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Simple Background Magic for Photos

linzi7

I want to share a simple way to apply a “texture” to a plain or seamless background. A texture is an image of almost anything that can be appropriately ghosted back adding a “texture” to the background. I use images of side walks, freeway underpasses, brick walls, sheets of paper, rusted steel, graffiti, roads, cracked glass, wrapping paper, you name it. Truly, infinite possibilities. This simple technique can provide you with the power to control the drama, mood and overall feeling of your image. It will also provide you with perfect motivation to get out and shoot some textures.

If you saw my earlier post on adding clouds and depth to a overcast or blown out sky, then you are familiar with the principals here.

Instead of buying and storing numerous backgrounds for studio portraits you can shoot on a gray seamless or any fairly even surface. Its super simple and super fast.

I’ll start with this image of Fitness Model Linzi. I shot her in the studio against a gray painted wall. She was illuminated by a 60in. soft box. I feathered the light towards the background so the spill would illuminate it. The key light’s spill onto the background provides the gradient on the wall.

Original image of Linzi on a painted studio wall.
Original image of Linzi on a painted studio wall.

So lets see what we can do with this image. Linzi looks great but the background kinda sucks and it will only take a few minutes to tweak it.

So I am going to open a file of a rattily beautiful slab of concrete. This will be our texture.

TexturePhotoFocus2

Once the file is open in photoshop I want to click on that layer and select the move tool “V”. Drag the texture image on top of your original image. Now I’ll name that layer “texture”

Your layers should look like this.

Screen Shot 2014-06-28 at 10.35.31 PM

Next we are going to change the blending mode of the texture layer. Make sure you highlight or select the texture layer. Now go to your Blending Mode menu (green arrow) and select Soft Light or Overlay. Now you will see your texture appear on the background and it’s also ghosted but covering your subject as well.

blend-mode

linziphotofocus2

The super awesome, super simple way to remove the texture covering your subject is with a layer mask. Learning to use layer masks is hugely important. Please, please learn how to use layer masks. Please. Layer masks are simple to use but a little weird when you first start. Don’t think of it as a mask think of it as a transparency layer. There is plenty information on layer masks here on this site and on line so check it out.

In a nutshell, a layer mask allows you to control the level of that layer’s transparency. That’s it. The opacity slider changes the opacity of the entire layer. However, the brush tool on the layer mask allows you to blend or erase any portion of the layer.

layermaskPF

When you select the layer you want to mask, go to the bottom of the palette and click the Create Layer Mask Icon (Green Arrow 1). When you do that a layer mask icon (Green Arrow 2) will appear next to the actual layer.

Now click inside the layer mask icon to active the mask then select your brush tool “B”. On your tools palette select black as your foreground (top color). Black will remove areas of the layer you paint over with the opacity that the brush is set to. Painting with white restores the image transparency.

BWPF

Because you set your texture layer to “Overlay” you can easily see where your texture is showing on your subject. Make sure you click within the layer mask to activate it then start painting over the area you want to remove with your brush set on black. Now you can change the opacity and feather of the brush to blend out the texture anyway you want. If you accidentally erased something just switch the brush color to white and paint it back.

It’s a fantastic way to seamlessly alter the aesthetics of your image and it’s all non destructive. There are tons of free texture resources on line but potential textures are all around us and super easy to capture. I say go out have fun and get some of your own. Now that your texture is ready you have the ability to alter it in any number of ways. Color, luminosity, size etc. are all easily adjusted to get just the look you are after.

Here is the final image and a couple other textures for you to check out.

Give this a try and let me know what you think. Have a fantastic week and keep squinting.

linzi3

linzi wall

linzi7

linzi 5

To see more of Greg’s work, check out his

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