How to remove a background in Photoshop

Published:
by David Em
Last updated:

Portraits Refined may earn a commission on purchases made from links on this page. For more information, read Affiliate Disclosure.

Removing a background allows you to change it. Learn the best ways to remove a background from an image in Photoshop.

Collage showing a portrait of a man and one with the background removed.
Photo by Unsplash and David Em/Portraits Refined. Photoshop logo courtesy of Adobe.

Adobe Photoshop is a powerhouse when it comes to post-processing. One of its most impressive capabilities is how quickly and easily it can remove a background from an image.

Related: 5 best photo editing software

If you don’t have Photoshop yet, get it today from Adobe. It’s such a powerful suite of editing tools.

While there are many background removal techniques in Photoshop, the following is the best for most photos and the simplest.

Related: What’s a polarizing filter?

1. Open the image in Photoshop

Portrait of man opened in Photoshop.

The first step is to launch Photoshop and open your image. You can drag and drop the image or in the top menu, click “File” and then “Open”.

Related: How to format an SD card

2. Click Select in the menu bar and Select and Mask

Image opened in Photoshop showing the Select and Mask option.

Next, you’ll prepare the image for background removal by clicking Select in the menu bar. Then, click Select and Mask.

Now, you’re ready to choose what part of the image you want to keep.

Related article: What are Lightroom presets?

3. Click Select Subject

Select Subject tool in Photoshop.

Thanks to the power of artificial intelligence, Photoshop can accurately select your subject in a matter of seconds. Click the Select Subject button, and Photoshop will complete it quickly.

You may have to go in with the subtract tool to deselect parts of the image, but the Select Subject button is an excellent place to start.

Related article: What’s a PSD file, and how do I open one?

4. Make adjustments with the subtract tool

Subtract and Quick Selection Tool in Photoshop.

Photoshop may miss small details. So, make sure the Quick Selection Tool on the left and the subtract button at the top is selected.

Then, zoom into your photo and make the adjustments with the brush.

Depending on the area, you may need to increase or decrease your brush size.

5. Output to Layer Mask

Output to setting in Photoshop.

After you’ve selected Output to Layer Mask and click OK, you’ll have your subject without the background.

Portrait of a man without the background in Photoshop.

6. Change the background

Now that you’ve removed the background and isolated your subject, the rest is up to you. Change the background by filling it with a color or blending it with another image.

Now you know how to remove the background from an image in Photoshop. However, it won’t always be seamless.

Sometimes, you’ll need to spend more time refining the selection.

It’s easier to do when there’s a contrast between your subject and the background.

Featured image by Unsplash and David Em/Portraits Refined. Photoshop logo courtesy of Adobe.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.

Connect