How To Create a Cover Layer When Using A Digital Background

I'm a big lover of digital backdrops.   I love to use them with my own images to create fun and unique images, and I love to create them for other photographers to use. Over the years, I've joined a fair number of photography groups on Facebook, and it's been pretty awesome to see digital backdrops increasing in popularity.  Along with the love of digital backdrops however come a lot of questions, in particular, uncertainty when it comes to how to make them look realistic, and frustration when people have trouble achieving the same look the designer of the backdrop did. In particular, I notice that people have a lot of trouble with blending the area where the subject of the image meets the digital background.

There are many ways to tackle this problem, some are more labour intensive and require a bit more skill than others.  The method I'm going to discuss here today is a pretty easy one and shouldn't take more than a few minutes to do, once you've had a chance to practice it. This is just one of many many methods you can use to create a seamless transition from backdrop to baby.  It does require a basic knowledge of layers and masks.

Let's begin by having a look at this image.  You can see here that I've already extracted the baby from it's original background, and moved it, resized it, and masked it off to fit the crate in the digital backdrop. What you can also see here is that the area at the bottom of the baby where it meets the crate isn't blending well - it's a very hard line, and there is a bit of the area of the baby's face that is missing because it was obscured in the original background.  In short, it doesn't yet appear that the baby is actually lying inside the crate.

In the video below, I'll show you how I create a layer using the filler inside the crate to create a cover piece you can use to just hide the transition from backdrop to baby.  I use Adobe Photoshop CS6 to do all my editing.

The main tool I use to do this is the quick selection tool.  If there's another tool you're more comfortable with, by all means give it a try!  You'll need to be working on a pixel layer - in this case I'm using the background layer, you can also make a duplicate of the background layer using Ctrl+J on a PC or Command+J on a Mac.

You'll select an area of the filler inside the crate (I purposely ensure when I'm creating these digital backdrops that I leave enough filler visible to do this easily - something to watch for when you're choosing a digital backdrop to use), and then use the refine edge tool to adjust your selection.  You want to play with the radius and shift edge sliders until you have it where you can see the edges of the selection, but it's not a hard edge.  Once you're happy with your selection, you'll want to output to a new layer.

The next thing I like to do is rename the new layer, so you know what it is, something like Cover layer.  Take this new layer, and drag it so it's on top of the layer containing the baby. (As an aside, I don't recommend flattening your layers, especially not while you're working, and especially when you're a beginner.  If you flatten your layers while you go, and then realize you've made an error, you have to start all over again.  If you leave your layers intact, you can always find the layer that you made the error on and just adjust it, saving yourself a ton of time.)

Next, you'll use the transform tool (Ctrl+T on a PC) to move the cover layer around until you have it positioned in exactly the spot you want.  Don't worry if it's not big enough to cover all the spots you need covered, you can just duplicate the layer to crate more cover and move that around as needed.  Once you have it positioned in what you think is a good spot, add a layer mask, and on the layer mask with a soft black brush, begin brushing off where you don't want the mask.  Adjust the size and opacity of the brush as needed.  If you brush off too much, change your brush to white to brush it back on.

Duplicate these steps until the transition between baby and the backdrop is covered to your satisfaction.  The final result, as seen below, of the fur surrounding the baby lends to the appearance that the baby was actually lying inside the crate, rather than on it's original background.

I hope you found these steps helpful, and I'd love to hear your thoughts below!

If you'd like to try this yourself using this background, please follow this link to find it in my Etsy store!

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