First off for you Lightroom users, I added new online Lightroom classes to the schedule.  They will meet during the evening in early June.  Look at the schedule and register here.

A couple of months ago, I shot all students, teams and coaches at a large gymnastics academy.  A big job like that requires a big backdrop.  Mine was 107 inches wide, and as you can see below, it wasn’t big enough!  (Read about my backdrop and stand here, if you’re interested.)

Many of the team shots included 20 to 30 kids, and even when they were grouped tightly into rows, they still hung over the edge of the backdrop.  Much more so than in the Before photo above – my shots were picking up gymnastics equipment and bleachers in the background.  Yuck.  ( I can’t show you the kids shots, of course, because I don’t have permission from everyone’s parents.)

After experimenting with the best way to fix these images, I created a digital background that matched the backdrop that I was using behind the teams. It’s a really simple process.  Would you like to do the same?  I created an action that you can use to create and apply your own custom digital backdrop.  More on that shortly.

For the photo above, it was pretty easy to add the digital backdrop and mask it in on the edges.  However, on the photos of the bigger teams, the masking was complicated and time consuming.  That’s when I discovered OnOne Software’s Perfect MaskPerfect Mask was created to make background substitution quick and easy.  I can’t tell you how much time it saved me.

Using Perfect Mask, you draw a quick squiggle across the area that you want to remove.  The software analyzes the edges of objects in the photo and estimates which parts to remove and which to keep.  It’s not perfect – I still had to clean up edges every once in a while.  But when you’re creating masks like the one below, every minute helps.

Perfect Mask includes built in backgrounds that you can add to your photo – blue skies, beaches, traditional backdrops.  You can also use a backdrop that you’ve created within Perfect Mask. (That’s where my free action comes in.)

If you have lots of backgrounds to switch out, watch the videos on this page and download the free trial of Perfect Mask.  When you buy, the standard edition is probably all you need – it’s what I used.

Ok, so back to the free action set that I’ve created for you guys.  It actually has 3 actions in it.

  1. Create and Apply a Backdrop to One Photo – use this action if you’d like to create a backdrop for just one photo.  Make sure the photo you’d like to add the backdrop to is open when you run the action.  This backdrop will be lightly textured for a natural appearance and can be any color you’d like.  You can even match the color to a color in your photo, as I did above.
  2. Create One Backdrop – use this action to create and save a backdrop that you’d like to apply to many photos.  This works well with OnOne’s Perfect Mask.  This backdrop will be lightly textured for a natural appearance and can be any color you’d like.  You can match the color to a color in your photo.
  3. Insert a Backdrop – use this action to insert the backdrop that you created using action #2.  Run it on the photo you’d like to apply the backdrop to. After the action runs, paint on the layer mask where you’d like the backdrop to show.  Repeat on each photo that needs a backdrop.

Just to clarify, the free actions will help you create a backdrop and place it over the photo that needs a background substitution.  You still have to paint on the layer mask.

Using Perfect Mask, you can use a built in background or one of your own.  And Perfect Mask will do most of your layer mask painting for you.

So how do you get this free action set?  You need to subscribe to my weekly newsletter.  This is the newsletter that goes out every Friday with a series of articles in it, not the RSS email that comes out each time I post to my blog.  If you are a weekly newsletter subscriber, look on the right side of your newsletter for the words “Download  Free Actions Here.”

If you don’t subscribe to this newsletter, subscribe here.  You will receive an email with all my free actions, including this one.  And what if you are a subscriber but missed some actions?  Unsubscribe and the re-subscribe.  You will receive an email after re-subscribing with all the free actions.