Clouded Leopard


This morning was spent with several budding bird photographers in my first Getting Started in Bird Photography class with Capital Photography Center. Walking the paths of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, they had the opportunity to develop their technical skills to capture beautiful bird images.

Following the class, I strolled around enjoying my visit at the zoo. Walking by the Clouded Leopard exhibit, this leopard was sleeping on top of a high tree stump. With fences in front and behind of him, I took the shot, knowing I would have to learn how to change the background when I brought it home.

It was long overdue for me to develop skills in changing out backgrounds in images. Although I prefer to show what I see in my captures, it’s helpful to have this skill in my photographer tool box. A promotional email from Topaz ReMask prompted me to challenge myself to learn this tool.

Downloading a 30 day trial of Topaz Remask, I found it fairly simple to learn how to draw lines around the edge of the cat and mark the areas that I wanted to change. The software provided me color options, which I chose a complimentary color to go along with the cat. Using this software, I was able to change the background in less than 10 minutes with no tutorials needed.


Of course, this meant that I had to try the same thing in Photoshop Elements 13. My choice to use versus the full blown Photoshop CS6 software. PS Elements 13 provide me the basic editing tools that Photoshop CS6 offers without the price tag. Content Aware, and the Clone Stamp tool are two tools that I am using more often. They quickly clean up the image of random spots, leaves and branches.

But I knew using PS Elements 13 meant that it was high time I learned the concept of layers. Something I have balked at as layers seemed cumbersome, and using Topaz Remask there was no such thing as a layer.

Locating a short PS Elements 13 tutorial on Youtube, I would watch a little, pause the video and return to the software to enact the instruction.

I quickly determined that a cat with whiskers was certainly not the best choice of images to practice with, as those darned whiskers seemed to keep getting in the way.

Adding a layer, and hiding the background, I selected a new background from the wide variety of backdrops offered in PS Elements 13. Once the portion of the cat had been selected, if I wanted to, I could move him around to the position or angle that I desire. I chose to keep him where he was.


It took more time to process the new background as I spent the time going in between the whiskers more than I had in Topaz Remask. But once the sections had been indicated, changing backdrops was quite simple. The only thing I haven’t quite found is how to soften the edges so that the new background blends in better. In Topaz Remask it was easy to locate.

Will I be using this tool often? Most likely not. But perhaps once in awhile it may be used to enhance or create a new capture. Perhaps this may inspire the artist in you to create your own digital vision.

7 replies »

  1. I’ve have to use a similar technique to show folks what plants would look good in their landscaping. I use a variety of things, as I’m not going for perfection here, just a good idea of what I’m proposing. Oddly, I can even achieve this using MS word! Crazy!

  2. I prefer the last image with the green background as they whiskers are more prominent and better defined than in the Topaz version. You must have had a lot of fun trying all the various options, if frustrating at times, I’m sure. My husband’s students love doing that type of thing and I have tried similar things when turning our happy snaps into birthdays and Christmas cards. I expect we’ll be doing it again soon. Happy experimenting! šŸ™‚

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