How to Even Out Backgrounds in Camera Raw 8 Without Going Into Photoshop And Its Daunting Layers

Photoshop layers still confuse many professional and amateur photographers. The more layers there are in a single PSD, the messier the project tends to get, unless some serious organizational layer skills are applied. But the great thing is that if you shoot raw files, a simpler, and non-destructive, process can be implemented. Let me show you what I mean by demonstrating how I enhance backgrounds in Camera Raw 8, without layers, and without the need to save my files!

Recognizing What Needs to Be Done

The first step is to visualize the final result. Earlier in the year I photographed this person, wanting the backdrop to be white. Since this was shot in natural light, with a reflector to the side, the backdrop resulted in uneven tones. Compare the bright values in the bottom right corner to the top left corner. Also, the black edge of my backdrop, in the top right corner, is very distracting. All of this can be removed with the Clone Stamp Tool, but I’ll show you how I remove these distractions in Camera Raw 8,in Photoshop CC, with similar tools available in some older versions of Photoshop.

 1. Access the Adjustment Brush in Camera Raw 8

If you have a raw file on your computer, you can follow along. I opened this image in Camera Raw 8 and then accessed the Adjustment Brush tool by hitting the K key on my keyboard. We can also click on the Adjustment Brush icon, as indicated in the graphic below. Once we do that, a new set of image options appear in the panel on the right hand side.

Camera Raw 8 Editing

2. Adjust the Exposure & Subsequent Settings

The Adjustment Brush allows us to paint in adjustments set in the image options panel, as indicated in red in the graphic below. I set the Exposure slider to +4  and Contrast, Highlights and Shadows slider to +100. This doesn’t affect the image, but only what the brush will paint. Does that make sense? Once I start painting with the brush, those adjustments will blow out the areas of the image that I paint, as shown in the graphic below.

Removing background in Camera Raw 8

 3. Use Adjustment Brush Pins to Replace Layers

As demonstrated in the graphic below, you’ll see three different options in the Adjustment Brush panel. They are: New, Add, Erase. Self explanatory, right? When we click on New,  a new Pin will be created, which kind of acts as a layer. This allows us to apply the same or different image adjustments to whatever area in our image. The Add option allows us to continue manipulating an existing Pin. Erase lets us select and erase any part of that Pin area. Simply click on the Pin you’d like to adjust.

Removing the Black Backdrop Edge

By clicking on New a numerous amount of times, and painting over the black edge, I was able to apply the image adjustments—made in step 2— over and over again to the area where the black backdrop edge once used to be.

Removing elements in Camera Raw 8

4. Adjusting Size, Feather & Flow Options

At the bottom of the image options panel, as indicated in the graphic below, you’ll notice some other Adjustment Brush Options. The Size does what it says. With this slider you set the size of your Adjustment Brush in Camera Raw 8.  Feather controls the hardness of the brush, while Flow and Density control the rate and the transparency of the Adjustment Brush. 

Camera Raw 8 Clesoup Erasing

The Final Result & the Benefits of This Process

In Camera Raw 8, I was able to completely eliminate the muddy backdrop as shown in the first image. I find this to be a fast, yet a non-destructive, process which allows me to work quickly and more efficiently. What I love about working with raw files is that I never have to save them. In Camera Raw 8, I simply click Done when I no longer feel like working on a specific image. No JPG, PSD, TIFF files. No mess. Just me and my Pins and the lovely Adjustment Brush. 

Croatian Portraits by Goran Vrcel Photography

Your Thoughts Matter. Don’t You Think?

What do you think?  Have you ever removed or enhanced anything using the Adjustment Brush tool in Camera Raw? Are you willing to try this process with your raw files? Let us know by sharing your thoughts in the comments area below. Oh, if you haven’t done  it already, sign up below to receive my photo tips by email. See you next week. Cheers.

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