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Photo's backgrounds

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Photo's backgrounds

Postby albero78 » Mon Jul 23, 2007 8:33 am

Hi,

I'm not a big photographer but i would like to know how to take photos with white or coloured backgorund, like this:
http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?i=1519034
or like this
http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?i=2459292

Is it possible?

Thanks a lot in advance
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Postby Hob Took » Tue Jul 24, 2007 2:51 am

Sorry that I don't have any advice albero, but I am also looking for a good answer to this question. I'm not all that great in Photoshop so for my creations I use a blanket as a backdrop. I have an odd feeling that the answer lies in Photoshop (where all digital photography answers lie it seems), but as I said I'm not skilled in Photoshop. I would also be greatful for any advice.

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Postby SavaTheAggie » Tue Jul 24, 2007 3:57 am

Sure it's possible, I do it all the time.

http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?f=89404

There are four things you can do that don't require photoshop.

1) find a white table and a white wall, and push the table as close to the wall as you can. This will create a line where the two meet, but it's certainly better than a cluttered background.

2) take a piece of blank printer paper and prop it up half way, so that half of the paper is lieing on a flat surface, and the other half is straight up and down, with a gentle curve between the two. This will only work for small MOCs, but it will give you a nice, seamless background.

3) go to a craft and/or hobby and/or art supply store and buy yourself several yards worth of wide white paper. It'll cost you a few dollars a yard, but this will give you a huge area to work with. Like with the normal piece of paper, have part of the paper lieing flat on a surface (where your MOC will go) and the other half straight up and down. If you do not cut your roll of paper (you probably won't need all of it), hang the roll above the photo area, it'll make things easier. The problem here is that the paper is pretty thin, so it'll crinkle easily (which is why you bought several yards).

4) buy or find a large, cheap, white bedsheet and drape it over something tall, so it mimics the paper set up. This is what I used in the photo I linked to. This will not get you a purely clean background as paper unless you really work the sheet to be as straight as possible (I'm not that picky). The other problem is the cheaper the sheet, the thinner it will be, so if you hang it in front of something dark, the sheet won't look as white.

Regardless of what you use, make sure to have plenty of light for your photos! 75% of photo problems are not the camera invovled or even the background, but the amount of light used to take the picture. A three light setup is best, as it fills the most shadows with light without overpowering the shot. You'll notice on the round areas of the locomotive pictured, there are three light spots visible.

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Postby Bruce N H » Tue Jul 24, 2007 2:12 pm

Hey,

Just to add to Tony's post about backdrop, I just wanted to add that photo manipulation can also help. You don't need the expensive Brickshelf; Gimp is free and Kevin wrote an article about how to download and use it. There are tons of features, but you don't need to get into all of those details. I find that most of the time I only do 4 things to a photo:
1. Crop it:. Use the dotted-line box to draw a square around part of the image, then go to the image menu -> "crop image", to cut out only the part including the MOC, trimming away excess background.
2. Scale it - Next go to the image menu -> scale image. A menu box pops up that allows you to input width and height (plus some other options you can ignore). Type these in and hit the "scale" button. There's very rarely any need for an image to be larger than 800 pixels (if that).
3. Adjust brightness/contrast - Go to the layer menu -> colors -> brightness-contrast. A box will pop up. Play with the two sliders a bit to make the image look better (I generally increase the brightness by about 30 and the contrast by about 40). Be sure the "preview" box is checked so you will see what your adjustments are doing. Hit the "okay" button to accept the changes.
4. Enhance sharpness: Go to the Filters menu -> enhance -> sharpen. A box will pop up. I generally pull the slider over to about 40 to make the edges crisper.

Anyway, those four simple steps take only a couple of minutes and can make your images look much better.

BTW, as stated above, there are tons of other features that are fun to play with. One great advantage of Gimp over Photoshop (or at least over the older version of Photoshop that I used to have), is that you can "undo" an infinite (or at least a very large) number of actions. When I used Photoshop I could only undo the most recent action, which means if you do two things and are unhappy, you're stuck with all but the most recent change.

Oh, one last thought, once you've mastered using white paper as a background as Tony described above, you may also want to consider other colors of paper. For instance, see how Marakoeschtra uses color in his background to enhance presentation.

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Postby smcginnis » Tue Jul 24, 2007 7:06 pm

Bruce N H wrote:BTW, as stated above, there are tons of other features that are fun to play with. One great advantage of Gimp over Photoshop (or at least over the older version of Photoshop that I used to have), is that you can "undo" an infinite (or at least a very large) number of actions. When I used Photoshop I could only undo the most recent action, which means if you do two things and are unhappy, you're stuck with all but the most recent change.

It may be because it's newer, but in Photoshop CS2 for Mac, all you have to do is go into Preferences >Memory & Image Cache -or- >Plug-Ins & Scratch Disks, and fiddle with 'em till you get what you want. The number of 'undos' you can have is really only limited by how much memory you have.

Anyway, for my white-background pics, I use basically what Sava said; though I need more lighting.

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Postby BreadMan » Tue Jul 24, 2007 8:20 pm

smcginnis wrote:
Bruce N H wrote:BTW, as stated above, there are tons of other features that are fun to play with. One great advantage of Gimp over Photoshop (or at least over the older version of Photoshop that I used to have), is that you can "undo" an infinite (or at least a very large) number of actions. When I used Photoshop I could only undo the most recent action, which means if you do two things and are unhappy, you're stuck with all but the most recent change.

It may be because it's newer, but in Photoshop CS2 for Mac, all you have to do is go into Preferences >Memory & Image Cache -or- >Plug-Ins & Scratch Disks, and fiddle with 'em till you get what you want. The number of 'undos' you can have is really only limited by how much memory you have.

Anyway, for my white-background pics, I use basically what Sava said; though I need more lighting.

~smcginnis


Actually Bruce is right, pressing ctrl-z in photoshop will only undo the most recent action. However, every action you take is saved in the "History" tab, where you can quickly click back to where you were 50 brush strokes ago or even use the history brush to essentially paint backwards in time.

Anyway, here's an example of a good setup. For a background I usually take a wall poster and turn it around since they're usually printed on white and its usually a good quality opaque paper. And as others said the more light you have the better. In this case I have four different lights on, dining room lights are useful for that.

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Result: http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?i=2182910
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Postby smcginnis » Wed Jul 25, 2007 12:33 am

BreadMan wrote:
smcginnis wrote:
Bruce N H wrote:<snip>
<snip>


Actually Bruce is right, pressing ctrl-z in photoshop will only undo the most recent action. However, every action you take is saved in the "History" tab, where you can quickly click back to where you were 50 brush strokes ago or even use the history brush to essentially paint backwards in time.

You're right, but history isn't the only way. Pressing Option-Command-z (I don't know the PC equivalent) keeps taking you back, more than one step, until you reach the limit (It's set to 20 on ours right now). I should learn to use history though, it's better. Also, it's in Preferences>General, that you set the 'History States', not the others I mentioned.

Anyway, enough off topic-ness. Sorry.

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Postby g2 » Thu Aug 02, 2007 6:49 am

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Postby Mr. D » Thu Aug 02, 2007 1:08 pm

smcginnis wrote:Pressing Option-Command-z (I don't know the PC equivalent) keeps taking you back, more than one step, until you reach the limit (It's set to 20 on ours right now).


I believe the PC equivalent would be Alt-Control-Z.

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Postby Peppermint Pig » Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:50 am

One thing you can do is flood your white backdrop with more light than your subject, and with a digital camera set to spot metering, center the camera's position so your subject is square in the middle, and the camera should automatically adjust the exposure/aperture, washing out the background completely for easy masking/selecting in Photoshop or whatever you use.
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Postby albero78 » Thu Sep 13, 2007 1:48 pm

Thanks for all your comments.
I am improving my photos step by step.

Now I am wondering how to add such beatiful backgrounds: http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?i=2564624

And, especially, where to find them...

Can you help me?
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Postby Lamanda2 » Thu Sep 13, 2007 4:42 pm

In order to put in a Backdrops like this, you should first cut around the entire image, leaving a transparent background.
I have yet to find a good way of doing this however.. (If only I could draw a line with the eraser brush I always say, it would work so nicely for me.)

When you have cut the old background away, add a new layer and place it under the first one. Then get your background image and paste it in.

Now, as for where to get these backgrounds, I havn't a clue. The one in the picture you provided was most likely drawn by whoever made the creation (Doesn't look like it would be hard to draw in.)

Hope this helps you out a bit.

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Postby Peppermint Pig » Fri Sep 14, 2007 12:56 am

Just whipped up a tutorial for you, (with images!).

1. Create a new document and fill the background with a flat shade of your choice. This will be the background that goes into your cut out image.
Image


2. Create some 'foreground to transparent' style gradients, where it fills from an opaque color and fades into the existing color. Drag one from the top to the bottom, or near it, and another from the bottom up.
Image


3. If the gradient shifts too quickly, you can apply a few gaussian blurs at a high setting.
Image


4. Adjust the hue if you need to at this point. In some programs, you can adjust individual sections of the spectrum.


5. Create a second document. Either find some cloud photos online, or draw them by hand with an airbrush, and lay them out so they fit the size of your background. Color is not important here since we just want a texture.
Image


6. Desaturate the clouds, and use an 'auto level' adjuster to turn the sky black. If the sky doesn't turn black, use brightness/contrast or levels to get a very strong pattern with decent transition (gray shading).

7. Copy the 'cloud' image, go to your original background document, and try to access the selection mask mode and paste the cloud texture in this channel. (see if your program can do this) In the photo above, the blue is mask channel color and has no effect on the image.

8. Exit the mask mode, and you should have a selection in the shape of your clouds. Use color adjustment tools, airbrushes, or fills to brighten these sections. If the selection is wrong, you can 'invert selection' in some programs.
Image

9. At your option, low opacity gradients applied over the cloud selection can give you a realistic atmosphere effect. You can also deselect and apply a gradient over the entire image to do this as well.

10. Deselect everything in the backround. At your option, use a noise filter to create a very tiny amount of noise so that you look like you have faint photo grain on the clouds that matches your photo.

Now, if you've cut out the image, you can set it on a layer, and slip this background underneath. Voile!!

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Practice makes perfect!

As for selecting your model from the background, I use the mask mode and a brush to draw an outline, then fill one side with a paint fill.
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Postby ottoatm » Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:25 am

Great tutorial Peppermint Pig - It's a style I've never used before. Your "Series of Tubes" pic. is great too - I assume it's a Network Neutrality thing (from BOL?)

Anyway, good stuff here from you guys~
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Postby albero78 » Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:34 am

Thank you very much Peppermint pig! Your tutorial seem very useful!

But I wanted to ask you: which program do you use to do so?

I am not a big expert and I use only Picasa from google which is very easy. Shall I use photoshop to do such kind of things?
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