How do you guys cutout your images?

Ok, here is the thing.
I’m in front of like a million of images of a recent photoshoot i did.

The thing is that i need them to be cutout,

My usual process is to cut out the shape with the pen tool first, and do the cutout through vector masks as it is non destructive.
Then in case i have good shadows in the raw image, i use this technique to isolate the shadows and use them on whatever background i need.

(If there is no good shadow, then i tend to fake them)

So my question is: Is there an easier, cleaner and faster way to do the cutouts?
I kind of dislike the vector mask thing because in some points it is too sharpy in some areas i would need a soft edge…

What is your favourite techniques to do the cutouts?

You might want to invest in a better backdrop for your photoshoots. Like a roll drop, that is smooth and flat.
For this item I might even have considered a black drop for more contrast.

I use masks to isolate an image. Erasing is too destructive.


In this case, and as i needed to end up with a fully transparent backgroud, i did not invest any budget in a huge flat and perfect background. I needed to be white allow the reflections get the color of the bakground and the floor in white, and the dark reflection from the roof. This way the chrome looks more chrome. (i think)

Another thing is that i did not have enough raw power on my speedlites to fully blow up the background and achieve that “pure white”.

How do you generate your masks? through pen tool or brush tool?

I use the Pen tool or the Magic Wand, sometimes in combination, to create a mask, then set that as a Layer Mask so nothing is lost. The mask can be edited if you find you’ve missed something or have left a white edge.
Using a Layer Mask instead of a pen-drawn path as the boundary means you will eliminate the hard edges you have been getting.
I also use the Background Eraser tool or the Magic Eraser tool for complex shapes like curly hair and grills or meshes like a wire basket. You have to experiment a bit to get the settings just right but it can be a life saver.

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For inorganic objects, like the one you’ve shown us, I would use the pen tool as it’s the best way to ensure straight elements are and look straight.

For organic objects (fabric, people, hair, etc) I would use a channel mask.

  1. Select the channel with the most contrast and duplicate it, you’ll want the object you want to isolate to be white, so you may need to invert the channel.
  2. Select the new channel only.
  3. On the new channel, use the dodge tool make the object fully white and the burn tool to make the background fully black. There may be a few spots you’ll need to touch up with the brush tool, but because this will be a mask it’s not a big deal if you bugger it up.
  4. use the new channel as a mask on the image.

For objects that contain both organic and inorganic shapes (also in-organic shapes with a lot of holes like a cheese grater), I’d use a mix of both of these methods.


I do this kind of photography and cutting out a lot. I use pen tool and clipping path in Photoshop. Most of the time I’m placing into catalogues in Indesign so that is enough. If client needs me to delete the background completely, I delete a copy and save as JPG.

That is some sweet advice, gonna check it out a little!

Thank you!

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Agree, My next goal on small catalog products will be to achieve a pure white bg surrounding the subject so i dont have to cutout unless i’m asked to do it.

In this case tho, i had not enough power to whiten the background. :S

First I cut out the outline as close as I can with a large brush and then go in and use a smaller size (6-15px) on the almost hardest setting and just make sure to have a consistent size the entire way around and then might feather after I create a clipping mask. Definitely make a layer mask before editing though.

I wouldn’t worry about getting the shadows. if anything take it into Illustrator and trace out the vague shape, assign it to multiply and then gaussian blur it and place it underneath. That way the shadows don’t look off. In the photo they’re interacting with white but is that always going to be the case?

I’m still going back to the original comment I made.
If a photographer showed up here for a contracted photo shoot with a wrinkled backdrop with a center seam and not enough lamp wattage, I’d ask them to pack up. No center seam is photo (and theatre) 101.

Even if this were an in-house thing, a flat iron, some staples and a crapload of cheap LED work lights from a big-box-store would flatten that backdrop to make post a heck of a lot more quick and efficient.

Just sayin’…

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If you photograph correctly in the first place, it saves a ton of work in post-processing.

If budget is a concern, these slave flash bulbs work when plugged into a Home Depot metal light reflector and covered with a white shower cap.

PD, thanks for resurrecting this post; I’m glad for the Photoshop tips.

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I didn’t resurrect it. Some spammer did this morning.

Hi, thank you for the little constructive comment.
This kind of offended me and i would like to politely answer you.

First off, the lighting set i have, is to shoot much smaller objects:

  • 3/4 Speedlites
  • 3x 50x70cm Softboxes
  • Umbrellas
  • Vinil white backdrops, and a ton of roll paper.

Second: Note that i don’t sell myself as a product photographer. I do this only on demand.

From this point, i would like to share you this website:


This is the webiste i’m creating for this brand. Note that everything you see in there is made by me. From webdesing, programming (with no templates) to videos or photoshoots.

When asked to do the photo shoots of the bike i did warn that i had no enough raw light power to such a big model. But they kept wanting me to do it, so i had to do something we often have to do:

improvise and work with what you have.

Of course it would be amazing to have a shit ton of light power and giant lightboxes and thatre sized bakcdrops! Why you needed to point that?

But what i would have to do? Say no to the job and leave them without a solution? or trying to adapt and come with a solution?

I did the second thing.

Also I already knew that there would be a ton of work in photoshop due to the fact that the chrome was not very clear, so i would have to “fake” most of the chrome part of the bike, It wasn’t much more of a work to cutout the entire bike.

Bonus track: When i am asked to do something that i’m not really really good at it. i warn that it may get a slower result, but that in the nice side i will charge a little less.
The priced i charged for this, is very cheap compared with what would cost with the proper equipment.

In few words:
I felt a little hurt to read a comment pointing the obvious that racing with a Ferrari is much more efficient than doing it with a Fiat 500. But when you only have a Fiat 500, and asked to win the race, you have to do your best, and i don’t think the results are bad.

From this point, if i’m often asked to do this kind of photos, i will surelly start buying more capable gear.

Thank you.

Didn’t it occur to you to suggest hiring another photographer who had the equipment to do a better photoshoot? Would have saved you a lot of time.

We can’t all do everything. For example, I can do a lot of photographic projects, but I don’t do weddings and I don’t do aerial work. So I refer those.

I neither do weddings, becuause i know professionals near me who could do a much better work at a reasonable cost.

In this case, i dont have anyone who shoots big products in my area, and hiring someone from far away and making him come to the factory would cost thousands of times more money than what it costed.

Also they wanted me to do it, even when warned that i was not in the optimal gear.

They wanted someone reliable rather than experiencing with more expensive and unknown results.

BTW I love this option!

Oh, well if there wasn’t anyone available who could do it for you, than you had to play the cards you were dealt. Sometimes, that’s the only option.

And it sounds like you were honest with them, so they made the choice that worked for them. :slight_smile:

It’s possible to rent photography equipment, there are lots of places that rent anything you could need. Rental cost would probably be a savings over the additional post required to isolate too.

Didn’t thought of that. i’ll got it in mind for the next time!

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