’t totally perfect, don’t let that stop you getting the shot.

Photography, of course, is all about light, and no amount of post production can replace the magic that happens in camera. But, if you don’t have the luxury of time, the location on your doorstep, or any of the other factors that mean this is your only chance for an image, then take it! It’s easy to replace flat grey skies using Fluid Mask with just a few clicks. This example was done in less than 3 minutes, utilising the color workspace to pick out the background with just a few clicks. Here’s a step by step explanation:

01–  First up, I selected the color picker and set the resolution to it’s coarsest setting. The sky we’re looking to select is the lightest part of the image, so by selecting just the first band, furthest to the right on the histogram, that’s highlighted most of the sky areas for me.

I then assigned these to my delete mask, by clicking on the red bucket on the left hand side of the color picker pane.

With the blend mode set to ‘thick’, I then hit ‘create cutout’ for an initial first pass at this mask.

 

– That’s given me a pretty good cutout, but viewing in the Cut-out tab, by setting the background color to something ultra contrasty (black!), you can see that there’s still a few small areas of sky showing though the leaves.

So, going back to the color picker, I zoomed in and manually selected some of these areas sampling directly from the image. Holding down the shift key allowed me to add multiple areas to my selection.

See the image below where I’ve zoomed in even further to show this.

 

picker

– Using the coarsest setting the color picker offers to get to this point so quickly, I ended up with a few of the highlights in the leaves also added to my delete mask, so tabbing between the original and the workspace, using the keep brush I spent a minute adding these highlights back to my keep mask, keeping the blend mask width to ‘thick’ to avoid any unnatural hard edges.

And that’s the job done. Super easy, super fast!

You can of course work the other way around – use the color picker to select hues for your keep mask, and then use the autofill with delete option, instead of autofill with keep. It would depend on whether it’s your foreground or background that has the easier selection to pick out. For landscape photography, it’s often the sky that an easier selection to make.

Enjoy the magic of fall, whatever the weather, and work smarter with Fluid Mask.

Posted on: September 27, 2016 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, How to..., Trees & Lattices, Tutorial

Fluid Mask 3 Key Commands and Shortcuts sheet.

 

Here’s a handy download –   a Fluid Mask 3 shortcuts sheet listing key commands for Fluid Masks’s tools and commonly used actions. 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!!

Fluid Mask 3 Shortcuts Sheet

 

Posted on: September 8, 2016 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, Further Tips, How to..., Tutorial

Fluid Mask Training: project file and video tutorial

Here’s a cutout tutorial along you can work along to by downloading a Fluid Mask training project file. 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 cutout tutorial, by going to File -> ‘Revert Mask’. 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.

 

Posted on: December 1, 2015 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, How to..., Trees & Lattices, Tutorial

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.

Posted on: February 4, 2014 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Edge Blending, Fluid Mask, How to...

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

Posted on: December 16, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, How to..., Trees & Lattices, Tutorial

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

Posted on: May 28, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Announcements, How to...

Focus On: Jim LaSala. How Fluid Mask helps him realize his vision

Jim was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and currently resides in Flemington, New Jersey. Inspired by photographers such as George Hurrell (the master of Hollywood glamour photography during the 30’s and 40’s) and Ansel Adams – “his ability to visualize how the final image will come alive, has certainly helped me in understanding how to take what he has done in the darkroom and apply it to my digital darkroom.” You can see this in Jim’s black&white work (below). As well as a Moab Master, Jim is a multi award winning fine art Photographer. His workflow setup sees him using Adobe Lightroom as a primary batch editing and file management tool and for basic correction…

“My next stop is Photoshop, where I spend the rest of my life (so addicting). It is here where I can take my fine art visions to a new level. There are some third party plugins that I have been using for quite sometime and have been an important part of my process.”

                     
“I guess now I can talk about a subject that always comes up when I am doing programs and workshops. Extraction, masking, removing the background or whatever else you want to call it. I have tried them all. They all seem to have there good points and unfortunately they also fail in other areas. Photoshop’s extraction has come a long way and although they want to be able to be the best in everything, it falls short. OnOne’s Perfect Mask is another program that I just have a hard time mastering……(Fluid Mask) is my weapon of choice. I remember being blown away while watching a demonstration on how Fluid Mask was making extractions painless. My fine art photography may call for replacing a sky or photographing a model with a specific background in mind…This is why Fluid Mask has played such an important role in my imagery. It helps me to realize my vision. The power to handle transparent objects is just incredible. I wish I could tell you that all you have to do is push a button and poof it’s gone, but Fluid Mask is the closest thing to just that.”

   

“One of the questions I’m always asked is why I always use the plugin version and not the standalone application. Well, its very simple. By using the plugin I have the power of using my history brush to make my extractions as perfect as possible. Another thing to remember is after extracting  your image and you are looking to now use a second file (for ex: a new sky), make sure that you bring the sky into your extracted image. If you move your extracted image into the new sky, you lose the ability to use the history brush…… Lastly, have a plan in mind when extracting. Although I use a powerful tool like Fluid Mask, I’m still going to plan on making my life a little easier. I will be thinking about what the final image will look like. What type of background will I be using. It is then I can determine how to photograph my subject.”

As well as Still life and fine art images, Jim has been passionately involved in documenting the people and their lives in Haiti.

     

I first became involved with documenting Haiti by accident. I was asked to donate one of my pieces of artwork for a benefit. One Heart for Haiti became involved with helping build a school in a place called Grand Vincent. ….. Well, I found out that they were making a trip there in June of 2010 which was just a few months after the earthquake disaster. The rest is history. I am making my fifth trip there this March. The country and people of Haiti have touched my heart and have given me a whole new look on what hope, love and faith is all about. It has been a tough few years trying to keep the needs of the people of Haiti in the news. I continue to have hope that through my images I can help keep the story alive.”

“Let us not forget the unique profession that we are blessed to be part of. With just a click of a shutter we have the power to make a lifelong statement.”

Wise words indeed. Thanks to Jim for taking time out to talk to us, and sharing how Fluid Mask works for him. See more of Jim’s work at jimlasala.com,

We love to hear from Fluid Mask users and share their work and masking tips. Want to be ‘focused on’?? Drop us a line on focus@vertustech.com

All images © Jim LaSala

Posted on: March 17, 2013 Discussion: 2 Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, Further Tips, How to..., Photoshop, Reviews, Testimonials

6 of the best (tips for getting the most out of Fluid Mask)

Here’s 6 of the best tips and reminders for getting the most out of Fluid Mask.

These are all in response to questions or feedback thrown up by the Fluid Mask User Questionnaire  – this is an ongoing survey; we’d love to hear your opinions to help us better tailor support and future product development to you, the user.

Responses so far has given us some useful suggestions for future features to be considered, but we’ve also had some requests for features that already exist, or for workflow features that by employing good practice with shortcuts and hotkeys, it’s already possible to achieve.

So without further ado, here are your questions answered.

1. Customising Colors – Did you know you can fully customise the colours for all your masks – keep, delete and blend as well as all other display colors used within the workspace? Bring up your Workspace Settings by going to the Menu Bar -> Fluid Mask 3 -> Preferences…, then click on the Colors tab. Click each individual Color to set to your personal preference………..      2. Saving Settings – Still within your Workspace Settings, a reminder that under the ‘General’ tab, you can choose for Fluid Mask to restore your last used setting for edge finding, blending and workspace resolution, rather than reverting to the default settings. Whilst the defaults are a good place to start when working on a new image, if you’ll be working over multiple sessions on a series of similar images, it would make sense to switch to ‘Restore from Last Session’, rather than ‘Use Defaults’………        3. Shortcuts & Hot Keys – One of the quickest ways to speed up your workflow (in any application, not just Fluid Mask), is to learn the keyboard shortcuts. Hover over any tool in the toolbar to see the shortcut displayed. You’ll quickly pick these up and pretty soon switching between tools using shortcuts becomes a natural part of your workflow – there’s a real efficiency return for working this way……   4. Other useful shortcuts in FluidMask – Switching to any tool (using the key command shortcut of course!) that functions only within the Workspace (which is all of them except the hand(H) and zoom(Z) tools), will take you straight back to your Workspace, but also useful to remember that the number 1 , 2 and 3 keys switch you between Source, Workspace and Cut-out respectively. Our recent update now means that ‘show object edges’ stays in it’s user defined state when switching between tabs, rather than defaulting to ‘on’. If you do want to turn it on or off, then again, learn and use the shortcut:  Fn+F2…….       5. Auto-fill feature – For your first pass, decide which is easier, masking out your background or filling in your keep selection, then use the Auto-Fill with keep/delete function to quickly complete the selection process…Remember the shortcut keys! :  ‘⌘/Shift  K’ = Auto-Fill with keep….. ‘⌘/Shift D’ = Auto-Fill with delete…..    6. Working with the 2D Color Map – Here’s a request we had , that was echoed by several users –    “Can you allow me to cut across the color pallet colors…I can choose vertical parts of the color histogram…but what about letting me paint on the pallet and not just take big vertical bars of color..” You can do this already! Bring up the Color Workspace (shortcut = ‘S’). Selected by default is the ‘show histogram mode’. Bottom left of the color workspace panel is a mini histogram that is the button to select this. Next to this is the ‘show 2d color map’ button-click between the two to switch modes. As well as fulfilling the request above, the 2d color map allows for much finer control selecting colors, either by sampling from the actual image using the pipette, or by selecting from within the color map. As is standard across many applications, you can add / subtract to your selection, in either histogram or color map mode, by holding down the shift / alt key while making a selection.
Of course sometimes when you’re working on an image with less subtle graduation of color, the broader control offered by the histogram is preferable. You can also further control the sensitivity of both the histogram display and 2d color map by using the resolution slider within the color workspace panel.

We hope these insights will help you get the maximum return from Fluid Mask. As well as the Tips (⌘ T) box to learn as you go, view our online tutorials for more detailed instruction and advice on achieving results fast using Fluid Mask 3.

Happy Masking from all at Vertus!

Posted on: February 22, 2013 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Fluid Mask, Further Tips, How to...

Understanding Edge Blending – A Feather vs. Smart Blend

One of the crucial components of producing realistic cut-outs is how well the extracted object (cut-out) blends into the new background. Tools in Photoshop, for example, allow you extraction images with the extract tool or quick select tool but it’s when you drop in new backgrounds you see the cut-out sticking out like a sore thumb! Then is hours spent of your time trying to feather / soften / blend that hard edge – who needs that? Exactly!

So let us introduce to you yet another time saving function in Fluid Mask 3. Users of Fluid Mask 3 are already benefiting from Smart Blending – this tutorial will show you how to set parameters within Fluid Mask 3 that will automatically recognise and react to soft and hard edges within the same image!

Make a few adjustments, analyse the image and let Fluid Mask 3 do the work for you! Too good to be true? Nope! just watch the video, all will be revealed.

Click on image to watch the video

Posted on: January 16, 2010 Discussion: No Comments Posted in: Edge Blending, How to...

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