Over here at the Paper Boat Creative, one of the most highly-requested jobs that we receive especially from online businesses is cutting out and placing the product on a white background. However, not all products are compatible with this photo-retouching technique. Find out what a cutout is, and its applications, and limitations in photo retouching.
What is a Cutout?
A cutout is derived from the technique used in arts and crafts to literally cut an object using scissors so it can be placed on any background of the artist’s choosing. Digital photo retouching has adapted the technique in Photoshop for the same exact reason. The process of creating a digital cutout happens when a digital asset is cut from its edges from its original photo– essentially removing the background. After this, the digital artist can then manipulate the photo and place it against the background they desire.
See below for an example of a cutout application. (In this photo, the checkered pattern is transparent once the digital asset is exported in a correct format)
Why is the Cutout Technique Necessary, and Why Do E-Commerce Photos Require It?
Once a digital asset is cutout from its original photo, the possibilities are endless. We can place it on a white background for a clean catalogue, or over a colored background that adheres to a color scheme of your choice. We can even place it over another image to provide some visual interest with the different textures, such as in this photo on the beach!
Businesses and photographers alike would often ask us to work on a cut out project to improve the presentability of their products on a website. Most products are cutout and placed on a white background. This is because a white background ensures that the eyes of potential customers would gravitate more towards what the vendor is trying to sell.
Why is pure white in product photography not possible?
“Why is pure white in product photography not possible? If I can just shoot the product in PURE white, then I wouldn’t need retouching services”
This is the most common question that we get from photographers who are starting out in the biz is. This is an excellent question, and it can easily be explained by taking a look at a complete gallery of pictures shot against a white paper background.
If you examine this grid of photos, you will notice that there are varying colors and exposure values on each shot. The photos in this grid lacks consistency and cohesiveness. Now, compare the first shot with this one:
In this photo, you can easily see that the images which were cutout and place on a background is much easier on the eyes, making it more presentable.
In theory, photographers CAN shoot a product against a PURE white background. However, this may come at the expense of overcompensating the shot and overexposing the product itself. If they were to shoot photos against a pure white background, photography lights would need to be on pure blast to capture the photos. But the tradeoff would be ruining the product shot.
A photographer should shoot with the correct light settings, even if the background is not 100% perfect. This will make the photos easier to work with, so the retoucher can finish the job and execute the photographer’s vision. Here are a few samples of before and after pictures with good photography, applied with proper retouching technique:
We hope this guide to working with cutouts can be of help to your retouching needs. Should you require our services, feel free to get in touch with us!