by Mike McNamee Published 01/06/2012
An immediate question is why not use masking brushes from the outset? Such methods, including the Magic Wand, Magnetic Lasso and brushing a Quick Mask have their place but consider, for example, the task of outlining a bottle. Being shiny, the likelihood is that the edge of the bottle contains diffuse reflections of the surroundings. However, we know that the edge is straight and providing we can locate the bottle wall at the top and the bottom, a straight path from one to the other is easy to execute using a path.
The Polygonal Lasso tool will do the job but what if you miss? If you are using a path you can zoom in on the node and tweak it exactly to the correct point on the surface, secure in the knowledge that the path will run in a neat line down the straight sides of the bottle. If we are talking Mateus Rose, the task is slightly more complex but the shape of the curve can be adjusted to fit the shape of the bottle perfectly, even after you have drunk the contents! It is the control of the curves after they have been roughly placed that delivers the power of the method. In product photography, paths have an additional, vital benefit.
Almost all the product shots that are submitted for publication to Professional Imagemaker are provided 'pathed out' - that is the outline of the product has already been defined by a path, saved with the file. Now, when the shot of the product is placed into InDesign, the page layout program is instructed to use the path as a 'clipping path'.
This cuts it out from the background, but crucially, it also allows text to be flowed around the outline of the product as well, a frequently used graphic design trick. This is but one example, but the majority of product shots for any publication will be pathed out by the page layout team or by the commissioned photographer. You can leave it to the publication's graphics team but they might not path out your shot with the same care that you, the photographer, would like (if you don't believe me take a look at some of the 'chop outs' in your local freebie newspaper, oftentimes you could do better with a pair of pruning shears!).
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