iPhone Product Photography & Removing Backgrounds
by Darian Muresan, Ph.D.
This article presents a practical use case of iPhone product photography & background removal using Iconasys Shutter Stream Product Photography Software. For our use case we used an iPhone 7+ with iOS 12 – but any iOS higher than iOS 10 or Android device with an OS higher than Lollipop will work.
The configuration of our iPhone Product Photography use case is shown in the figure below. It consists of: (1) four 8.5” x 11” pieces of paper taped together to form a larger white background, (2) a standard desk lamp and (3) an iPhone 7+ held by a vise mounted on a tripod. The phone could be hand held, but for convenience and to minimize blur, it is recommended that the iPhone is mounted on a secure stand.
For professional product photography results, we always recommend using proper lighting, such as a Product Photography Lighting Studio by Iconasys. However, the goal of this use case is to show that users can achieve professional, background removed images using a simpler setup, such as a low cost product photography lighting kit and mobile device.
Second, the Shutter Stream Wireless Camera Controller Mobile Application (App Store / Google Play Store) is opened on the iPhone and it provides information about the IP address that needs to be entered in the Shutter Stream Product Photography Software (to allow the desktop software to control the iPhone camera). Once the IP is entered in the desktop software, the computer connects wirelessly to the mobile camera. The mobile application screenshots, showing how the mobile application acts before and after the connection with the computer, are shown in Figure 2.
Third, once Shutter Stream connects to the iPhone, it will be able to wirelessly control the phones camera. Images are snapped from inside the desktop software and are automatically transferred from the iPhone app to the computer. One particular feature, also academic in nature, is that the desktop Product Photography Software allows users to directly control the camera settings, such as: shutter speed, aperture, white balance, exposure compensation and ISO, as shown below.
The camera settings window provides control over the camera and after experimenting with the different features for a short period of time, even a non-photographer develops a good intuition about the different camera controls and how they affect the final image quality. A few pointers are in order.
Shutter speed is defined in seconds (or fraction of seconds) and represents the amount of time the sensor is exposed to light. Smaller numbers are good for high speed shooting and to minimize blur. If the number is too small, more light or a more sensitive sensor is needed. In this example we used a shutter speed value of 1/70 to minimize any shake that may happen with the table when image was snapped.
Aperture represents the opening of the shutter. A large value corresponds to a smaller opening. On the iPhone 7+ phone, the aperture is fixed at a value of 1.8. When the value can be controlled, a larger aperture value results in a deeper depth of field, which is more ideal for product photography, unless users plan on doing focus stacking. In the case you need to achieve more depth of field in your product photography (ex. jewelry photography), a more professional grade camera may be a good consideration.
ISO represents the sensitivity of the sensor. A smaller number requires more light and tends to generate less noisy images. Thus, we recommend trying to keep this value as low as possible, which should be easy when shooting with camera fixed on a tripod (as you can adjust shutter speed to stay open for longer when not hand holding the phone for photography).
Fourth, the keys to separating an object from its background are: (1) minimize shadows and (2) create as much contrast as possible between the object and the background, especially around its edges.
Due to our simplistic lighting setup, shadows cannot be completely removed, but they can be minimized by adjusting the lamp’s and camera’s position. Thus, we recommend setting the desk lamp right above the object, minimizing shadows as much as possible and placing the camera as close to the light source, as possible.
Fifth, using the Shutter Stream Product Photography Software, we took images of several objects, as shown in Figure 4 below.
After these images were captured, they were edited in Shutter Stream’s image editing area. The image editing tools included in Shutter Stream are vast and will be sufficient for any product photography requirements. In this example, product photography background removal was applied using the magic wand tool, as shown in Figure 5.
The background is removed around the product. To remove the rest of the background, use the lasso tool – which can remove or add background back into the image, as shown in Figure 6.
The final steps are the straightening of the object using the arbitrary rotation tool and applying cropping based on the desired size. Crop size can be customized to a fixed ratio, such as a perfect square or any other ratio. The final results are shown in Figure 7. There is a slight shadow on the object, but in this case, it adds a certain level of realism. These images are saved as alpha-aware images and the background can be replaced with any desired color or background image.
In conclusion, this article presented a practical use case of the iPhone Product Photography & removing product photography backgrounds. It showed how to easily capture images from a mobile device (in this example iPhone) to your computer and how to remove the product photography backgrounds. Shutter Stream Product Photography Software increases efficiency in three ways: (1) capturing images directly to your computer, from mobile and digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras (compatible cameras), (2) editing product photography and removing product images backgrounds and (3) outputting images of different sizes and formats.
About the author: Darian Muresan manages the software and hardware development at Iconasys and is a key contributor to Iconasys’ image processing algorithms. Darian has undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics from University of Washington (Seattle, WA.); and a Masters and Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Cornell University (Ithaca, NY.).