Thursday, June 13, 2013
Etsy Forum FAQ - how to get a clean white background without using the lasso tool
I like to lurk around Etsy Forums sometimes, it gives me an idea of what other sellers are going through, and there are a few questions that get asked a lot. Like a lot a lot. Especially this one, which leads to quite a bit of confusion.
"How do I get that white background for my photos?"
and then this question
"Why do colors photographed on white come out so dark--my purple doesn't look anything like purple!"
A user will present their photos, which are often taken in front of a white wall or white environment, but will be frustrated when it comes out, well...tan. Often they'll try using the lasso tool to "erase" the background, which never looks good, especially in shadow. Often they'll be told just to "erase better" and honestly, if you cut and paste an image you not only loose a lot of the vibrant color in the object, but you also loose it's sillhouette, which will always look jagged when lasso-ing.
Once upon a time, photographers had very particular studios and lighting to do product photography--their backgrounds came out white without photoshop. But nowadays, for amateurs shooting in our living room in less than ideal environments with less than ideal cameras, we have photoshop and Gimp (gimp is free and operates a lot of the same as Photoshop, and this tutorial still applies to you if you use it).
The longer you expose the film to light, the more likely you are to bump the camera. So, if you have a quicker shutter speed it will take crisper photos, but the quicker the shutter speed, the darker the image. If you're taking a close up, like I do with all my products, then you have an even bigger problem making the photo white enough since you're changing the size of the aperature. One quick way to solve this problem without photoshop isn't a cheap way, and it's a trigger you attach to your camera, so you don't have to manually click each photo, and won't be bumping the camera for longer exposures. I don't have one of those.
Now to bring the background to white you can do a few different things, I like to set levels. Under "Adjustments" you select levels and it will pop up this histogram below. Histograms look like little mountains. They tell you how much of a shade is at each part of the graph. (the lower shades are at the left, the brighter at the right) in this case we have two large peaks at the right. One of those peaks is the tan color of the background. If we move the white arrow left, past that peak, the tan color disappears, and the other shades proportionally change, too. Way quicker and easier than a lasso tool.
RGB color rules are different from CMYK color rules. CMYK refers to printer heads (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ((which is a "k" so's not to be confused with blue)) ) RGB refers to light (red, green, blue)
If you add Cyan, Magenta, Yellow (and even K) together, you get black, right? Well in light, if you add Red, Green, and Blue together, you'll get white.
This is important to know in RGB because color opposites are different now. The opposite of Red is blue, the opposite green is magenta (purple), and the opposite of blue is yellow.
So when we go into the red channel (the pull down menu you can select red) and pull the middle arrow away from red, it will turn more blue.
That feels better.
Now I wanted more contrast, so I added another level. You could probably do it in the same Level1 layer, but I was feeling lazy, so I just added a second one rather than have to start over.
Then, I like to add a pink soft lighting to all my Etsy products. Etsy loves pink soft lighting right now. It's really easy to do, make a new layer, fill it a coral-pink shade with the paint bucket, change the pull down menu above it to "soft light" and then fiddle with the opacity to decide how intense you want the soft lighting. I like my items to look warmer, and since they're wood, it's still accurately representing my object.
I'll also go into my background layer and use the paintbrush to get rid of any dirt on my background.