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A Fast Way to Change a Background

Changing the color of a background or adding a backlight effect has always been a task for Photoshop. Here’s how to skip Photoshop and use Lightroom’s new Range Masking Tool to add bright colors to a dull image.

Adding color to an Adjustment Brush

To change the color of the background, we need to add color to the Adjustment Brush. Working in the Development Mode, select the Adjustment Brush and start with exposure set to 0.25. Click on the color swatch at the bottom of the panel and choose a color. To apply the effect only to the background, check the Auto Mask box.

Paint a sample swatch and turn on Range Mask

Let’s start with painting a sample swatch before we apply it to the entire image. Lightroom’s new Range Mask is grayed out–turned off–by default. To turn it on, paint a sample swatch and select Color from the Range Mask drop-down list.  Using the Color Range Selector–the Eyedrop tool–click on areas of the background. Hold the Shift key for multiple selections. You can also drag a selection. Continue to paint in the areas you want to be changed. With Auto Mask on, you can quickly select around your subject.

Fine tuning selection with Range Mask amount

Before you use the Erase Brush on areas you may have over sprayed, adjust the Range Mask Amount slider. A lower value has a looser selection than a higher value. Now use the Erase Brush to remove the mask on areas of your image.  

Adding a backlight with the Radial Filter

The Range Mask tools work with all adjustment tools, including the Radial Filter. Select the Radial Filter, set exposure to 0.25 and click on the color swatch. To turn the color off, move the slider to the left toward 0%. Draw a circle around the subject’s shoulder and head. Change the exposure to a higher value to add white. Check invert to have the effect on the subject. To remove the effect on the subject’s face, turn Range Mask on and—using the eyedropper tool—select the background around the subject’s shoulders and head. Adjust the Range Mask amount to only affect the background. Use the Brush tool set to Erase to remove any selections on the subject.

Multiple Options

Create a copy of the image by clicking Photo then selecting Create Virtual Copy. To change the background color, select the Adjustment Brush and click on the Pin. Change the swatch color and experiment with adjusting exposure. You can quickly create multiple versions of the same image.

Sample Images

Lightroom’s new Range Masking Tool isn’t limited to portraits. Applying this technique can transform a dull gray sky to blue, bring out the color in flowers… Well, you get the idea. Practice, Practice, Practice!

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