How to Photograph Pads – Part 2

Removing the background
If you do decide you’d like to go with a white background, here is how I do it. I don’t have a very fancy graphics program, so some of what I do might be able to be automated in something better.

So, first, take your photo. I have a sheet of plywood that I’ve stuck white paper onto, and I use this as my pad photo board. I take that outside and put it on my very handy (if not unsightly) air conditioner box if it’s in the shade… or I put it on a chair or something under the carport if it’s too sunny or raining… and I take the photos on that. Because some of the pads I make are larger than a single piece of paper, I made this board, and it’s very handy!


If you’ve taken the photo inside, or on an overcast day, you will probably be to brighten it (in my program it’s in the “colour” menu, under “brightness/contrast” – you want to brighten it and increase the contrast a little). See the second picture. Then start removing that background.

paperbackground step1_brightness

The “white” paper actually comes out a greyish blue colour in the photos, even outside in good light, so you’ll need to edit the photo to make it white. This photo isn’t actually very good because one part of the edge dipped down, so looks like it’s missing in the photo, but ignore that 🙂

There are 2 ways to remove the background…. You may need to use both techniques depending on the pad.

1). Flood Fill
The quickest way is to use the flood fill tool to just paint the background white. This can unfortunately also colour the pad itself, if it’s got a light colour in it. Which is not what you want. So this won’t work with every pad, and if it doesn’t you’ll have to do it the longer way (#2)

step3_floodfill4 step3_floodfill5

The best way to do this is to use the dropper tool (if you have one) to get the colour of the background (normally a greyish colour), and flood fill that colour. Which should fill most of the background with that colour. If it leaves some patches of other colours (lighter or darker), you can just click to floodfill those areas, or select those colours and floodfill the entire space with that new colour. So continue that until the background is all one shade, then floodfill the lot with white. If you start by floodfilling with white, you sometimes need to go back and fix lots of little light colours that aren’t quite white. Floodfilling it with the main background colour first seems to work better.

step1_brightness step3_floodfill2 step3_floodfill3

If there are any extra bits in the way (see the edge of the paper in this example), cut those out, so it’s all white. Then you may need to resize the image if it is too large. Personally I think they are best resized down to about the size of a photo/postcard…. Small enough so that customers can click the photo to see a larger version (and not so large that if they do, they get an extreme close view that not only doesn’t fit on the screen but also shows off any imperfections in the pad).

2). Lasso Tool
If you can’t floodfill, you’ll need to cut out the background by hand. Zoom in close and use the freehand/lasso tool (whatever your graphics program calls it – but the tool that lets you do a point by point selection of a section of the image). Use it to draw around the entire pad on the edge of the pad (like you see in the closeup)….. then you will end up with a surrounding line of “running ants” – you need to then invert the selection (I have a “selections” menu where I can select “invert”) so that when you hit the delete key, all the background part disappears (if you don’t invert it, the pad will disappear!).


Finishing up
Sharpening the image makes a subtle, but important difference. You should have a “sharpen” option somewhere that will do that. It makes the image clearer, less blurry.

All done!

So we’ve gone from this……… to this…… worth a little effort? I think so

paperbackground  step5_sharpen

Blurring the Edges
Another option for you (particularly if you’ve taken the pic against a background that doesn’t crop out as easily, like a dark background)… or if you want a white background but the pad is white so it disappears into the background, is to use the “blur” tool. This also shows you the difference between photographing inside (the pictures above) and outside (the pictures below). This is the same fabric. Look how different it looks in normal household lighting above, and brighter outside lighting below (The outside ones are a more realistic version to the actual colours too)

To do this, take your image, and roughly cut around it with the lasso tool so that the edges are all white (remember to invert the selection so you’re removing the background, not the pads). Then go in closer and select right around the pads…. then get a blur tool (I used the “Gaussian blur”) and make it as blurry as possible.

phototutorialfade1 phototutorialfade2


And there you go:

Admittedly, this was a quick job with a picture I’d already taken and cropped, because ideally you’ll leave more space around it so that you can make sure the edges are all completely white so it blends into a white background. And you might like to blur it twice so it fades into the white even more. My version does get chopped off a bit and isn’t the best example… but you get the idea.