Here’s a tool you may not have heard about but may useful at some time in the future. It’s called Clipping Magic, and it’s designed to remove backgrounds from user-uploaded pictures.
The concept is rather simple, you upload an image, mark the areas in the background you don’t want in red, and mark the areas in the foreground you do want in green. The website’s algorithm takes over and (hopefully) produces a background-free picture. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But how does it fare when used for an image with a background you actually want to remove?
When travel photographer Craig Pulsifer accidentally smashed the front of his lens recently and found his lens filter fused firmly to the metal threads, he went to Canon for help. The removal process explained to him by a Canon Professional services technician is probably something most people wouldn’t think to try: use a hammer and hacksaw to surgically remove the stuck filter. Pulsifer followed the advice, and found that it works quite well (though he does warn that it’s “not recommended for the faint of heart”).
If you ever need to remove a photograph that has been glued to paper or cardboard, you can try using the same trick that stamp collectors use: soaking in water. Amateur photographer Michael T. Lauer writes on Quora,
Photos are processed in water so they can stay in water for a fairly long time. A lot of glue is not waterproof so it will lose strength in water. So, I’d approach this by soaking a print with paper backing in a tray with water (at room temperature) for 20-30 minutes. Take the print out of the water and lay it on a piece of rigid glass or plastic face down. Try to work the paper off the print by lifting at the edges. This part is trial and error.
After completing the work on the back, clean (squeegee) the glass/plastic and dip the print briefly in the water bath. Place the print on the glass face-up and squeegee the surface so that it’s free of water drops (this will prevent spotting). Place the print on a drying screen (a screen like what is used in a window but not metal) face down and leave it where air can circulate around it to dry over night.
Lauer warns against using heat or physical removal of the glue and paper, as both techniques could cause damage to the print.
Should I detach old photographs that have been glued to construction paper, and if so how? [Quora]
Image credit: Old Family Photos by amishsteve
Photoshop CS5′s Content Aware Fill feature was quite a hit when it came out earlier this year, but what about free alternatives? Webinpaint is a web-based photo app that aims to do just that. You simply open up an image, paint over the area you’d like removed, and click the “Inpaint” button for the app to do its removal magic.
From tests I’ve done with the app, it’s pretty clear it doesn’t come close to the power of Content Aware Fill. However, for simple photographs without much texture or clutter, the app actually works quite well.