Friday, January 26, 2018

A Cool Way to Save Ten Minutes

What can you do with an extra 10 minutes? Walk around the block? Get a cup of coffee? Catch up with yesterday's sports scores?

Adobe just released version 19.1.0 of Photoshop, now with a magical, one button option to automatically select the subject in a photo. If their marketing department was on the ball, they might have named it the "Get Your 10 Free Minutes Here" button.

It works like this. If you imagine that most images with people can be broken down into a subject and a background, one of the most time consuming production tasks has always been to find a easy way to separate the two.

Photoshop already has a lot of tools with dozens of options to do this cleanly but until recently, significant amounts of skill, technique and practice were needed to get results that looked convincing. The prior release introduced the "Select and Mask" feature which was a huge step forward in simplifying the process, particularly in the always challenging task of masking hair or anything that has fine, wispy edges. That upgrade has already saved me countless hours and improved my results dramatically. Now, with the help of some AI, Photoshop is smart enough to assess a photo and make reasonably accurate decisions about what constitutes a subject.

Choosing the Quick Selection Tool now brings up the "Select Subject" button (highlighted in green). In photos with clear subjects and simple backgrounds, this works particularly well.

As advertised, one click of the button and the subject is magically selected.

So it's fast and relatively accurate but most images with hair or complex edges are still going to need some finessing with Refine Edge Brush Tool found in Select and Mask.

In previous versions I might have used the Quick Select, Magnetic Lasso or Pen Tool and invested 5 to 10 minutes to get to the same stage. I don't doubt that for images with noisy, complicated backgrounds I'm still going to have to fall back to those tried and true methods but for images with clear delineations between subjects and background (as in most studio shots) that one click should buy me enough time to skip out for a coffee and be back in time to pick up where I would have been before "Select Subject" was available.

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