Aug 11, 2014

How to Clean Backgrounds in Photoshop

How to Clean Backgrounds in Photoshop

The white background has become a standard in the photography world and for good reasons. You can pick up a white seamless background for less than $100, turning any space into a photo studio.

Backdrop paper is also ideal for cutting people out of their backgrounds or eliminating distractions. Many popular celebrity portraits were photographed in hotel rooms using a roll of white seamless paper.

Because your subjects will be standing on a giant sheet of white paper, chances are the paper is going to get dirty. In today’s episode we show you how to clean a backdrop in Photoshop.

Clean Backdrop using Median Filter

The fastest way to clean a background in Photoshop is by using Photoshop’s Filters. We found that the Median filter works very well and saves a ton of time. Go to Filter -> Noise -> Median and choose a radius that will make all the dirt vanish. Be sure to do this on a copy of your background layer so you can use a layer mask and just have this effect show up over the background.

If you have any areas that the Median Filter missed, take care of them with the healing brush tool and you are good to go!


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    Natasha Heredia

    SOOOOOO HELPFUL!!! Im sure there are other things I could use this for, as well. (is there ANY item in PS that Nacer doesn’t know how to use??!). 🙂 Thanks!

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      If I recall he didn’t know what the history brush did lol. But I totally agree when it comes to PS he is the man I turn too

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    Martin Boss

    This is awesome . Such a time saver
    Phlearn is so awesome .
    I heart you guys.

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    Andreas Källberg

    Aaron i love you and phlearn, this is a technique i used to do to all my backdrops, its really good and timesaving BUT its really really destructive and you get ALOT of banding and Moiré (interfearencepattern) so even with a 16bit conversion before median filter this is not a good way to retouch files for print or work.
    Do the median filter and then add a curves layer on top and crank the curve down to the bottom dark and the layer will reveal the destruction to the image, and that will show even better on a printed photo.
    Otherwise its a fast easy way and simple to use =)

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    Jean Fernandez

    Oh Aaron and Phlearn Pholk: How do I love thee…let me count the ways! You are crazy good.

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    Tjeerd Doosje

    This is fantastic, Aaron! But does it also works on background cloth (with wrinkles and so)?

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    Regarding your post-processing workflow, would you apply these corrections at the beginning (like, before you play with general exposition correction, coloring, etc) or the end of your process?

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    Hans Richard

    Ohhh “Mr. Ph – antastic – learn”.. great but late… at least for my last job at the studio. Had a lot of work to clean it up!

    But I will keep your phantastic workflow in my mind for the next one…

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    Same here haha!, i was cloning and cloning some pictures the past week, this would saved me a lot of time! , but the best think is now i know this exist! :D, every day we learn new things, with phlearn is like 5 things! haha, thank you Aaron!

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    Sue Taylor

    I always PHLEARN so much that I no longer waste my time with other creative possibilities.
    I do believe you are the creative that teaches other creatives, they just don’t want to tell you.

    Your amazing, this was one of the best episodes
    I have been PHLEARNED

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    Im sure you wanted to use some noise for that banding 😀 Hope this works on my Dark Gray Backdrop. Thank you 😀

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    Any chance you might do something on shooting and processing time lapse sequences?

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    OMG!!!! This is flipping fantastic!!! So wish I would’ve found this video back when I did a shoot for an antique place……had to spend a ridiculous amount of time cleaning up the white seamless floor after shooting a gazillion difference antiques!!!!! Thanks Aaron….you rock! Your tutorials absolutely rock!!! Thanks again

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    Babatunde Morgan

    Since I discovered you I cant stop seeing your tutorials. They are simple, straight forward and if I should say truthful. You are fabulous Aaron….

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    Harry Kobzeff

    Way cool, it also seems to work well to blur a stucco like background smoother.
    Mucho gusto..

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    Super useful tutorial. I used this to clean up some of the crud that you get when you shoot through an airplane window, but I did end up with a ton of banding – I think that would be a useful video: cleaning up dirty glass/plexiglass, and dealing with banding afterwards.

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    Mohammed Neymathulla Shariff

    Initially I used to use Clone tool to clean the background and it use to take so much of time, but since this one, I finish it very easily.


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    Sean Berry

    Brilliant! I want to go one step further and ask, how do you create a backdrop that is as smooth as the image I have attached?

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    Debbie Klecan

    I bow down to your greatness!!! The best tutorial for cleaning up backdrops. I just finished shooting tons of animals (I’m a dog photographer), back to back to back. Had no time to clean, shake or dust dog hair. This has been a life saver!! Works great on a black backdrop!!! Thanks, I know it takes personal time to make and post tutorials. You just saved me hours of time!!! Happy Holidays!!!

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    Debbie Klecan

    Just have to add that I’m using this filter not only for seamless backdrops, I’ve used this for cleaning up an old leather couch I use in the studio. I applied the median filter than used a brush at a lower opacity (20%) was able to “dust” the couch. Great!!!

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    Fantastic Aaron! I love your tutorials but this is the best so far. Saving me so much time. Thank you!

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    Oh my gosh, this is awesome! I can’t tell you how many hours I played around trying to fix the background from a family portrait session I just did the other day. The background was mostly perfect, but I had these dark creases where the backdrop folded over a bit. Nothing worked as well as I wanted and I had to keep starting over. This tip saved the day, Thank you!!!