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Are you going to use “that” as the background? It’s a question I get all the time, and the answer is no, and we’re not going to blur it out either; what we are going to do is use background replacement technology using AI.

When clients see me setting up for their business portrait with no background other than what is in the room and a backlight pole sticking out of their heads, it’s only natural to ask, “are you going to blur that background.” The answer is no, but we are going to replace it in photoshop with the background that you choose.

It used to be, in the old days (they weren’t so good, you know), I had to carry a background with me on location. Whether it was the background we would be using for the final photo or a green screen that I could use for the background replacement, that was how it was.

In the last few years, background replacement technology in photoshop, using artificial inelegance (AI), has become so good that it is better than the green screen we used for years, freeing me from having to carry that background and a stand to hang it on.

Most of us have heard of green screen, or chromakey, used for many years now in movies and TV (think the weatherman in front of that weather map) and at event venues where they will take photos of you and your kids with a green screen and then put them into the scene, be it Niagra Falls, or an event ride.

We used a green screen in the studio for many years, but it had its issues. One would be what is known as “spill.” You had to set the subject, background, and lighting up just right, or there would be that slight green around the edges: that “spill.”  If you got it wrong, it would not be “slight” at all: very distracting and making for an unusable image. Even when you did it right, there were still some subjects, like bald men and someone with white hair that would still have a light green around the edges.

With AI background replacement, we do have to watch that we are not taking photos against a wall with a bright color. That color will tend to “spill” onto the subject as it did with the green screen. If we have that situation and don’t have another choice as to where to set up, we can ensure the subject is a few feet away from the wall. We also need to ensure that the subject doesn’t blend into the background. Situations like a very dark or black wall and people with dark hair would be a problem, but other than those two situations, we don’t need to pay any attention to what is in the background. Junk in the room, poles, computers, it doesn’t matter; as long as the subject can be seen against the background, we are good.

One issue that both green screen and AI have in common, which doesn’t come into play with headshots, is that when we remove the background from full-length subjects, they can appear to be floating. In that case, we can do a little shadowing with photoshop or not include the ground in the background replacement, but most of the time, I try to avoid full-length shots when I’m replacing the background.

I have been using this AI background replacement for a few years, and it has made my job much easier. Allowing me quicker set up and being able to set up in spaces that I would never have been able to when I had to set up a background. Plus, like a green screen, I can offer just about anything as a background. I have used photos I’ve taken in Sequoia, NP, a walkway with fall colors near Costco, simple photos of green grass, and the most commonly painted backgrounds like gray and blue in the examples here. I can also match a background you are using already, allowing you to keep a consistent look on your website and marketing materials.

So don’t worry if there is a lot of junk or that pole sticking out of the subject’s head. We are just going to “photoshop” that.

Here are some examples of before and after background replacement.

Elizabete before
Elizabete with BG
Juan, original background
Juan, background replacement

As the photos above show the before and after images, you can see how what is in the background doesn’t matter to the finished images. With the photo of Elizabete from World Wide Sires in Visalia, we took the photo in a small conference room, and as you can see, there is a wall, a background stand used for my hair light, and part of a window blind. With Juan, who works for Merrill Linch, we took this photo in his living room, where you can see that stand, a plant, and part of a photo frame, but in both cases, you would never know that we didn’t use a “real” background for the photos.