How to Change a Background in Photoshop

Removing, substituting, filtering and otherwise changing a background in a photo can all be done quite easily in Adobe Photoshop CC. The hardest part is separating the background from the foreground objects, but using the Color Range select tool can make this process much more convenient. If you're replacing one background with another, you can just delete the background pixels. If you just want to alter the background, use a duplicate layer to separate foreground objects from the photo's background.

...
Apply filters like a Dry Brush without affecting foreground dog models.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Replacing a Background

Step

Click the small Lock icon located in the Background layer of the Layers panel. After you do this, the layer is renamed "Layer 0." Unlike a locked background layer, Layer 0 supports transparency, so you can delete pixels without them being replaced with a solid color.

...
Unlock the Background layer.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.
...
Use the Eraser Tool to remove the background.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Step

Erase the background from the photo using the Eraser Tool. Another way to erase is to use the Lasso Tool to encircle the background, then press Delete.

...
Adjust the Fuzziness so that only background pixels are visible.
credit: Image courtesy of Apple.

Step

Use Color Range to remove most, if not all, of the background. Click the Select menu and then click Color Range. Click a background color in the photo and then drag the Fuzziness slider so that as much of the background is visible in the preview as possible, while the foreground objects are black. Click OK.

Step

Press Delete if none of the foreground is selected. Otherwise, use the Eraser Tool to delete the selected background pixels.

...
The background here is completely removed.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Step

Zoom in and out of the photo to verify you have deleted all of the background. Clean up any missed pixels with the Eraser Tool. If you accidentally deleted part of the foreground objects, press Alt-Ctrl-Z as many times as you need to go back.

...
Drag the new background layer below Layer 0.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Step

Locate an image that has the background you want in Photoshop. Drag it onto the canvas and press Enter to place it. In the Layers panel, Drag the new layer below Layer 0 to make it the new background.

...
Adjust the lighting by changing the brightness and contrast.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Step

Adjust the background as needed. Beyond resizing or scaling the background, which you can do using the options under the Edit menu, you may need to blur a background using a blur filter from the Filter menu.

Adjusting a Background

Step

Drag the Background layer onto the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Remove the photo's background from the top layer the same way you would when replacing a background. To make your work easier to see, hide the bottom layer by clicking its Eye icon, then make it visible again when you're finished.

...
Erase the background from duplicate layer of the photo.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.
...
A Photo Filter Adjustment Layer has been inserted in this photo.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Step

Make any changes to the bottom layer, without affecting the foreground objects still visible in the top layer. A good way to make these changes while you experiment with different effects is to insert a layer between them by selecting a Fill Layer or an Adjustment Layer from the Layers panel and then dragging this layer between your two photo layers. If you change your mind, you can just delete the adjustment layer or make it invisible without having to go back and redo your work.

...
A Dry Brush filter applied to the background.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Step

Select Filter Gallery from the Filter menu while the bottom layer in the Layers panel is select. Select a filter that suits your photo and adjust it as needed.