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How to Get Pictures with White Backgrounds

With most people the primary goal of having a website is to make money.  That being said, how you present your product is important, i.e, having  good, quality pictures.  While we’d all like to have catalog type pictures – you know the kind….no shadows and nice white background – getting this type of picture is not easily accomplished for the amateur photographer who is using basically ‘off the shelf’ equipment and software. However, there is a way you can maximize your picture quality using the equipment you have to get a comparable ‘catalog’ image. OK – maybe not as good… but totally acceptable for not having to spend any extra cash.

Getting Started

This procedure can be done pretty much using any good graphics program that allows you to manipulate the image’s color.  And, we’re assuming  you are taking pictures with a standard digital camera. If you happen to have a light box then this makes the process even easier as it will help eliminate shadows.   Even if you’re not using a light box,  you want to have the objects placed on a snow white background. Depending on the size of the item this might be a sheet of paper, poster board or a white bed sheet. The less texture the background has, the better and easier it will be to get a good quality image.

Graphics Program

If you’ve used any graphics program, you know about adjusting the color,brightness and contrast of an image; however, you may not be familiar with using Curves to brighten the background. The curves function is typically available through the program’s Color icon.

A good graphics program will allow you to use the curves function to edit all color channels (RGB) at once or individual channels as needed. My experience has been that I’ve found using all three channels results in getting the best catalog picture for individual items.

For our sample, we’re using the  picture of a tile, taking it through the process we needed to get the background we wanted.   In the picture bar, we’ve used a black background for the dual images to highlight the white background from the post background. The white (or non-white) you see around the tile is what would appear if we were using it on a web page.    Also, the original picture below was taken inside, on a white sheet of cardboard with no special lighting or flash.  Not what we’d ever want on a webpage.

Steps:

The steps below are the basic steps to follow to accomplish a white background.  The only step you would most likely skip would be step 4 – otherwise you will need to go through the whole process.

1.  Take picture on white background with as little shadows as possible.

2.  Size the image and save

3.  Open the ‘Curves’ function and adjust the brightness to your satisfaction and save (If you are satisfied with the results you can skip Step 4 and go to Step 5, however, if you want to enhance the contrast of the item(s), then continue with Step 4)

4.  Use the ‘color adjust’ to further brighten the background and adjust the item colors/contrast as needed and save

5.  Use the ‘magic wand’ selection tool to select the product item including the image’s edges. When this is done you should have both the item and the edges of the image selected, ie., each major piece of the image will be selected… this will vary depending on how many product items you have in the picture. You may also find that setting the feathering to 3-5 will give a better result when you fill in the background eliminating any hard edges.

6.  Once you have the different portions of the image selected, use the color fill tool to fill in the background with white and save.

The left picture above is Step 3; the right picture is Step 6.

Conclusion

Note in the sample image on the right, there is a slight increase in the white background from the left image (note light ‘yellow’ to left side of left image).  While this may seem a multi-step process just to get one ‘catalog-style’  picture,  if you’re looking for a way to get  images that have white backgrounds without having to hire a pricey professional graphics person or  spend money on fancy software and equipment – then investing a little time is not a bad trade-off in my opinion.


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