Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

Selling photos across agencies

How to check if your images are properly isolated on white

Portrait of a young woman, isolated on white background

Portrait isolated on white background

I thought it might be interesting to share a few things how I process my images to avoid rejections at any microstock agencies. Here is a quick way to check if your images are properly isolated on a white background.

This image is part of a series I shot with a new model. All images were shot in the studio with a white backdrop, lit with two strobes from both sides.

So the basis for an “isolated on white” image was already there. Dealing with removing an existing background is a totally different thing and requires quite a lot of work cutting out the object/person to be isolated. Naturally I prefer to keep it easy, so shooting on a white background is essential to efficiently produce images for microstock in my opinion.

Well, having said that, lighting the background correctly also means you can not overexpose the white too much because you would get spill light removing details from the hair which might result in “stray areas” and consequently rejections.

So you will find out that an evenly white background without spill lights is quite hard to achieve (or requires more than two strobes). But we can check quickly to find out which areas are not properly white yet.

Adding a Levels layer and moving the mid arrow all the way to the right

To do this, I add a Levels layer in Photoshop and move the mid arrow all the way to the right, so the values below the area show 0 / 0,01 / 255.
What this does is to change all pixels that are not pure white (255) to show more contrast – or in other words to show up more colorful than just a mild grey.
By the way, in some cases I actually add a second Levels layer doing the same again, so even a pixel with 255, 255, 254 values will not just become a very light blueish pixel.
When you have done that, you will get an outline of your main object or person that should be isolated. At this stage, you can also check if any pixels in your main object is still showing as white because that would mean a blown out highlight in your object!


But the main reason to do this is to find areas that are not properly white – even from the small screen shot below you can identify the affected areas in the top right corner, left of the girl’s head. Also you might notice there is a small hair on my sensor in the bottom right part of the image, sitting next to the girl on the white background. 🙂

With a levels layer, you can easily see the non-white parts (e.g. the top right corner)

With a levels layer, you can easily see the non-white parts (e.g. the top right corner)

Having checked an image this way will almost certainly avoid rejections at any agency for “poor isolation” or “stray areas”.

Just another remark: As you might notice, I have changed the background in Photoshop to a light gray as I noticed that I have missed black pixels at the border of the image if the Photoshop background was set too dark.

Good luck with your shots.


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