Background Extraction: Love It or Hate It?

I’ve been shooting youth sports for a number of years.  We have photographed at sunset, under harsh daylight, cloudy conditions and also indoors. We have used tents, umbrellas, canopies, flashes and studio lighting on different occasions. We have shot against the backdrop of walls, fields, trees, textured cloth and green screen. Final products include Trader Cards, Composites, Magnets, Buttons, etc…

I mention these conditions because they directly relate to the type of images we are making for the team or league. We shoot Basketball and Volleyball indoors whereas we’ll do the Lacrosse, Football and Soccer pictures outdoors. These aren’t the hard-fast rules it’s just been what we and our clients have chosen to do at that moment.

So, why the litany of scenarios in the above paragraph?  Because as I describe the process of background extraction I wanted you aware that this is not “the new” way of processing our imagery but “another way” we can create a desired result.

Recently, DBE Photography has been utilizing a green screen or white screen for extraction.  A grey background is next on the list. This technique has been around for many years and the technology has improved year after year. You can “cut out” the primary subject manually or purchase software that does it all for you.  The software can reduce time when extracting 100’s of images in a single processing session. However there are some glitches, even in the latest versions, so a manual follow up may be necessary at times. I do mine manually now.  That may change in the future, who knows. The more I learn, and I learn everyday, the more I realize our creativity is only limited by our imagination.  The tools are available. We just need to learn to use them for our own creative purposes.

By selectively removing the background, or extracting our subject, we can create a variety of images from one session. Again, the boundaries are limitless. Here was our set up for a volleyball team which allowed us to take the pictures without disrupting their scheduled practice. It minimized the time away from practice and allowed us to be a little creative at the same time.

2014-02-16 17.51.40

From this set up we were able to shoot, process and create a few products that the players and their parents enjoyed. Meet Nessa, our model for today!

Here is Nessa on Green Screen:

LADY ACES-0009222 green

Nessa after the background was removed.

LADY ACES-0009222 NESSA JOHNSON

And Nessa on a volleyball background:

nessa ball

We also had some action pictures where we wanted the backgrounds removed. We sent these to, Retouchup.com, a company who has a phenomenal turn around time and does great work on retouching photos for professional photographers. Due to time constraints, extracting the background on an action shot like the one below was more intensive than what had time for during the editing process.

Here’s before of the action shot:

LADY ACES-0009564

And after:

LADY ACES-0009564-2

This image could be used as part of a background in a composite image. A composite image is a photograph made by combining two or more separate photographs. Here’s a link to some composite images on Flickr.

Background extraction is a tool in our toolbox.  It’s not required for every shoot; however, it is available if desired. As we venture forward with this technology and play with our creativity, we will post more images of final pieces.  Until then, stay focused and have fun.

Leave a Reply