Resources for isolating a subject to composite, ala Joel Grimes ?



Lately, my lighting has become sophisticated enough to create those Joel Grimes 3 light tonemapped portraits. One advantage of this look, he discovered, is that it visually lends itself to compositing, with the subject isolated and then placed over a suitable background.

In the past when I’ve tried to isolate a hi-res portrait in GIMP (against a grey or white backdrop), it’s taken an immense effort. Joel is using Photoshop, so his techniques don’t really transfer. I’ve done my Google search, and I didn’t find anything different than what I tried, years ago.

Any resource recommendations ?

(Pat David) #2

Do you have any examples or samples for us to understand better what might make his approach unique in some way?

(Mica) #3

@s7habo had a good video: Color Masks in Gimp

Foreground Extraction tool with Levin-Matting!


I’ll have something this weekend to try. Did not expect such an immediate response ! Thanks


I’m taking a little bit more time to up my “sophistication” in preparing an image for masking. There is a common technique that I only recently became aware that assists the process by taking two frames and serializes flash/strobe lighting. The first image is captured normally (with lighting) and the second frame only fires background lighting. The second frame is a silhouette of the subject, and both images are processed as two layers. Here’s an overview, and while many new strobes support alternating flash (e.g., Godox/Flashbpoint, Jinbei/Orlit, Hensel), it can obviously be done by hand.

I’ve used the Levin-Matting technique ( and it works, but it’s difficult with really complex images.