Retouchup Blog

Tips for Better Clipping Photos

It seems that more photographers are beginning to realize the many uses for clipped photographs. Clipping has been widely used for sports photos and products, now we are seeing a variety of uses for clipped photos. For those who have never had the need for a clipped photo here is a brief description of the product, process and uses. 

Any photo that has a distinct subject and a plain or non-cluttered background could be a candidate for clipping. The main image is kept intact while the background is removed leaving a transparent background. The resulting image saved as a .png can be manipulated in Photoshop onto any other backdrop for digital sports posters, banners etc. Product shots can be placed or composited onto virtually any background and changed very easily. While it is a relatively straight forward process there are many things to consider when shooting an image for clipping.


There are backgrounds specifically designed for color recognition extraction software to remove a background through an auto extraction program. Often these are very intense green or blue backgrounds. With proper use these can be very effective. There are limitations and drawbacks to using these. One of the most common problems is a green or blue reflection on glasses, white uniforms and light colored hair. With proper lighting and sufficient subject to background distance, these problems can be minimized. 

At RetouchUp we do not require nor suggest using these green or blue backgrounds as we do not use auto-extraction software. For a good clean clip we do need separation of the subject from the background. If possible, a plain UNLIT white or light grey background works just fine. Since successful clipping depends on tonal separation, hair can get lost if the subject has dark hair and you shoot against a dark backdrop or very light hair on a white backdrop.  We routinely see a large number of sports images that are taken directly on a gym floor or on an outdoor field and these are fine. As long as we have good tonal separation between the subject and the background we are usually successful in achieving a good clip.

Lighting and Exposure

Not all images clip out equally well. Light from a flash with most any modifier will yield better results than photos taken in very soft light or with ambient light.  Consideration of the working aperture is also very important. In close-up head shots for example, the ears and hairline should be in sharp focus, otherwise an out of focus edge will be evident. In product photography an out of focus edge will detract from the product. See example of an in focus image versus and out of focus image. Use a sufficient aperture of at least f/8 or higher to get sharpness across the image for best results.   

In focus.

Out of focus.


While most clipping instructions are straight forward there are times that they can be confusing. Once we received a brother and sister photo and the instruction was “remove the background, need boy, also clip out sister.” This instruction could be understood to keep or remove the girl. It would have been clearer to say “Clip and keep boy only”.

We receive many photos involving tennis balls, baseballs etc. Usually the aim is to keep those in the image as well. Simple instructions of “clip and keep ball” will be easiest to understand. If you have an unusual situation and are unsure how to specify your request please call, email or live chat with our Customer Service team.


What clipping is NOT

Some clients see the word “removal” and will send a photo in asking for us to remove a car or a person from an image. To remove a person or object such as a car or other item from a background and rebuild the image to cover the void space will be a Special Services retouch. 


Other uses for clipping

If you send a photo in and ask for clipping and request a JPEG instead of the usual .png return you will have a background that is pure white.  This is ideal for simple product display on a web-based storefront.

Web based auction items are seen more clearly after removing a distracting background.

Many Photographers who need perfectly matched backgrounds for a sorority composite or corporate headshots for web use will ask for clipping and then place those images individually on one stock background for a perfect background color match. 

Photographers by nature are a very creative and imaginative group.  Think through your current line of products to see where you could use our clipping service. If you have specific questions about our clipping path service and how we may help you please contact our Customer Service team today. 



The RetouchUp Team