The question is being asked as often as ever:
What’s the best software for cutting out images?
Here is the way “Zorro” asked the question on the TeamPhotoshop forum:
“I am finally getting to grips with digital photography and photoshop (better late than never – I guess). Thing is how the hell do you cut out an image and make it look at least a bit good? The hard edges are pretty easy but what about the hair?? Its been driving me crazy, so I’ve been desperately googling and what I’ve found is Fluid Mask which looks bloody great but maybe too good to be true!! Does/has anyone used the software? If so does it do what it says? Here is a review on Mask Pro, Fluid Mask & Primatte from a blog I found. Is it worth paying for these Photoshop plug-in’s because I dont think the extract function in PS can do a good job. Just need some advice. Cheers!”
Since posting the Fluid Mask vs Mask Pro review two years ago, more than 20,000 viewers have found their way here to the YonkoShots blog. I expected hundreds, but not thousands! And certainly not 20,000 plus and counting.
So, here is a copy of my reply to Zorro’s question on the Photoshop forum:
There is one simple answer to your question about cutting out hair, and one complicated answer. ( I assume that your question really is “how do I extract an image, preserve fine detail in the hair and then paste the extracted image onto the background of my choice without the viewer being able to tell that the image has been extracted? )
The first simple answer is: at the present time, it can’t be done.
The complicated answer is: yes, it can be done, if…….
The ” if ” word contains a full dozen variables, each of which must be fully controlled by the photographer in order to make an extraction of hair that cannot be detected by the viewer. Even with total control of these 12 critical elements, the extraction will not be perfect. However, the goal in extracted hair images is not perfection, but the appearance of authenticity.
Said another way, you know that you cannot make an elephant disappear, but a good magician can create an illusion wherein the elephant does disappear.
If you are seeking perfection, there is only one way to achieve it: shoot against the background of your choice and do not extract the image. After that, its a matter of degrees or percentages of perfection, the amount of time you are willing to spend on an image in post production, and the issue of what is required to achieve your purposes.
Extracted images are used all the time on the covers of national magazines. they are fairly easy to spot when you know what to look for, but they are acceptable for their purposes.
If you are a professional photographer, you can email me for details regarding how to make credible extractions of hair: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are just having fun with extracted images, I suggest that you download the demo programs from the various companies and try your hand at it for free.
Speaking about free, here is a list of the variables involved in making great extractions of hair: 1. background color; 2. background complexity; 3. background lighting; 4. foreground lighting; 5. hair lighting; 6. color and thickness of the hair; 7. amount of color bleeding from the original background onto the hair; 8. amount of color bleed onto the entire foreground image; 9. degree of separation of the foreground image from the background; 10. new background color; 11. complexity of the new foreground; 12. amount of fly away hair.