How to Make an Object Stand Out From the Background in Photoshop

by Brian Richards
You may need to troubleshoot issues between your Mac and your mouse.

You may need to troubleshoot issues between your Mac and your mouse.

Photographers have a number of techniques they use to isolate the subject of a photograph from the background. Many of these techniques can be replicated in digital graphics-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. If you have a photograph in which the subject of the photo seems to blend into the background, or if the background is distracting and draws attention from the subject, you may wish to use Photoshop to make the object stand out. Certain manipulations focus the viewer's eye to a particular object and make your photograph more pleasing overall.

1

Open the photograph you wish to edit in Photoshop by opening the "File" menu from the menu bar and selecting "Open." Locate the image file, highlight it and click the "Open" button.

2

Click and hold your mouse button down over the "Lasso" tool in the toolbar to open a menu. Select "Magnetic Lasso Tool." The Magnetic Lasso automatically detects areas of high contrast and follows those areas to create a border around the subject you wish to emphasize.

3

Trace an outline slowly around the object. The Magnetic Lasso assists you by finding the line between your subject and the background, but it performs best the closer you can get to the outline. Continue tracing all around the object until you arrive at your starting point and then release the mouse button.

4

Feather your selection by entering a number in the box next to "Feather." A radius of 5 to 15 pixels works well in most photos.

5

Invert your selection by clicking on the "Select" menu and choosing "Inverse." Alternatively, you can use the shortcut key "Shift-Ctrl-I" on a Windows PC or "Shift-Cmd-I" on Mac OS X to select the background of the image.

6

Open the "Filter" menu and choose the "Blur" option followed by "Gaussian Blur." The amount of blur you add depends on the size of the image and your personal preferences, but a value between 1.0 and 3.0 typically works well. This gives a slight blur to the background while keeping your subject in sharp focus, helping it to stand out from the background.

7

Open the "Image" menu and choose the "Adjustments" option and then "Hue/Saturation." In the pop-up box, move the "Saturation" slider to the left to remove the color from the background. The amount of desaturation you apply is up to personal preference, but a value between -10 and -30 gives your subject the ability to stand out without your manipulation appearing obvious.

8

Add a vignette -- a darkening around the corners of the image -- by selecting "Filter" from the toolbar and then choosing "Distort" and "Lens Correction." Move the sliders for Amount and Midpoint in the section titled "Vignette" until you arrive at a pleasing look. Keep the "Preview" box checked so you can see the edits in real time on your photograph. The vignette darkens the corners of your photograph to draw the viewer's eye to the center.

About the Author

Brian Richards is an attorney whose work has appeared in law and philosophy journals and online in legal blogs and article repositories. He has been a writer since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from University of California, San Diego and a Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark School of Law.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Ciaran Griffin/Lifesize/Getty Images