I’ve used this trick for wedding, portrait, and editorial images whenever I’ve wanted to set the subject against a background that was realistic but different. Sometimes the effect is so subtle that viewers won’t see it until it’s pointed out to them, sometimes it just reinforces the composition. Either way, it’s a simple technique that’s easy to use:

Open the selected image and duplicate the layer (Figure 2-1). https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-p.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780080547480/45f48e00-8d1c-4444-a0c7-bcc25b3a03ea/content/fig2_1_C.jpg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"/>

Create a white Layer Mask from the Layers Palette (Figure 2-2). https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-p.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780080547480/45f48e00-8d1c-4444-a0c7-bcc25b3a03ea/content/fig2_2_C.jpg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"/>

With black as the Foreground Color, paint a Layer Mask over the area(s) you wish to keep unaffected. I set the Hardness of my brush at 75%, but other images may dictate other settings. It’s best to make the mask at this point because the image is easiest to see. Don’t worry about thin, flyaway, hairs (Figure 2-3). https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-p.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780080547480/45f48e00-8d1c-4444-a0c7-bcc25b3a03ea/content/fig2_3_C.jpg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"/>

At the Layers Palette, click on the image icon to the left of the mask icon, so as to work on the image and not the mask (Figure 2-4). https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-p.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780080547480/45f48e00-8d1c-4444-a0c7-bcc25b3a03ea/content/fig2_4_C.jpg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"/>

A quick test of Step 6 convinced me the upper half of the background would be too dark, so I boosted the midtones in Curves. Most images do not show this tendency, but if yours does, here’s a way to fix it (Figure 2-5). https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-p.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780080547480/45f48e00-8d1c-4444-a0c7-bcc25b3a03ea/content/fig2_5_C.jpg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"/>

Apply Image>Adjustments>Posterize. I used a Levels setting of 8 for this image. In my experience, a range of 4–10 will yield the best images. You should look for a wide variety of distinct shapes (Figure 2-6). https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-p.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780080547480/45f48e00-8d1c-4444-a0c7-bcc25b3a03ea/content/fig2_6_C.jpg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"/>

Go to Filter>Artistic>Cutout and apply the effect. I like to use the highest number of levels, 8, with this effect because it will retain the most information but still showcase the filter. Note that the Filter Window will show the effect applied to the entire image because it does not recognize the mask. Also note that Cutout requires a significant amount of RAM to run. It’s possible that your machine may not have enough RAM for this effect. Sorry about that (Figure 2-7). https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-p.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780080547480/45f48e00-8d1c-4444-a0c7-bcc25b3a03ea/content/fig2_7_C.jpg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"/>

Now apply Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur to soften the lines. The chosen amount is strictly a 52matter of taste; I used a radius of 26 for this image (Figure 2-8). https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-p.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780080547480/45f48e00-8d1c-4444-a0c7-bcc25b3a03ea/content/fig2_8_C.jpg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"/>

The final image is a nice mix of real and surreal (Figure 2-9). https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-p.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780080547480/45f48e00-8d1c-4444-a0c7-bcc25b3a03ea/content/fig2_9_C.jpg" xmlns:xlink="https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"/>