Glyn Dewis Westcott

How to Create a BIGGER Backdrop in Photoshop

In Photography, Retouching, Tutorial by Glyn4 Comments

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of meeting, photographing and interviewing World War 2 / Normandy Veteran, Reg Charles…

Glyn Dewis Westcott

It truly was a delight to spend time with Reg; such a gracious, kind man.

Below you can see Behind the Scenes from the photo shoot (thanks to Reg’s daughter, Sheila for the photograph) and you can see how simple the set up is; the background and one light. There’s a few reasons for this with the first being that I want to keep the look of these portraits very simple and classic (Rembrandt style) but I guess a major factor too for this simple set up is the space. Generally for the portraits I am taking for my World War 2 Project, I’m on location in people’s homes so the smallest footprint I can have the better.

In this case you can see for the background I’m using my Gravity Backdrops Canvas which is in position by being on the boom arm of a C-Stand. This works ok so long as you balance it correctly over the longest leg of the C-Stand and also use a sandbag / counterweight but this is quite a bit of kit to move around. Actually as I write this, today my own ‘Vintage Grey Canvas by Glyn Dewis‘ X-Drop Background from Westcott has arrived so this will be the last photo shoot I use the Gravity Backdrops Canvas. (Truth be told the background in this shoot did begin to topple at one point but I managed to catch it in time).

As for the light I used the Westcott Rapid Box Switch Large Octa and then on the opposite side of the light I positioned a white reflector to bounce a little bit of light into the shadows…

Glyn Dewis Westcott

The Background

So as you can see below, the out of camera shot shows the background is just wide enough (my Westcott X-Drop is wider at 5′) but even so there are times, as in this case, that you might want it to look even bigger, so here’s how I do that in Photoshop during the editing stage…

  • Click on the padlock icon of the Background Layer to unlock it and then with the Crop Tool drag outwards to extend the canvas / background. This will show transparent pixels which now need to be filled in to look like the original background. There are times when you do this that you could use the Crop Tool along with the Content Aware option active in the options bar, however for times like this when part of the subject is very close to the outside edge of the background, the results won’t look so good, so this is why we need to do a bit of manual work first.Glyn Dewis Photography
  • Concentrating on the right hand side of the picture first, with the Marquee Tool (M), enter a Feather amount of around 5 in the options bar, then select the area of the background as close up to the subject as you can and then press CMD (Mac) / CTRL (Windows) + J, to put a copy of this selected area onto a new layer above.

Glyn Dewis Photography

  • Position the cursor over the copied area and right click, and from the menu choose Flip Horizontal and then with the Move Tool (V) selected use the right arrow key on the keyboard to drag the copied area to the right to extend the canvas.

Glyn Dewis Photography

  • In the Layers Panel, click on the uppermost layer so that it is active, hold down the Shift Key and click on the Layer directly below then press CMD (Mac) / CTRL (Windows) + E, to merge these layers together.

Glyn Dewis Photography

  • There is still an area on the right hand side of the picture that needs filling but now that we have given Photoshop more background to work with, simply use the Marquee Tool (M) to select this area of transparent pixels then go Edit > Fill > Content Aware.

Glyn Dewis Photography Photoshop

  • All we have to do now is to fill in the area on the left hand side of the image. When I did this first of all I found that Content Aware alone did not produce a good job as the result made the background look stretched and full of repeating patterns, so here’s what I did…
  • Made a selection of an area of background on the right hand side and copied this to it’s own layer by CMD (Mac) / CTRL (Windows) + J, then with the Move Tool (V) dragged it over to the left to cover the transparent pixels making sure to overlap the original image a little bit (not so that it was over Reg’s left though). At this stage it’s obvious what I have done so the next thing is to blend in the copied area to the rest of the background, and this is so incredibly easy to do.

Glyn Dewis Photography Photoshop

Glyn Dewis Photography Photoshop

  • With both layers active in the Layers Panel (main picture and the copied area you moved over to the left hand side), go to the Edit Menu and choose Auto-Blend Layers

Glyn Dewis Photography Photoshop

In the dialog box that opens up leave the Blend Method set to Panorama and then tick the Seamless Tones and Colors, and the Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas check boxes, and then simply click OK…

Glyn Dewis

Each time I do this I’m completely blown away at how good Photoshop is at blending layers together…

Glyn Dewis Westcott

Now obviously if you have the space to use a bigger background then you can’t beat doing that, but for those times when space is limited this is definitely a great fix. The only thing you need to ensure is that when you photograph your subject you leave an area of background either side and above otherwise you have nothing to work with and it’ll be a lot more work to get it looking right.

Hope this helps,
Catch you next time,
Glyn

Comments

  1. Great advice as usual . You are the man !
    Thank you for generosity with these marvellous tips
    Cheers !

  2. Glyn,

    Thanks for the BTS. I see you are quite close in his living room and I was wonder what the focal length was. I know it doesn’t matter too much but I was just curious. Thanks!

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