In an ideal world, studio floors and walls would all be pristine and perfect. But in the real world, even freshly painted and cleaned ones don’t stay that way for very long. They pick up dust and dirt, get smudges, scuffs and scratches, and we end up having to either clean and repaint them more often or just deal with it in post. And if it’s a rented studio, forget about it.
In this video, Robert at Optical Noise brings us his method for retouching studio floors in Photoshop to clean up this mess, and even out the colours.
The basic principle involves frequency separation, which removes the detail from the colour of an image into separate layers. It’s a technique often used for cleaning up skin blemishes on a subject, but it can be extremely valuable for other uses, too, like landscapes or, in this case, studio floors. Robert’s even included a free Photoshop action to help the job go a little more quickly.
From here it’s simply a case of cutting out the subject and placing them on top of everything in their own individual layer. This way, you can change the background without worrying about affecting the subject in a negative way. There are one or two “gotchas”, which Robert mentions in the video, but he also explains how to work around them so that they don’t become an issue.
Robert warns against removing every single blemish and bit of detail from the environment because then it can make it look like your model’s just floating in midair. You still want those shadows and a little bit of detail to keep the realism, but it’s a good technique to get things cleaned up quickly and easily. Once you’ve done it a few times and gotten used to it, it takes no time at all.
Doing it in post possibly isn’t viable time-wise if you’re regularly shooting in the studio and have a lot of images to go through. In that instance, it’s probably easier to actually just clean it in the real world and not have to deal with it at all on the computer.