StyleShoots automatically gives product shots transparent backgrounds
By Ben Coxworth
August 6, 2013
When incorporating photographs of products into catalogs or websites, it’s always helpful if those photos have a digitally-transparent background. This means that a computer working with the photo will allow the user to add in whatever background they wish behind the product – or give it no background at all – instead of being stuck with the background against which it was originally shot. In the past, creating such an image has often required graphic artists to manually cut the product out of the shot, using a program such as Photoshop. Now, however, the StyleShoots system is able to create product shots with transparent backgrounds within seconds, as the photos are being taken.
Each StyleShoots rig consists of a large glass light table, overhead daylight simulation lamps, an integrated Mac mini, an iPad and a Canon 5D Mark II camera.
Users place their product on the table beneath the camera, then use a custom app on the iPad to operate the system. When triggered, StyleShoots will take two photos of the item – one in which it’s only backlit by the LED lighting within the table, and one where it’s also lit from above by the lamps.
Using a process known as Auto Alpha, the onboard software then analyzes the pixels in both images, and combines them into one background-less composite shot. The finished image is then transmitted to the iPad. The process reportedly even works well on items with “busy” edges, such as fringed scarves and fur coats. If you’ve ever seen such an item shot using the “green screen” technology used in film and television (such as in TV weather reports), then you’ll know how problematic they can be.
Although it appears that StyleShots would be best suited to relatively flat item such as garments, a company representative tells us that it can be used for photographing anything that can fit on the table, “even a person.”
The system was first designed in the Netherlands in 2011, but has only recently crossed the pond to the US, where it’s making its official stateside launch later this month. The client list already includes companies such as Tommy Hilfiger, Perry Ellis and Macy’s. If you want one for use on your Etsy or eBay shop, though, start saving your cash. A complete system is priced at US$84,995, can be rented for $250 an hour, or leased starting at $2,500 a month.
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