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Creative Post-Processing for Portraiture

Lesson 6 of 7

Extracting Subject and Place in Scene

Jackie Jean Acosta

Creative Post-Processing for Portraiture

Jackie Jean Acosta

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Lesson Info

6. Extracting Subject and Place in Scene

Lesson Info

Extracting Subject and Place in Scene

Okay so, with this one, I already had this in mind. As far, I didn't actually, I wasn't going into this picture thinking that I was gonna do a composite, but I wanted to put this boat that we made, this is just out of a little bookshelf. It was a boat bookshelf that my husband made into a boat. So, it's really fun. It does not float though, so I will not put it in actual water. (laughs) But I wanted to put it on the shore, with the water coming up, so you had it looking all cool, but he did not want to get near the water, so I was like, okay, so we're gonna have to merge the images together. So we're gonna pull him out, put him on the other one, make it look like he's actually on the other boat. So, yeah, he did not want to even be near the water, so. And I love his expression on this one, too, I told him there was a whale. So he's like, what? So... Yeah, he was looking. I feel bad, I did trick him that day, there was no whale. But he did look for it. (laughs) Alright, so for this one,...

I'm gonna, in order to extract you know, somebody from it, now I will say, Adobe Creative Cloud has really made this, the refine tool, so much better than it used to be, it used to be really kind of difficult. And I used to actually take people with a magnifying, tool, the Magnetic Lasso. Which took forever. But now I use the Refine tool here, so let's, why can't I point to it? It's the Quick Selection tool, sorry. Right there. So I'm gonna just kind of hold onto it. I'm using a mouse, so I'm just kind of, I clicked on one spot and I'm holding down the mouse, and it's just naturally grabbing every part of him right there. It's actually really good about it. Now there's this little spot, if you wanna take away, there's that little subtraction sign right there. And if you wanna add, I took off his shirt and his shoulder, so I wanna keep that. But yeah, there's little spots you can kinda clean up if you want. Right there, just bring it in. Okay, so now I'm gonna go to Select and Mask. Alright, so it does a really good job of just kinda pulling him out. Now I am gonna select, there's just a little brush right here, it's the Refine Edge Brush Tool. This is really good about taking away some of that stuff. This is great for stray hair. So if you've got somebody that's got the wind blowing, and you wanna keep that it, and you're adding a sky, or you're adding something else for the background, this is really good about keeping it. He doesn't have any hair blowing in the wind right now, however if I were to brush over it and he did, it would keep those strands of hair in there, which is awesome. So, alright, so I'm just kind of brushing a little bit, on this side there, okay. He looks pretty good. He's got one little point right there on his face. If I end up, I'll probably end up having to mask that off. There we go. Alright, so I'm gonna go ahead and go down to the Properties. We wanna make sure to select Output to New Layer with Layer Mask. So you're, we're just extracting him, creating a whole new layer of him. Click okay. I just grab this picture, pull it aside, and grab my little drag and drop tool, and just drag him on here. Obviously, it's a little bit bigger, so we're gonna need to shrink him down, 'kay? (laughs) So let's go to File, actually we'll go to Edit, Free Transform, and if you are doing Free Transform and you're not holding down the Shift key, it's gonna totally make him wonky, don't wanna do that. So I'm gonna go ahead and Edit, Undo that. So I wanna make sure to make him still look proportionate, so we're gonna hold down the Shift key, while doing that. So it keeps him nice and proportionate. Not altering him in any way. Okay, so I've got him, I kinda just drag him right there. I think he looks pretty good as far as the size goes. There we go. Alright, so we've kinda dragged and dropped him on, now, the exposure's a little bit different, so we're gonna need to bring down the exposure on him a little bit, just to kinda make sure that he matches up real well, and there's a little bit of line right here from that. I'm gonna erase that, or mask that in. So from dragging him over, that kinda came with him, so we wanna get rid of that. Alright. Okay, so I wanna make sure, just kinda, gonna grab my brush, and we're just gonna kinda mask in a little bit of the areas that didn't kind of, go over too well. Let's see there. So, basically, just kinda cleaning it up a little bit. I've got it at 100%, I do have my brush set to the 0% hardness. I tend to like everything a little bit on the less hardness, because I feel like it's less harsh. And again, I'm just so all about blending everything, and making it blend in, it makes it just easier for me. So there's really no right and wrong. If there is, then, sorry. (laughs) Alright, and almost done here. Just kinda cleaning it up a little bit. We got the cleanup on the hat, too. He had this huge thing on his hat, so I made him wear it inside-out there. Okay, alright. Okay, so I think he's looking pretty good right there. I'm gonna go ahead and just bring down the exposure on him, so I'm just gonna bring it down just a little bit, with the midtones and Curves, as you can see. Wanna make sure again that it's meshing, it's consistent with the rest of the image. There we go. So I've got him on there now. We're gonna add a little bit of a sky, so I'm gonna ahead and grab a sky real quick, and we wanna do, I'm gonna add that sunburst as well in here, so we're gonna open up this sunset sky right here. This sky is super sharp, and the background is really out of focus. Okay, I shot this at like 1.4. So I wanna go ahead and make sure that I am blurring my sky out. I don't wanna keep too many details in this. I really, mainly just wanna keep that tone of the sky, I wanna make it just a nice orange sky right there. Click okay. Again, using that blend mode Multiply, mask it real quick, blend it in. Gonna start there and again, scale it back. Got it at 39%. Starting at that little light source, letting it stay lit, and now I'm gonna add that new blank layer, We're gonna do the gradient. A little sunburst, there. Grab that Elliptical tool, we're gonna do the Screen. Make sure to mask it. Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur. And I've got that at 173, so I really blurred that one out there. Wanna add a little bit more to it, so we're just gonna paint right around. And, I'm gonna grab that sky, it's kinda what we did before, I'm gonna duplicate the sky that we have. Free, Edit, Free Transform. Bring that down, cause I still want it to match in the water. So I'm just really dragging and dropping, there. I'm kind of adjusting it. So with skies, I don't hold down the Shift Key, as you can see, it's just warping it. But I'm really keeping it, cause I want to keep that color on there. Just gonna bring that up, make sure the line is set, and I'm just gonna reduce the opacity. I don't want it overpowering. Not as much as the last one we made, that really, really reflective, and I wanna keep this a little bit lower. Alright, just to kind of have that nice little orange hue over the water though, 'cause you wanna make sure, again, that you're staying consistent. Alright, now I'm just masking it off of him. Alright, now I'm gonna go ahead and select right here. And by selecting this layer, so I'm gonna change the tone, now, 'cause I wanna warm it up, 'cause I wanna make sure that it's matching the sky and the sunburst. So I'm not, I'm selecting this layer, I'm gonna do a new layer of Color Balance. And by selecting down there, I'm not altering the colors with the layers above. So that's why I'm keeping that layer, right here. Alright, so now I'm gonna add, again, like I did before, warming it up, you add red and yellow together. So I'm gonna add that red, add that yellow there. I feel like, you know, kind of going to where it, making sure that it's matching. And I'm gonna go back to the sunburst, and add a little bit more light right here, too. Edit, Fade. Again, starting. Start with overboard, then scale back. Collapse, and, alright. Little bit of fixes here and there, and, let me go ahead and, this is before and after, where we're at. I'll show you guys real quick. Alright, so that's before, and after. And, I'm gonna go ahead, and I'm gonna snapshot kind of where I am. I don't know if you guys are familiar with this, too, in the History, it's kinda where you go back. If you are playing around with something, and you don't, you're like, well I'm gonna try something else, but you don't want to lose where you're at, if you just take a snapshot like, there's a little camera right there. It's gonna snapshot. It kinda bookmarks what you're doing, and it's gonna hold all those layers, so you'll go back to it. So I'm gonna actually merge all my layers together now. Just flatten it up. So, if I wanted to go back, I haven't lost anything. So, just a nice little tip for if you wanna go back and bookmark. Alright, so, I'm doing that 'cause I'm actually freeing up my layers, I don't wanna keep looking at them, so I just wanna add a couple more steps to this. I wanna add a little bit more contrast, a little bit more moodiness, just with Curves. Again, I love Curves, so I'm just gonna do that nice little S curves, bring it up. Actually, maybe bring it down, there we go. Add a little bit more shadows to it, not too much. Now, to, if I'm adding a lot of shadows to an image, and you add a lot of contrast, it tends to enhance those reds and the warmer tones. So, like right now I could actually probably go back and maybe adjust that, add another little Color Balance, and a little bit of coolness to it, just to reduce that, too. So, just adding a little bit more contrast there, and... there we go. I have a question. Yeah? About shadows, when you're adding that big of a light source to it, do you think about where you would add shadows and where that light would be blocked by any subjects that are in it? Yes, so right now I'm kind of getting it in on him, I feel like, 'cause he already has naturally, he's got those shadows anyways, from where he was standing. I would enhance them depending on the image. This one, I don't feel like it needs it too much, however I am gonna enhance the light on his face. So with that one, let's see. I'm gonna go ahead and do a New Layer, again, we're gonna go to Edit, Fill. And the contents are 50% gray, you wanna make sure the opacity is at 100%, and the mode is at normal. 'Kay? So... When I click okay, I'll change my blend mode to Overlay. And I'm gonna dodge and burn, cause basically, but I'm actually not really gonna burn but I'm gonna dodge a little bit. So we're gonna just kinda create some of that light. Whoops, I totally missed a piece of (laughs) That's something to look for, too, to make sure you don't miss parts of your subject right there. So he's missing a chunk of a shoulder, so. Don't have time to go back and fix that, so. Alright, but, right now, I'm, we're working on the light. So, I'm just gonna add that light in there, because the light source is kinda coming in from that way. As you can see, there, so. Just kinda amplifying the light that is already kind of flowing there. If there wasn't too much light, I'd probably add a little bit more. But because he's got that sail kinda blocking, and filtering out, I don't need to really add too much right there on that side. Maybe add just a little bit, there we go. Alright, yeah, that actually looks a little bit more realistic, and it blends in a little bit better, so. Alright, and because I totally am, I'm not, like, I'm a little bit of, I'm not totally perfectionist but I am a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to this stuff, I'm like, I already missed a little bit of his shoulder, but I can't go back with that one right now. (laughs) 'Cause we're live. But I am gonna just cool him off a little bit, I'm gonna reduce some of that red. Alright, so there we go. This is a full before and after, right there. Snapshot that. And before, and after. 'Kay, got any questions on that one, I know, okay. (laughs) Everyone's like, (laughs) but that's kind of pulling everything together. We've got the sunburst there, we've got the sky overlay, it's adding that richness, again, which I'm totally drawn to. So it's kinda adding all those different things that we've kind of touched on throughout.

Class Description

Post-processing offers a ton of ways for you to dramatically change, improve, and stylize your portraits. Unfortunately, most of us get into a post-processing rut, using the same tired techniques over and over again. Professional portrait photographer Jackie Jean Acosta will help you revitalize your image editing by demonstrating some of her most impressive tricks and inspiring ideas.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Use various techniques to enhance the mood and create drama.
  • Add sun flare, haze, and streams of light to your images.
  • Extract your subject from your background.

Join Jackie for this exciting journey through creative post-processing and learn to have more fun and be more experimental with the process of refining your images.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018



This class was amazing. I loved it. I just thought she went a bit fast and sometimes didn’t say where she found the room she was using. If you have distractions around you like kids, this is something you will want to watch more than once. Or maybe clear the distractions before watching. I feel I learned a lot and it will help me bring my picture editing to the next level.


This was an excellent class. I really wanted some simple photoshop techniques to add to my portrait work and this was perfect. I learned more about masking, layers, creating extra light and balancing my images. Jackie has a great simple lesson on composite photography at the end for a beginner. If you are looking for easy and immediately applicable upgrades to your portraiture work, this is it.

Dre' Black

Shocking I'm impressed with her simple yet effective techniques. It almost makes me wonder how I didn't know all this single how simple it is, but she does a great job at teaching it and wrapping it up in a nice package.