a little white background tutorial

AndyAndy Registered Users Posts: 50,016 Major grins
edited December 20, 2013 in Finishing School
i was asked by a shy dgrinner to explain how i get the white backgrounds in some of my shots. well, the first step, of course, is well, have a white background :lol3 in my case, it's some large pieces of foamboard, and also some large white poster board. but this technique will work with any white background, really.

of course, there are ways to nail it with lighting at the time of shoot - but many folks don't have either the skill or the equipment to do this - so here's a way to get it done, "in post."

okay - for these balls of clay, i used a snooted 420ex flash unit (full power) off to camera left, and a 580ex onboard the camera (very low power), with a softbox attached. still, the clay balls are exposed properly, but the bg is really grey.

  • open the file in photoshop
  • choose select>color range
  • use the eyedropper and drag it along the full range of the grey background color
  • click enter
  • now, the background is selected
  • choose select>feather and try 2 pixels

  • do ctrl-j to put this selection in a new lary
  • now do ctrl-l and do a levels adjustment
  • drag the rightmost slider to the left until you've got white white


now, do your normal post routing .. adjust colors, any cropping, cloning, etc.


simple, eh? :shay

enjoy (a white white background) photography,


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    wxwaxwxwax Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited January 3, 2005
    I missed this. An excellent tutorial that can be used for lots of things. Off to the Hall with you!
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
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    chrisjleechrisjlee Registered Users Posts: 384 Major grins
    edited December 12, 2005
    feathers are my friend
    I never thought about feathering a color selection. Wow.
    Detroit Wedding Photography Blog
    Canon 10D | 20D | 5D
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    DanielBDanielB Registered Users Posts: 2,362 Major grins
    edited December 12, 2005
    its so simple i would have never thought of doing it. rolleyes1.gif

    you continue to amaze me andythumb.gif
    Daniel Bauer
    smugmug: www.StandOutphoto.smugmug.com

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    clovisguyclovisguy Registered Users Posts: 16 Big grins
    edited December 26, 2005
    very useful, thanks much!
    downloaded your image & followed steps as outlined. very simple...i would never have come up with this.

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    HeldDownHeldDown Registered Users Posts: 255 Major grins
    edited January 22, 2006
    I know this is late and random, but this tut just saved my arse.

    Sincerest mercis!

    - Geordan
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    ziggy53ziggy53 Super Moderators Posts: 23,862 moderator
    edited February 17, 2006
    Thanks so much Andy!

    Another use for this technique is to "clip" a subject from the background. If you "Invert" the "Select", right before the Ctrl-J, you will save a copy of the subject to a new layer.

    Now you can add a background of your choice:

    P.S. Go here: http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=28023 to see the original shot.
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
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    kridpicskridpics Registered Users Posts: 6 Beginner grinner
    edited December 20, 2013
    Is there a way to do this in Pixelmator?

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    pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,698 moderator
    edited December 20, 2013
    I am not familiar with Pixelmator, but a quick Google of "Pixelmator" led me to the home page for Pixelmator, and then this link about "Selections" in Pixelmator. - http://www.pixelmator.com/tutorials/image-editing-basics/selections-in-image-editing/

    Selections by themselves are not too exciting, but when combined with Layers are quite powerful, and Pixelmator supports Layers also as shown here - http://www.pixelmator.com/tutorials/image-editing-basics/layers-in-image-editing/

    There are a whole set of videos describing Pixelmator here - http://www.pixelmator.com/tutorials/image-editing-basics/

    All this ability and only $29.95 for this in the OS X workspace

    Welcome to dgrin and Happy Holidays.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
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    PeanoPeano Registered Users Posts: 268 Major grins
    edited December 20, 2013
    Another alternative: After making the background selection, open a levels adjustment layer. The selection will automatically become a mask on the adjustment layer. Now make the levels adjustment to suit.

    Advantages of this approach over copying background only (or subject only) to a new layer: You can adjust the mask on the levels adjustment layer (more or less feathering, expand or contract, change density, etc.), and you can also re-adjust the levels settings if need be later on. You can't do that if you apply a levels adjustment directly to image pixels.

    This follows a general rule of thumb: When possible, avoid cooking edits into image pixels. If there's a non-destructive alternative -- in this case a levels adjustment layer with a mask -- choose that route.
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