Thursday, February 20, 2014

Keep It Simple In Photoshop

If you look at today's image you might scratch your head and think "what do ya mean, simple?  It's three different shots composited together".  Well, simple is a matter of degrees.  I shot the sequence on high speed shutter.  Through the swing about seven shots were taken.  The first thing I tried is using all seven.  What happened was a mess.  The whole composite was just too confusing.  There were arms and legs all over the place.  The whole process of making the composite is a lot easier than I've seen some people try their hand at it.  My thing has always been "let the computer figure it out".  That does not mean let the computer make the decisions.  No!  Computers are there to be brutes.  Tell it what you want done and let it do the math.  That goes for computers on the desktop and for the computers in your camera.  You've paid hundreds (the laptop) or thousands (the camera) to own a computer.  Let it compute.  To find out how simple compositing is, hit the "Read More"

The first step is easy.  Select the shots you want to use for the composite in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (LR).  Do any global corrections.  Send the shots over to Adobe Photoshop (PS) by going to Photo/Open as Layers in Photoshop.  If nothing else it'll save you a step once you get to PS.  Now the shots are in Photoshop as one document with (in the case of today's image) three Layers.

Let the computer do some more work.  Select all three Layers and go to Edit/Auto Align Layers.  The batter is moving, but there's plenty of information in the shots to use.  Home plate's not going anywhere.  Neither is the fence in the background.  Photoshop will use any non-moving reference points it finds in common in the shots and ignore what's changing position (the bat and batter).

Now we have all the images in Photoshop as Layers and they're all aligned.  And what did we do?  We made the decisions and let the computer do the work.  Let's continue making the computer work its ass off while we tend to the more esoteric stuff.  (like, what's for lunch or who's that walking past my window)

Now we'll make a few selections.  Start with the uppermost Layer.  Take the Quick Selection Tool (W) and sort of draw a stick figure over the batter.  The computer will "fill in the blanks" (to a degree.  You might have to add to [or subtract from {hold down the ALT key}] a few areas the computer didn't understand.  remember, it's a computer, a strong back with a weak mind, a brute.) [Boy, did I get in trouble at Intel when I wrote a paper and said processors were as dumb as a stump.  The guy who nixed the article apparently didn't understand that a processor is only a highly refined piece of sand. ]  Once you have the Selection made, right click inside the Selection and choose Save Selection.  Deselect the Selection (CTRL D) and turn off the visibility of the uppermost Layer.  Pick the next Layer down and repeat what was just done. 

>If you're using Adobe Photoshop Elements don't worry.  You have Alpha Channels (saved selections) available to you.  Adobe just doesn't let you play with the Alpha Channels directly.<

When all necessary Selections have been made it's time to start using them.  Pick the uppermost Layer (turn on it's visibility).  Go to Select/Load Selection and pick Alpha 1.  Click on the icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel that looks like a front loading washing machine (Add Layer Mask).  The background of the top Layer will drop out and you'll see the batter in the next Layer down.  (If the background stays and the batter drops out just tap CTRL I [eye] to invert the Mask.) Keep adding Selections and Layer Masks until you've uncovered all the Layers including the bottom Layer. 

You may have to play with the order of the Layers to get the correct back to front sequence of your images.  (That's why I always make a Selection/Alpha Channel of all the Layers.  You might have to bring what originally was the bottom Layer up into the middle [or top] of the Layers Stack.)

Once all that is assembled I'd (today - not in the past) probably bring the composite back into LR (File/Save [not Save As]) and finish processing the image there.