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Removing background for product shots

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Old 01-27-2005, 11:22 AM
allgrainbrewer allgrainbrewer is offline
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Removing background for product shots

Hello, ( my first post :-) ) I am looking for info on how professional photographers remove backgrounds for product shots.
You know those studio shots where you see a product.... say a can of soup, and there is no backgrond at all,, it's totally white behind the can of soup for example... and there's a man-made shadow put below the product in photoshop etc....

Here is a super example I found:

The photographer told me she underexposed the boots, then somehow in Photoshop she bumped up the exposure and this turned the background a really overexposed white. ( there was a white cloth behind the boots, and also a white cloth on a little set of steps )

I really don't understand the steps, and need a bit of help, does anyone have any techniques they could share with me, starting points etc ?

Thank much in advance, Mark
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Old 01-27-2005, 12:02 PM
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Stroker Stroker is offline
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I know a photographer named Steve that does exactly that kind of thing. His weapon of choice is the Pen tool. He even wrote and excellant tutorial about it.

He's been doing it for years and he's wicked fast with it.

Then there is the Channels route (also by Steve):

Then he just paints in the drop-shadow by hand if there needs to be one. I don't totally understand this aspect of his flow, but that's what he does.

Last edited by Stroker; 01-27-2005 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 01-27-2005, 01:57 PM
Mike Mike is offline
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Plan ahead.

If you want the can of soup on a white background then take the orginal image that way.

You may have to clean it up a little, maybe add a shadow or enhance the one that is there. Most of us use white backgound paper for these kind of things. Lighting is so arranged so the backgound is an even white, while the subject (can of soup) is properly exposed.

Its called Hi-key lighting. Its not really all that hard if you have some lights and a large enough area to work in (you need to seperate the subject from the background so light does not spill from one to the other).

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Old 01-28-2005, 07:57 AM
allgrainbrewer allgrainbrewer is offline
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Hi guys and thanks for the info, those links Stroker posted are amazing.

Btw, Mike, when you say "soft box" are you talking about a light tent ?

With some help I found this amazing tutorial on how to build a "light tent" and plan on doing so, this is exactly what I wish to do.... the results are amazing !"

check out this link:

It shows all the pieces needed to build a simple box, all really inexpensive stuff.... down the page are some of the samples of what can be done once this box is created..... you can click the images to see a larger one....

anyway I am very very impressed with this, it's amazing !

Thank you again for your time, I'm also going to learn how to use the pen tool, this seems like a pretty powerful tool that I forget is there.

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Old 01-28-2005, 09:01 PM
Mike Mike is offline
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I re-read my post and did not see a referance to soft box?

There is quite a differance between a soft box and a tent. Tents are usually used for small very reflective subjects (think jewelry, glassware). Soft boxes for larger usually not so reflective objects (think people). I would suggest you do a search on google or some such for photographic lighting. There is much more information there than I could possibly post here.

Be prepaired to spend some time if you are really interested in lighting, its as broad and complex as using photo shop!

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Old 01-29-2005, 04:30 AM
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Flora Flora is offline
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Hi everybody,


Welcome to RP!

Just in case you sould work on an 'already taken picture', not being able to re-take the shot properly, you can still change it as you wish.

The picture I used for this example was downloaded from

What I did is:

Selected the subject (in this case the milk bottle) with whatever Selection Tool or method you feel comfirtable with. (I didn't bother much with the selection ... )

Pasted the selection on its own Layer (Ctrl+J)

Created a new blank Layer between Backgroung and selection Layer and filled it with the colour of my choice. (At this point your selection sould be visible against the new colour Background.

Created the 'man made shadow' following this very easy and useful Tutorial by Trimoon.

Darkened edges and corners of the image for emphasis. (Just a matter of taste) ... (the action for darkening Edges and Corners can be downloaded here).
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:33 PM
LeAnne LeAnne is offline
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Another option

You may know about this one already, but when I'm trying to seperate something from a complicated background and need to do a lot of hand work to make the selection, the quick mask tool is one of my favorite weapons. Use the paint brush and eraser tools to define the selection, then use it to create a layer mask or just delete everything but your subject. This tool is also useful when you just need to refine a selection a bit. My favorite way to add that shadow is to paint it in black on a seperate layer with a soft brush and then adjust the opacity until you have the look you want.
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Old 02-10-2005, 07:20 AM
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Chip Hildreth Chip Hildreth is offline
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I shoot product frequently...

- What's been said is right, plan ahead and shoot on the preferred BG if possible, that's especially true with transluscent objects.
- For small product, shoot on white plexiglass and shoot some light, not much, up through the plex to eliminate shadow. Don't overdo it or you'll blow the edges out. Key light stays on top somewhere. For big objects get a roll of seamless white BG paper from Savage or Superior Products ( or
- If you need a transparent (not white, but clear) BG you have to mask the BG and save in a format that supports transparency.
- If the edges are hard and the exposure is good, the pen tool, with some practice is the way to go.
- Don't waste time with a chromakey BG. you see this suggested lots of places but it's too much trouble and can actually render your shots unusable because of color fringing caused by light reflecting from the BG. It can be done but you have to know the ins and outs.
- If the subject has intricate, fine detail that overlays the BG you need to build a mask using contrast enhancement. Too much to explain here but Katrin Eismann has a new book on this very subject and it's excellent. Photoshop Masking and Compositing, Katrin Eismann, New Riders Publishing. Pricey but worth it if you use Photoshop a lot.

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Old 08-29-2007, 07:26 AM
NeilH NeilH is offline
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Re: I shoot product frequently...

Originally Posted by Chip Hildreth View Post

- If you need a transparent (not white, but clear) BG you have to mask the BG and save in a format that supports transparency.
Hi Chip, thanks for the post,

I need a transparent BG for my product photos, could you give a little bit more info about how too shoot this, ie: what background would work well? I'm using a plain light tent at the moment...

I'd like to mininize/simplify the fine editing in Photoshop.

Thanks a lot!
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Old 08-29-2007, 08:47 PM
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Craig Walters Craig Walters is offline
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Re: Removing background for product shots

sorry, this thread is a leftover from when some of the forums were combined still. moving this to the right place now.
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