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Shooting product photography is a great way to make money with your camera and a small investment in a table top light box. Products can often be shot in your own home with very little cost and a healthy pay out to you as a freelancer, but you need some basic photo editing skills.
In this tutorial I am going to walk you through the background removal process which I used to edit a national level children’s product that was shot on a tabletop in my basement.
The product itself was a prototype which had to be cut out and adapted for packaging layouts, web placement, and social media.
If you are just starting out, consider that in many cases one or two table top photo jobs can pay for new photography equipment while still producing a small profit.
I shot this product using only a portable lighting tent with the included LED lights, a Canon 7D, and a tripod. I purchased the lighting tent primarily for the job and still made a handsome profit. As a considerable bonus, I landed 4 more days of shooting and editing time using the same set up. I do recommend the Manfrotto 405 Geared Head that I used in shooting, as it allowed me to easily make small, 3 angle, adjustments when framing the product hero shot. This was a great help, but doing the shot without it is definitely possible.
After shooting the product it was critical to cut out and replace the background with a pure white backdrop. This insured there was not an off-white box around the product when displayed on the website.
Below are the before and after pictures. The first photo is the camera raw with the product shot in the Light Box, in the second photo the background has been removed and stickers placed for packaging. I also created a slight shadow using Photoshop for the second photo.
This is the process I used to quickly and accurately cut out the product in Photoshop and replace the background without any jagged edges or halos. Just open your table top photo and follow the steps below.
Steps to quickly cut out table top photos and give them web safe white backgrounds for product photography
- Select your original layer and hit (Command J) to duplicate. I never work on the original in case I need to go back to it for reference, or need it for a back up when I don’t like a change I made.
- Once it is duplicated make a selection close to the main subject using the rectangle Marquee tool. This is selected by hitting (m) on your keyboard.
- Create a Vector Mask for the duplicate layer by clicking the icon at the bottom of the layer window.
- You should now have a new layer with a layer mask. Choose the Quick Selection tool (w). Select any of the white BG outside of the jewelry. Get it as accurate as you can. The more detailed you can get it, the less work you will have with the Pen tool. If you accidently select parts of the product just hold down the Option key and right click on the part you want to deselect.
- Once you have a reasonably close selection of every thing outside of the product then right click in the selection and select “Make Working Path” from the drop down menu. Select a tolerance of 3 or 4 so you don’t have too many points in the path making it harder to work with. You want enough points that the mask is still fairly accurate. Click OK. It should look something like this:
- Now select the Pen tool (p) and begin to make your path exact. While adjusting the path with the pen tool you will be pressing different keys to adjust points and handles. Start by holding down the Command key to get the direct selection arrow. Click off the path to deselect it, and then click any point you want to start adjusting.
- To adjust an individual handle hold down the option key before clicking on the handle. Remember that you are dragging the handle in the direction you want it to go from that point.
- Once you have the path exact, right click and choose “Make Selection” from the drop-down menu. It should look similar to this:
9. Hit Shift Command I to inverse the selection.
- Select the mask in the layers menu. Make sure the background color is black. Hit delete.
- Create a new layer and fill it with black using the paint bucket. Move it below the layer you are cutting out. This allows you to check if your mask is accurate.
- Choose the Quick Selection tool (w). Select any of the white BG inside of the jewelry. Get it as accurate as you can.
- Confirm that you have a reasonably close selection of everything inside of the product you wish to remove. Next, right click in the selection and select “Make Working Path” from the drop down menu. Select a tolerance of 3 or 4 so you don’t have too many points in the path making it harder to work with. Click OK.
- Select the Pen tool (p) and begin to make your path exact.
- Once you have the path exact, right click and choose “Make Selection” from the drop-down menu.
- Select the mask in the layers menu. Make sure the background color is black. Hit delete. Notice this time you do not need to inverse the selection. This is because you were selecting the background and not the product when you were making the path.
- Repeat this process until all the inside pieces of the jewelry show the black background.
- The final step is to fill the black background layer with white.
That’s it! You now have a clean cut out of the product with a fresh white background. You can also add shadows on a new layer to give it that natural depth.
As a photographer, shooting table top photography products is a great way to make a good profit in your own home with a minimal amount of lighting equipment. A photo lighting tent like this one can cost a $100 or less and a single shoot could earn $500 to $1200 a day. Not a bad ROI.