Failure Selecting Subject

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Today’s Question: I’ve tried using the “Select Subject” feature [in Photoshop] that you mentioned in one of your answers, and I haven’t had any luck with it. The selections don’t follow the key subject in the photo at all. Is there a way to give this feature a little guidance to help improve the results?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Select Subject” feature that is available for the Quick Selection and Magic Wand tools is one that in my experience rarely makes a great selection and often makes a relatively poor selection. Furthermore, there is no option for altering the behavior of this feature, so you’ll need to use other tools or techniques to create or refine the selection.

More Detail: The “Select Subject” button can be found on the Options bar in Photoshop when you select either the Quick Selection tool or the Magic Wand tool. After choosing one of these tools you simply click the Select Subject button and a selection is created based on an analysis of the photo.

If the subject stands out relatively clearly from the background, the selection achieved by clicking the Select Subject button will likely be relatively accurate. In other cases you’ll find that the selection represents a reasonably good start, requiring some refinement with other tools to create a usable selection. In many cases, however, I do find that the Select Subject feature is not especially helpful.

Part of the challenge with this feature is that if it works well, other selection techniques might have been nearly as fast to implement. In other cases, you may find that so much cleanup is required after using the Select Subject feature, that it just isn’t worth making use of.

In general, I prefer to think of the Select Subject feature as a basic preview of some of the potential of what Photoshop could offer with future updates. In the meantime, I recommend considering the Select > Focus Area command from the menu, or the Quick Selection tool, as better starting points for most of your selection needs.