A clean background keeps the focus right on your subject without any unnecessary distractions. In this video, I’ll be showing you how to edit perfectly clean backgrounds in Photoshop.

Video: 5 Steps for Editing Clean Backgrounds in Photoshop

Sometimes, the background might not be perfect for the shot that you have in mind. For example, the cyc wall might not extend far enough. The air conditioning unit might show. The last people might have left the backdrop a little messy. Don’t worry though, this is where we’ll lean on Photoshop to help us arrive at our final image.

Before we start, check out How to Freeze Motion With Flash for the behind-the-scenes on how this image was shot. Let’s dive in.

Step #1: Apply the Look/Preset

We’re starting off in Lightroom by applying the desired look. I used Visual Flow’s Pure Pack and made some adjustments to the settings to get this look.

An important tip is to remove all grain before taking the image into Photoshop. This will prevent unusual texture and artifacts in the upcoming steps.

Step #2: Remove Background Elements

clean background in photoshop content aware

Create a new layer and use the lasso tool to select out the elements you want to remove. Hit Shift + Del/Back for the fill tool and choose Content Aware with Color Adaptation checked. Repeat for all elements you want to remove.

clean background in photoshop patch tool

Sometimes, content aware will fill in spots with strange textures. This is completely normal. Repeat the content aware fill or use the patch tool until the background is smoothed out.

You can also pull down the exposure using the curves adjustment layer to reveal any other spots you may have missed.

clean backgrounds in photoshop crop content aware

Extend the background using the crop tool and Content Aware checked at the top. This will automatically fill in the missing space.

Step #3: Retouch

Use the Spot Healing Brush to remove any dirt or stains, particularly on the floor. You can also use gaussian blur on a separate layer to mask over rough spots.

Step #4: Liquify

It’s common for editors to use  Liquify to exaggerate the action in images like ours. Just hop over to Filter > Liquify and make your adjustments.

Step #5: Dodge Using Blend-If

This technique is great for applying a dodge effect over the entire image. Raise the brightness using a curves adjustment layer. Then, right click the layer and open the Blending Options. This blend-if tool tells the layer to “blend if the underlying layer” is within this selected range.

We’re going to affect the highlights but feather the blend all the way down to the shadows. This creates a nice and gradual dodge effect. Then, adjust the overall intensity using the layer opacity.


clean background in photoshop before and after

Here’s the final before and after comparison. As you can see, the process of editing clean backgrounds in Photoshop is incredibly simple!

I hope you enjoyed this article/video! Head over to SLR Lounge Premium to find complete courses designed to help you build your dream photography business as well as mastering many aspects of photography such as Lightroom editing and working with flash. You can also find a full library of Lightroom presets and retouching tools over at Visual Flow!

Don’t miss our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!