Extracting a Photo

Extracting a photo is a fun way to highlight it on your page and a great way to get rid of a cluttered, distracting background. In paper scrapping it’s like taking scissors and carefully cutting around the subject of a photo. In digital scrapbooking, we can create the same effect using the eraser to “cut” around the subject.

Here are a few examples:


There are many ways to extract a person from a photo and you can find a number of tutorials on YouTube (e.g. Gavin Hoey’s Photoshop video tutorials). However, if you use a simple photo editing program, there is a simple way. The first step is to crop your photo to include the area you want to work on. Next you can use the Magic Wand to select the background you want to erase. However, if the background blends in a bit with your subject, you’re going to have to resort to simply erasing. Don’t fear – this isn’t that hard. Using a large eraser, erase broadly around the photo. (Be sure to use an eraser with a hard edge, not a soft edge. The hard eraser will give you a more precise line or edge.)

If you’re lucky, you can use the Magic Eraser to erase parts of the photo. Be careful that the Magic Eraser doesn’t inadvertently erase parts of the photo you want to keep. (In this sample I couldn’t use the Magic Eraser because the background colors were too close to the subject’s skin color or clothing.)

Finally, using a small eraser with a hard edge, go around the subject carefully. This is the most time-consuming but most important part of the process. The more carefully and precisely you do it, the better it’ll look in the end. (You might be able to try using the Magic Eraser again as you get down to small areas like between fingers or around the subject’s hair.) Using the Shift key, you can speed up the process. Click and then holding the Shift key, click at the next location and the computer will draw the line for you. This works especially well in areas that are long and straight but it works well with circles and curves as long as you click at each turn. It will cut down on your time and make your edges more precise.

Once you’re happy with the results, save your image as a PNG. This will preserve the transparency of your background. If you save it as a JPEG, the background will turn white (or black, depending on your settings) and you’ll have to erase again.

The final step is to give your subject a shadow. Keep in mind which direction your want the light to come from and how dark and deep you want your shadow to be. Play around with it a bit until you like what you have. (When you give it a shadow, you may find little bits and pieces where you didn’t erase. The shadow will help these areas show up.)

Here is the original photo with the extracted photo:

Extracting photos may take a little time, but it’s a fun option to use especially if you want to highlight action or show off the subject without the distractions in the background.

Here are a couple super-cute samples by TDD member Jennifer Lindsey to help you get inspired:

(Title made with Jacque Larsen’s Summer Safari and Make the Grade. Font is Giggles by Fontologie.)