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I know that in movies they use green screens or similar to be able to edit out the background from shots. But what is the name of a piece of equipment or setup I need in order to take a picture of say an apple and be able to crop out everything else except for the apple?

In other words, I want to create transparent background photos of regular objects.

enter image description here

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You could make one yourself quite easily from some sheets and ikea plastic boxes. The absolutely crucial trick, however, is the lighting. That is an art in itself. You will need at least tree light sources. –  Benteh Apr 14 at 19:15
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@RandomO'Reilly Not grass light sources, but tree light sources? Oh dear! –  Doorknob Apr 14 at 21:12
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Hahaha! points to me for typing faster than I think :D Three, of course. Growing bioluminescent trees is such a tedious task. –  Benteh Apr 14 at 21:14
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We used to do this with A3 sheets of white paper, tape, a tripod and a couple of desk lamps. It's all in the arrangement. If you use green paper, chances are you'll get green reflections on your apple. –  superluminary Apr 15 at 12:19
    
I have been in pro studios. Paper, cardboard, and lots of tape are professional grade tools –  horatio Apr 15 at 14:42

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I have had some luck "hacking Ikea" for similar projects. For greenscreen-effects, they even have bright green tables :D. This is but one alternative, and you find instructions here, at IkeaHackers

With the use of two hampers, this is the result:

enter image description here

But here is the real crux: succeeding with this, lighting is alpha and omega. You will need at least three lamps. Desklamps would often do, but get hold of some filters (thin translucent something) to "soft-boxing" the direct sources. And get a bunch of different bulbs too. I would advise that you do some searching and research on lighting methods.

This setup will give you reasonable results, and is particularly important for shiny object.

Other resources for more detail on that, you will find if you search for "jewellery photography". A well-known hassle, and lots of good solutions out there.


Edit:

Here is an example of a setup for lighting, taken from making it lovely Note that Ikea has similar semi-translucent storage boxes.

enter image description here

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Thanks, this is the hobby grade answer I was looking for! –  Alex Stone Apr 15 at 21:24
    
Glad you find it useful - have fun! –  Benteh Apr 15 at 21:40

How about a light box? They are cubes made of some sort of semi-translucent fabric that diffuses the light. You can probably find something like that in your local photography equipment store. Here is one:

http://www.ezcube.com/

I made my own, though, out of cardboard and velum paper. And I used plain 100W lights instead of professional ones. Here is a tutorial showing how to make one.

http://www.wikihow.com/Create-an-Inexpensive-Photography-Lightbox

I took the picture of the black container in this page using my home made light-box. I kept the background a bit "off white" intentionally, but if you increase the exposure (or light) you can easily get the perfect white background.

http://www.cockypup.com/project.aspx?pid=indeedpack

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Chroma Keying is the use of a backdrop that makes it easier, particularly in video production, to use the "keyed color" as a mask.

If you look up "Setting Up a Chroma Key studio" on your favorite search engine you should find a good number of resources, guides, and tips on creating a nice studio space for yourself. The process for still photography is really about the same as it is for cinematography. The only difference I could think of is because photography is simpler you can get away with different color "screens" which makes it even easier to remove shadows or reflections from either the background or object.

Another term to look into is Matte. If the bulk of the objects you're working with are small then instead of using a screen you might be able to use a Lightbox.

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Bigger than a light box is a light tent, which may be made quite cheaply from white fabric/white plastic shower curtains. A "proper" backdrop might be useful, and you might need quite a lot of light. This tend to be done more often than chroma-keying for photography at least where there's a chance of reflections of the background from the object being photographed. –  Chris H Apr 15 at 7:30
    
Chroma-key is great for video, but feels like overkill for photography when all you want is a shadow on a white background. –  superluminary Apr 15 at 13:35
    
@superluminary the original question doesn't in any way ask for a shadow on a white background. It asks for being able to create a transparent background. There is a distinct difference. –  Ryan Apr 15 at 13:46
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The image is an apple on a white background. The question is to crop everything except the apple. I'm assuming the shadow may also be required. –  superluminary Apr 15 at 14:26

Usually, what's done in that case is simply to shoot the object against a white backdrop with lighting positioned to control the shadow.

Some homebrew examples can be seen at http://www.instructables.com/howto/photo+backdrop/

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