Category Archives: Photography Inspiration

Learning How to Quickly Cut Out Table Top Photos and Give Them Web Safe White Backgrounds for Product Photography.

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Make money with product photography


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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.


  1. Create a Vector Mask for the duplicate layer by clicking the icon at the bottom of the layer window.

  1. 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.


  1. 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:

  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. Select the mask in the layers menu. Make sure the background color is black. Hit delete.


  1. 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.


  1. Choose the Quick Selection tool (w). Select any of the white BG inside of the jewelry. Get it as accurate as you can.


  1. 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.


  1. Select the Pen tool (p) and begin to make your path exact.


  1. Once you have the path exact, right click and choose “Make Selection” from the drop-down menu.


  1. 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.


  1. Repeat this process until all the inside pieces of the jewelry show the black background.


  1. 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.

Easy Steps to Create Motion and Background Blurring that Bring Focus to Your Photos

There are basically only two category’s of photo blur and the difference is in your control

  1. Creative Photo Blurring
  2. Unwanted Blurriness  in Your Photos

Creative Blur – This is the Blur that makes your photos stand out. It is usually a result of understanding how blurring is affected by movement, f-stops, and speed settings. A little knowledge is the key to opening the door to your creativity and insuring the WOW factor for your photo creations. This photo illustrates the power of using blur and focus to guide your viewers eye.

Photo by Budi Astawa

Motion Blur Photography

Unwanted Blur – This is any blur that detracts from your photo. It is usually a result of not understanding why the blur is occurring and how blurring is affected by movement, f stops, and speed settings. A little knowledge is the simple fix for this group of blurring problems.

Unwanted Blurring of Photo

So regardless, if you want to control blur or eliminate blur the information in this tutorial will be of value. The difference between being happy or disappointed with your photos  depends  more on your basic knowledge of how your camera settings work then what your camera costs.

Learning to use a shallow depth of field and or being purposeful with long exposures, means you will be able to control the blur in your photos and achieve the creative blur that makes your photos stand out. Here are some examples of what can be accomplished with the information in this tutorial.

  • A sharp and intentional focal point (photo)

Eric T’Kindts photo demostrates a sharp and intentional focal point using a background that is blurry.

Blurred Background
  • Streaked Lighting Effects Using Long Exposure

Vadim Shuvarskiy uses long exposure to create interesting light effects.

Blurring light effects with long exposure.


  • Silky smooth effects for water and other moving subjects (photo)

Sonlight_LP uses long exposure to create silky looking waterfalls.

Long Exposure can be used to blur moving water making it soft and silky in your photo.

Lets look at the technical elements  of  blurry photos?

  1. Movement

    Any movement of your camera or your subject will cause blur. The bigger the movement and the longer the exposure the more blur. The best way to avoid blurring caused by camera movement is to use a tripod or stabilize your camera.

  • Camera movement will cause the entire photo to be blurry. This is seldom a desired effect unless you are creating a background to be composited with another photo. If your camera is completely still on a tripod and the subject of your focal point is still than your subject will be in focus, even when using a long exposure.


  • A Moving subject will  blur even if your camera is on a tripod. The longer the exposure the more blur you will get. This is because the longer your aperture is open the more the subject will travel across the frame causing a smear effect on the sensor as it is exposed. This technique of using longer aperture speeds is often used as a creative tool to create soft dreamy water in a landscape scene.


  1. Depth of Field (DOF)    Definition

    DOF is determined by how long your lens is, how close you are to your  subject, and the size of your aperture. A large aperture (1.4)  used with a long lens (200mm) is often used to create background blurring(Bokeh) in portrait photography.

  2. Focus (optics)    Definition

    This is simply camera focus achieved from focusing your lens. Choosing your focal point is critical to directing the eye of the viewer to the most important part of your image. In portraits the focal point is usually the subjects eyes.


How do I create a sharp Image in my Photos with a Blurry Background?


  1. Choose a Long Lens or shoot close to your subject.
    The longer your lens, the more background blur you can get! A longer lens allows you to get further away from your subject and zoom in, which will create greater amounts of blur. I can get amazing background blur with my 16-35mm 2.8 at close range, See Lens  or my 70-200mm, 2.8 for farther away. See Lens


  1. Choose a Wide Open F-Stop
    A wide f-stop like 1.4, 2.8 or as wide as your lens will go. The wider your f-stop is, the smaller the depth of field will be. A way to remember this is to remember that if you squint, your eyes are more focused. In the same way the smaller your F stop the more in focus your image will be. F stops are fractions so smaller numbers mean bigger openings. 1.4 is a large aperture opening F22 is a very small opening.


  1. Position Your Subject Away from the Background
    The further your subject is from the background, the more blur you will get. If your subject is right up against the background, it will be much harder to not have the background in focus. So, separate your subject from the background as much as you possibly can.
How do I create a sharp scene with silky water flowing through it?

The key to capturing a photo with the silky water caused by blurring is two fold.

  1. Eliminate all movement of your camera by using a sturdy Tripod  and even a remote to trigger your camera. Here are some links to examples of a low cost remote if you do not have one.Nikon    Canon
  2. Use a long exposure setting that will allow you to properly expose the image. You have two options to make this work.
  • Shoot in very low light such as just past sunset.


  • Use a ND filter to block out the Daylight. Usually a ND 10 stop filter is what you will need for daytime shots.

Here are the steps to shooting a long exposure shot

  1. Set up your camera on a Tripod or in a way that it will not move at all during the exposure time. Remember that any small vibration can cause unwanted blurring. This includes small movements from pressing your shutter release button so this is where you might want to use a remote shutter release.
  2. Compose your image. If you are using an ND 10 stop filter  you will have a hard time seeing through them and so will your camera so you will need to set up your shot composition and focus points before putting the ND filter on your lens. This will ensure that your composition is what you want and your focus won’t accidentally “hunt” on you.
  3. Set the correct exposure. Do not shoot in aperture priority mode because a strong ND filter will often fool a camera’s light meter. The first step to finding the correct exposure is to set your f stop to the desired f-number and take note of the shutter speed that gives you the correct exposure. Put the ND filter on your lens and get ready to do a little math. If you do not like math and want to skip this step you can get an app to do the math for you such as this one.

            Doing the Math

  • For each stop you darken your shot with a filter you will need to increase the light with your shutter speed setting. So if you add a 10 stop ND filter (decreasing your light by 10) you will need to increase your shutter speed by 10 stops. (Allow the light to come in 10 times longer. )   Since one stop means doubling your exposure time you will need to double your exposure time 10 times. Do do this the long way on a calculator is to press 2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2 = 1024 The short way is to press 2^10 = 1024.


  • Now multiply 1024 x the original shutter speed number and you will have the correct shutter speed when using the ND 10 filter. For example an original shutter of 1’ x 1024 = 1024 so set your new shutter speed to 1000. (closest rounded off)


  • Lets do the same math with a ND filter of 6.


  • 2^6 = 64 (remember 2x2x2x2x2x2)


  • Original shutter is 125


  • 64 x 125 = 8000 (your new shutter speed setting)

Quick tip – another form of simple math is counting. Most cameras are set so that 3 clicks equal a stop. So if you want to increase your stops by 10 stops multiply it by 3 and then click your shutter speed 30 clicks to increase it 10 times. Again 3 clicks  for each stop you want to go up.


  1. Take the Picture


We would love to see your finished picture in our Cash Contests. You could win up to $600.

Improve Your Chances of Winning Photo Contests

1 to 101 compareVotoArt Photography Contests

The shot on the left was my first shot and the shot on the right is shot 101. All shots were taken with out moving the dice, yet all are different.

I nominate you to take “ The 101 Photo Challenge”

We all know that one of the best ways to get good at photography is to consistently shoot photos, but have you ever thought about shooting the exact same subject in the exact same spot 101 times while trying to make each shot look different. That is the challenge I gave myself and this blog contains the surprising results.

Making a simple subject look different in 101 different photos is a great way  to stretch your creativity , increase your awareness, and challenge your photography skills. The following photos are samples from my experiment with a few notes of what I did to change things up.  Although I took 101 photos, I  only show a few examples in order to keep this post to a reasonable size.

My first 10 shots were hand held and taken with different lenses. My goal was to find a single lens that would be the best for shooting my subject. I planned to use that lens for the remainder of the exercise.  Here are 4  of the 10 shots. All shots were taken in auto mode using just the available overhead lighting in the room.

Shot # 2 – Kit lens 28 -135mm at about 50mm. Shot with available light.
Shot #4 – Shot with 16-35 USM 2.8 lens at 16mm HH Could not avoid bad reflections.
Shot 6 – Shot with 100mm Macro L IS USM
Shot 6 – Shot with 100mm Macro L IS USM
Shot#10 – Shot with 50mm 1.4 fixed lens.
Shot#10 – Shot with 50mm 1.4 fixed lens.


After reviewing my 10  shots I decided that the Macro lens is going to give me the best options for this small subject. I did like the 50mm as well but wanted to be able to get close to the subject and fill the screen with more detail.

Shots 11 – 27  I experimented to discover an interesting angle and distance from the subject that I would then use for the remainder of the photos.  The following photos  are a few samples to illustrate the options I discovered.




IMG_5064 IMG_5066 IMG_5067 IMG_5069

Shot #28 - I used the on camera flash with ISO 100 at f20 ,1/20 MF AWB this created a nice reflection with sharp edges on the dice and the granite top went black.
Shot #28 – I used the on camera flash with ISO 100 at f20 ,1/20 MF AWB this created a nice reflection with sharp edges on the dice and the granite top went black. this was the first shot not taken in Auto mode.

Shots #29 to #85 were all shot in Manual Mode from the same angle on a tripod.

All changes to the look of the subject were made by changing camera settings and lighting. Here are some of the photos with the more drastic changes in appearance.

IMG_5086 IMG_5095 IMG_5097 IMG_5098 IMG_5133 IMG_5145 IMG_5147 IMG_5166 IMG_5174 IMG_5176 IMG_5191 IMG_5209 IMG_5212 IMG_5213 IMG_5220

For my last 16 shots I used the light painting technique to try and get a different look. Here are a few of the photos from this sequence. I left the aperture open for 30 seconds and used a combination of lights.

IMG_5250IMG_5267 IMG_5265 IMG_5255


So there you have it. The results of my own 101 photo challenge. I found taking the time to do this was a great way to expand my awareness and creativity and increase my knowledge and skill levels. The more I utilize the camera settings, and tried different lighting options the more ideas I got for different looks.  There seems to be almost an infinite number possibilities when you begin to consider combinations of lenses , angles, color, lighting etc..   If you love photography I hope you try this challenge and get as much out of it as I did. Remember to enter your best shots in the VotoArt photography contests.

What Makes a Good Photo?

Ganjar Rahayu Winter sanaata

Photo by Ganjar Rahayu

People often ask – What makes a good photo? Most of the answers I have heard to this question, seem to focus on the technical aspects of photography such as the rule of thirds. I,  however, believe the question people  really want to ask is – How can I take photos that others want to see and share?  The fundamental difference in the two questions is that the first question can be answered by you from a technical standpoint while the second question can only be answered by your audience. This is why the feedback you can get from the VotoArt Community is invaluable to you as a photographer.

Is it a Good Photo?

If I enter a photo that I really like into a VotoArt WonUP contest, but the site users  do not vote for it , is that a good photo?  The votes say no but there is good news. Here is the  good news. A photo that does not win still has value, because it provides valuable feedback from your audience.  For example, on VotoArt  I can view the voting history and learn what technical aspects my audience did or did not like. This is invaluable for me as a photographer. I can see if my photo had a good general impression, what voters thought of the color and lighting and how they evaluated the  composition and focus.

You can use the feedback from the VotoArt community in understanding the impact of technical elements  on the viewers and why they may not be connecting with a photo. For example, shooting a puppy from a lower angle will cause the viewer to see that puppy as powerful rather than cute.   So shooting a cute puppy from a low angle may have caused a disconnect with my audience which will show up in the voting.  By understanding the impact that angles, color, lighting, focus and other technical aspects have on your viewers, you can be more effective in connecting with them on an emotional level.

It is important for you to define your success.

What if your photo is deemed a technical zero by a photography expert but it goes viral on the Internet, is that a good photo? Some people will say yes and some people will say no. So the question becomes- how do you define your success? Will you measure your success  by the opinion of a proclaimed expert, by the response of the masses, by your own inner passion or perhaps some other form of measurement? Defining success  comes down to your own purpose for taking photos.No matter how you decide to define your success VotoArt provides a way for you to measure that success. If you want to see if your photos can actually make money VotoArt provides Weekly Cash Contests and Business Sponsorships. If you are selling your prints you can gain exposure and network with others by linking to your own URL and sharing photos and awards  on your social media channels.  If you want lots of feedback from your audience the Pro Account allows you to view the entire voting history of a photo.

No matter how you have defined your own success the key to that success is to get your audience  to emotionally connect with your photo.

Would you like to see the photos that thousands of people have voted for Current Winners

If you would to read what some Top Photographers have to say about this topic here is an article you will want to read. Answers from top Photographers




Photographers ID Birds Online with their Bird Photos.

I was on a bike ride with my daughter when I spotted two large birds in a marshy area not very  far off of the trail . I happen to have brought my camera along in case I saw something interesting to photograph so I quickly got off my bike and started to take pictures.  After  following these birds on foot, and snapping off lots of frames,  I decided I had a few photos that I would like to enter into the VotoArt cash contest.  The problem I faced was I did not know the names of the Birds.  Enter Merlins Beta Photo ID for birds.   A neighbor who new that I liked to photograph birds told me about this site where you upload a photo of a bird, answer a few questions, and it gives you the birds ID.  I went to the site Merlin Bird Photo ID . Merlin Bird Photo ID is an outgrowth of the Visipedia research project, engineers started about 5 years ago as a sort of “visual Wikipedia”. In short I was able to quickly identify the bird in my photo with zero stress or friction. The site was easy and fun to use. Here are the steps it took me through to identify my mystery bird. Continue reading Photographers ID Birds Online with their Bird Photos.

The Key to Creative Success is Changing your Lens

keyRecently I went to a small Meet Up group for photographers where we all brought some of our latest photos to share with the group. I was amazed at the talent and creativity that I saw but I was even more amazed at how one of the best photographers was hesitant to show her own work.  Not because she thought it was bad  but because some “Experts” from a photography club had told her it was not good enough to merit their approval.  After the meeting I encouraged her to enter her work in one of the VotoArt contests where other people could vote on it and give her a different perspective.  As a photographer she needed to change the lens she was looking through to get a better perceptive of her own work.   Reluctantly she signed in at and entered her latest photo in the Cash WonUP contest.  That day she competed against another very successful photographer and won her first cash prize.   What a surprise that was to her.  As of this writing she won a second match up and remains the current WonUp Champion.  Will she continue to win until she has claimed the Maximum amount of $600? Maybe she will, maybe she won’t,  but she has already gained something far more valuable.  A healthy perspective. She almost let a few judges opinions  take her out of position for reaching her  potential as a photographer.  To be truly successful, we have to be willing to change our lenses and explore different perspectives. If we only allow what others think of our  work to drive our decisions, we are limiting ourselves to a single lens. Maybe the wrong lens.  The  VotoArt contests are a fun way to change your lens and discover  different perspectives about your photography.

Lots of people vote on VotoArt. Some you may agree with and some you may not, but that is the point. You get a chance to see through different lenses and explore multiple perspectives.

Like our photographer in the above story, here are some examples of things that could help you change  lenses and be successful as a photographer?

  • Don’t Assume there is only one perspective that is right. Don’t let the opinion of a so called expert discourage you from moving ahead.
  • Find a way to see from other perspectives. She was willing to put her photo on Votoart and found that not everyone agreed with the judges opinion about her work.
  • Don’t limit  your own perspective to a single solution. Like the photographer in the story take a risk and  put your stuff out there. is a great place to start.

Remember : It is easier to hit delete than it is to capture what you have already missed. -Dean Bennett-

Here is a video I found on Youtube that may serve as a good motivator for you if something is holding you back from being in that place of potential and opportunity.