Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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Excuse me if this question is in the wrong SE site, but it seems the most appropriate place. I have a client that makes children's accessories. She takes the pictures of her products herself. When her product images are listed on her website, they are square scaled down images of the products, with the background still there. She wants to take out the background so she is just left with the product in the image with a transparent background.

For an example, take a look at Zappos category pages: http://www.zappos.com/men-clothing/CKvXAcABAuICAgEY.zso?s=goliveRecentSalesStyle/desc/

All the images have a white background, with just the clean person in the piece of clothing. Nice and smooth images. I know this can be done in PhotoShop, but it seems to be a long process. How do companies like Zappos make these images? What are the options out there to do this? Is there any automated software that does this? Or any companies that will do this to your images? What is the industry standard for doing this? This is not my area, so I need some good direction. Thanks

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I think your question is already answered at photo.stackexchange.com/questions/14991/… . She probably wants to take her pictures with a softbox, so she doesn't have to manually edit out the backgrounds later. –  drewbenn Sep 9 '11 at 4:31
    
Am I right in thinking that you mean "white background" rather than "transparent background"? The answer is to use a plain background when shooting the objects. (@drewbenn, surely the background is the salient point here, rather than the light?) –  AJ Finch Sep 9 '11 at 12:32
    
ahem. I meant lightbox. Apologies. @AJ Finch yes, the background is the important thing, but so is consistent lighting (I suspect there is also an as-yet-unrealized requirement for repeatable pictures). –  drewbenn Sep 9 '11 at 17:35
    
Yes, I mean a white background –  picxelplay Sep 10 '11 at 1:46

3 Answers 3

I think the best solution is to first get your client to take her photos differently. This might not be able to be done with existing products, but a simple setup like this one leaves pleasing backgrounds and ones that are easily removable if needed http://www.diyphotography.net/homestudio/cheap-homemade-diy-studio-no-lighting-needed

Whilst this might not be the photoshop fix you're after, this is a photography forum, and this would be one of the simplest ways for her to fix her photos

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In Photoshop or GIMP, this may be a very short process if the image was taken correctly.

Take the photo with a white backdrop, or monochrome in a color dissimilar to what you are taking, with a pretty strong light. Take care that no part of the actual item is overexposed.

Then use "curves" tool and pull the upper part of the graph all the way up. Any shades on the backdrop will become totally white. With good backdrop this will completely suffice. It's maybe 20s of work.

If the backdrop wasn't bright enough, use "fuzzy select"/"magic wand" to select the background, adjust selection threshold till at least the item is well outlined. Fill with white, possibly paint around with a big white brush. Use "fearther" on the selection to smooth the edges a little. The work shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes.

If the photo is full color on random non-uniform backdrop, there's nothing left than painstakingly cutting the figure off using the scisor tools. Doing this right may take a long time if the shape has non-uniform edges and the background is similarly colored.

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Key caveat was: "if the image was taken correctly." Remember, the OP's client shoots all the images. Shooting on white is what's required and that's not the easiest task even though you see a ton of it everywhere. Cutting stuff out of an existing background in post is a real chore. (Just sympathizing.) –  Steve Ross Sep 9 '11 at 23:38

If all the images have simple white backgrounds, you could technically do it in microsoft paint, setting the "transparent color" but the results are far from professional. I use photoshop. If you don't want photoshop, try GIMP since it's free.

Edit: If you're looking to turn images into ones with a solid white background that looks transparent on a white website, then it's just a photoshop edit, but rather than fill with no color, it fills white.

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I do appreciate that you would like to help and do them for free, but I am more looking for all of the options available to do such things. And also for future reference that I can direct clients to or advise them on the subject. –  picxelplay Sep 9 '11 at 2:37
    
Recomended options in order of recommendations: 1) photoshop. You learn it yourself, and it's the best quality. Number 2) imagetracing.net highly recommended. Option 3: GIMP (do it yourself, but GIMP is free). 4: don't listen to this post, and keep your eyes open for something that you do want. –  U4iK_HaZe Sep 9 '11 at 2:44

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