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Clipping Path

Using Basic Image Retouching Techniques

Image retouching is used to remove any imperfections that were created when the photo was taken. You can also use retouching to improve the look of a photograph by adding in new elements such as lighting that would enhance the natural elements portrayed in the picture. One of the biggest parts of adjusting an image is learning to see what needs to be changed so you can apply the right elements.

Defining Edges

If a picture appears to be out of focus or an image is not standing out the way it should be, the edges can be better defined to call attention to this area. Edges can be sharpened, a boarder can be added or the edges can be used to determine where other editing elements should begin. A clipping path can also be added so that an object can be defined as a separate part of the photo.

Adjusting Color

One of the focal points of most image retouching projects is adjusting the colors. This can be as basic as enhancing the lighting to eliminate unnecessary shadows to creating beauty elements like teeth whitening. Colors will need to be adjusted for each individual image to avoid the saturation looking artificial. Applying a color setting to the image as a whole can also cause the lighting to become unbalanced.

Cutting

Unnecessary elements in the background will cause clutter. During image retouching these objects will be removed so that the audience’s attention can focus on the subject rather than all the busy elements around it. If an object is to be removed, a retouching artist may choose to use a cloning tool to create an artificial background that will cover it up. This technique can also be applied to blemishes, wrinkles and other natural features the editor would like to remove from a figure in the photograph.

Make a Better Picture through Image Processing Adjustments

In the past, image processing was a tedious ritual using chemical baths in a dark and temperature controlled room. It could only be done by professional photographers and film developing companies. However, with digital film all you need is a decent computer and photo editing software. There is no more need for dye couplers or chemicals since every processing tool can be accessed with the click of a button.

If you have ever uploaded pictures to Photoshop, you should be familiar with the levels tool. This is the box that pops up with your image that contains a graph, called a histogram, and several sliders. Think of this histogram as a distribution chart. It explains where the white point, mid-tones and black point are leveled at. For example, if you have a picture that is too dark, the area relegated to the white point in the far left will be low or non-existent.
The levels tool gives you the ability to adjust the tonal range, brightness and contrast of your pictures. To make the picture brighter, you can choose the slider in the far left and move it along the histogram until it reaches the foot of the mid-tone spikes. Conversely, if it is too bright, you will want to move it away from the peaks.

In a normal photograph, you want to see a histogram that stretches all the way from one side to the other. Most pictures look best when their contrast allows them to express the full range of brightness. If the spikes in your histogram are cut short, you can move both sliders to the edges of the screen to create the highest contrast. Do not make this a habit though because if you have pictures taken in soft light or fog, higher contrast will play havoc with your highlights and shadows.

The slider in the middle is used for brightening and darkening the mid tones This focuses on either lightening the shadows or making the highlights more pronounced depending on which way you slide. For example, you have a picture that stretches all the way to the edge of the black point, but not to the white. If you move the white point slider to the edge it makes the picture too bright. By using the mid-tone slider along with the white point, you can increase the contrast while maintaining the brightness.

If you are having trouble balancing the levels of your picture, there is one other tool that can be very useful. In the bottom right-hand corner of the levels window you will see three icons that look like droppers. By activating the dropper tool, you can click on an area of the picture that should be black or white and it will automatically set the histogram. The grey dropper in the middle can be used to remove colour tinting that you do not want. The dropper tool is a good reference point, but it is not as precise as the sliders.

Image processing has come a long way in the past decade. Digital photography has given both professionals and amateurs the ability to develop pictures at their own pace.

Photo Masking with Clipping Paths

Photo masking is typically used to alter or remove a portion of the image. This will make it easier for you to place a portion of the image within another photograph. You can also replace an object on a different background to alter the look of a photograph. Once a neutral background is set in place you can add additional effects such as shadowing to draw attention to specific objects within the photograph.

Using a Clipping Path during Photo Masking

The easiest way to create a precise photo mask is to use a clipping path to define the edges of the image. Create a new editing layer for each clipping path so you can address each object separately. Zoom in to draw an outline around the desired object to define its edges. Aim to find the balance between creating a realistic edge and a smooth line that is easy on the eye.

If you are new to creating edges in a digital photo editing program, practice creating a smooth edge before attempting to complete your final project. Duplicate your image, giving you a layer to practice on that will not disturb your original photograph. Draw your clipping path around this image. As you zoom in you should see a gray area where the pixels from the background fade into the colors of the object. Draw your clipping path through this area. The colors around the edge can be adjusted later. At this point you are only trying to create a clear shape.

Applying Your Photo Mask

Once you have created a clipping path, you can use photo masking effects to alter the background of the image. You can use a clipping mask to render the background invisible, allowing you to transpose the object onto a different photograph. You can also add coloring effects to the background to create a different look for the photograph. You can also save different versions of the photograph with a variety of styling effects to create a portfolio set.

If you are practicing your clipping paths, using a photo mask can help you get a feel for how to apply them properly. Add a background layer that has a bright color, preferably a color that will provide a sharp contrast to the color of the image. As you work on your clipping path, turn the mask on and off. This will allow you to see the outline you have created very clearly, helping you to determine if it requires any adjustments before you start to add additional editing effects. You want the path to look natural and smooth rather than making a point of outlining every stray pixel in the original. Clipping paths can easily be dragged and altered to make any necessary adjustments.

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