By Ana Mireles on | No Comments
Learning how to change the background color of an image is a valuable skill that enhances the versatility of your images, making them suitable for many different contexts. Up until now, changing the background color of an image was a job that required Photoshop.
Luckily, with the addition of some new AI features in Lightroom, this has changed. Now, changing the background color in Lightroom is very easy.
Before I show you how to change the background color, let's first discuss the importance of background color, how to CHOOSE the right color, and why you would even want to change the background color in the first place:
Color is a critical factor in our daily lives. Not only does it have social and cultural associations, but it can also cause a physical reaction.
There’s an entire discipline dedicated to understanding the effects colors have on human emotion. The field’s name is color psychology, and is closely related to how art affects us. Carl Jung was one of the pioneers of color psychology, and he studied a wide range of topics, from mandalas to cubist artworks.
Color is also used in Chromotherapy, a field of alternative medicine where specific ailments are treated by changing the body’s energy using color light. There are treaties that documented these cures as early as 2000 BC.
So, if color plays such an essential role in how we perceive something, why not use it to tell the story in our photograph?
The background color helps you to communicate the mood of the photoshoot. You may also use it to say something about the subject. It can be used as a visual clue.
While the message is definitely important, so is the aesthetic of an image. The background color needs to work well with the subject. It should help it to stand out and not take attention away from it.
So how do you choose the color of your background? As I mentioned earlier, color helps set the ambiance of a photo.
The same principle applies to portrait photos. If you’re photographing kids, you may want to choose strong solid colors because they’re playful and vibrant.
Try to choose the background color based on what mood or visual message you want to communicate with your photos.
Keep in mind that the background should harmonize with the subject. To achieve a cohesive color scheme, it's important to select a color that complements it.
One effective method is to create a color palette using a color wheel. For example, consider using complementary colors if you want your image to be vibrant. Conversely, choose a monochromatic scheme if you prefer a more subdued look. Ultimately, your choice depends on the mood you want to convey in your photo.
As photographers, we dream of having a big studio with all the necessary equipment. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the budget or storage space.
When it comes to backgrounds, we may have to settle with only a few - or maybe even one. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean all your photos must look the same. You can easily change your background in post-processing.
Another reason why you may want to change the color digitally is because you need a particular color. For example, when you’re doing commercial photography and your client provides you with their brand’s color scheme.
Since changing the background color is a very popular edit, most programs have tools that allow you to do it.
Changing the background color using Lightroom only takes a few clicks. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it.
We'll start with this example image:
Starting in October 2022 (version 12.0), Lightroom introduced AI masks, making selecting much easier. So, if you haven’t updated Lightroom yet, I recommend doing it now because making a good selection is the trickiest part of this type of edit.
By accurately selecting the background, you will ensure you won’t leave an edge of the original color around your subject and will ensure that you’re not accidentally modifying your subject.
To mask the background, simply go to the Masking tool on the main toolbar above the Basic Panel and select "Background." Lightroom will use it's AI capabilities to make a selection of the background of your image. Remember that you can fine-tune the mask by adding and subtracting to it using the brush.
If you’re using Lightroom Version 11, you won’t have access to the Select Background tool. In that case, you can select the subject and invert the mask. Another solution is to use the range mask introduced in February 2018.
If you're working in previous versions, you will have to select the background manually using the Brush tool. Make sure the Auto Mask feature is enabled to make the process easier.
At the bottom of the Color Panel, there’s a Color tool (see image below for exact location). It has a color swatch next to it. It looks like a crossed white rectangle with an "x" through it by default because you haven’t selected a color yet.
Click on it to open the Color picker. Here, you can choose a color by clicking anywhere in the "select a color" box. It will immediately change the background so you can see the effect.
If you don’t like the color you chose, click another until you find one that satisfies you. That’s how easy it is to change the background color in Lightroom.
Here are some pro tips to fine-tune your results and get your background color exactly how you want it:
Besides choosing manually, you can also select a color using the color picker to SAMPLE A COLOR from anywhere on your image.
After you’ve chosen a color, you can use the edit sliders to fine-tune how it looks.
For example, you can adjust the color's brightness by moving the Exposure slider in the Tone Panel.
You can also use the sliders from the Color Panel to adjust the temperature, hue and saturation. This will result in a new color.
As you can see in my example, I changed the pink background color to purple without manually selecting a new color or using the picker. I simply adjusted the sliders to achieve it.
Transforming the background color in Lightroom is a skill that can open up a world of creative possibilities. With just two easy steps, you can give your images a whole new look and feel.
Whether you want to create a more cohesive color scheme, emphasize your subject, or experiment with artistic effects, Lightroom has the tools you need to do it.
So, don't hesitate to try out this technique and let your creativity shine through in your photography!
Do you have any questions or comments about How to Change the Background Color in Lightroom? Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Ana Mireles is a Mexican photographer and researcher with a passion for writing and teaching. She’s collaborated in artistic and cultural projects in Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands.