Cloudinary Blog

How to automatically and professionally remove photo backgrounds

Automatically and professionally remove photo backgrounds

It is common for e-commerce, media, and news sites to remove image backgrounds or make them transparent in order to place the main element of the image on either white or color backgrounds. The final result better integrates an image into a site or specific page’s graphic design. For example, a fashion site that presents clothes or shoes should have the main element of a photo (e.g. shoes) extracted from the original image background, then edited to fit the site’s catalogue design and structure.

Remove-The-Background add-on

RTB logo

We are glad to introduce the Remove-The-Background editing add-on, a third party image processing add-on that supports image background removal. This add-on is brought to you by Remove-The-Background, a leading vendor of image editing solution components, including professional background removal, that is performed by a team of human experts. We, at Cloudinary, have tried it multiple times and the results were pretty impressive.

There are automatic tools that can aid in background removal. Nonetheless, if your goal is to create perfect results, utilizing a graphic editor/designer would be your best bet. However, instead of hiring an in-house or freelance designer, Cloudinary’s Remove-The-Background add-on makes this process much simpler. Since the new add-on is fully integrated into Cloudinary's image management pipeline), when you upload an image, you can easily and automatically have it edited by Remove-The-Background experts.

How to remove a photo background with Cloudinary

We’d like to demonstrate this process, starting with the picture below:

Ruby:
cl_image_tag("shoes_orig.jpg")
PHP:
cl_image_tag("shoes_orig.jpg")
Python:
CloudinaryImage("shoes_orig.jpg").image()
Node.js:
cloudinary.image("shoes_orig.jpg")
Java:
cloudinary.url().imageTag("shoes_orig.jpg")
JS:
cl.imageTag('shoes_orig.jpg').toHtml();
jQuery:
$.cloudinary.image("shoes_orig.jpg")
React:
<Image publicId="shoes_orig.jpg" >

</Image>
Angular:
<cl-image public-id="shoes_orig.jpg" >

</cl-image>
.Net:
cloudinary.Api.UrlImgUp.BuildImageTag("shoes_orig.jpg")
Original shows image

You can begin the process either while the photo is being uploaded to Cloudinary, using the upload API demonstrated in the code sample below, or by using the Admin API for images that have already been uploaded. Simply specify the background_removal parameter in either API.

Ruby:
Cloudinary::Uploader.upload("shoes.jpg",
  :public_id => "shoes",
  :background_removal => 'remove_the_background')
PHP:
\Cloudinary\Uploader::upload("shoes.jpg", 
  array(
    "public_id" => "shoes",
    "background_removal" => "remove_the_background"
  ));
Python:
cloudinary.uploader.upload("shoes.jpg",
  public_id = "shoes",
  background_removal = "remove_the_background")
Node.js:
cloudinary.uploader.upload("shoes.jpg", 
  function(result) { console.log(result); }, 
  { public_id: "shoes",
    background_removal: "remove_the_background" });
Java:
cloudinary.uploader().upload("shoes.jpg", Cloudinary.asMap(
  "public_id", "shoes",
  "background_removal", "remove_the_background"));

As mentioned above, the actual background removal is performed by Remove-The-Background’s team of experts and it could therefore take up to 24 hours to complete. Cloudinary processes the request asynchronously, then when the background removal is complete, the original uploaded image is replaced by an edited one. A backup of the original image is automatically saved to Cloudinary. It is also possible to receive a notification that indicates when the editing process is complete. Below, you can see how the picture's background was removed with great results:

Ruby:
cl_image_tag("shoes.jpg")
PHP:
cl_image_tag("shoes.jpg")
Python:
CloudinaryImage("shoes.jpg").image()
Node.js:
cloudinary.image("shoes.jpg")
Java:
cloudinary.url().imageTag("shoes.jpg")
JS:
cl.imageTag('shoes.jpg').toHtml();
jQuery:
$.cloudinary.image("shoes.jpg")
React:
<Image publicId="shoes.jpg" >

</Image>
Angular:
<cl-image public-id="shoes.jpg" >

</cl-image>
.Net:
cloudinary.Api.UrlImgUp.BuildImageTag("shoes.jpg")
Resulting image with background removed

Pictures can be further manipulated to fit your own graphics and design using Cloudinary's manipulation URLs. For example, below, you can see the same image cropped to 250 x 250, with increased saturation.

Ruby:
cl_image_tag("shoes.jpg", :width=>250, :height=>250, :effect=>"saturation:80", :crop=>"fill")
PHP:
cl_image_tag("shoes.jpg", array("width"=>250, "height"=>250, "effect"=>"saturation:80", "crop"=>"fill"))
Python:
CloudinaryImage("shoes.jpg").image(width=250, height=250, effect="saturation:80", crop="fill")
Node.js:
cloudinary.image("shoes.jpg", {width: 250, height: 250, effect: "saturation:80", crop: "fill"})
Java:
cloudinary.url().transformation(new Transformation().width(250).height(250).effect("saturation:80").crop("fill")).imageTag("shoes.jpg")
JS:
cl.imageTag('shoes.jpg', {width: 250, height: 250, effect: "saturation:80", crop: "fill"}).toHtml();
jQuery:
$.cloudinary.image("shoes.jpg", {width: 250, height: 250, effect: "saturation:80", crop: "fill"})
React:
<Image publicId="shoes.jpg" >
  <Transformation width="250" height="250" effect="saturation:80" crop="fill" />
</Image>
Angular:
<cl-image public-id="shoes.jpg" >
  <cl-transformation width="250" height="250" effect="saturation:80" crop="fill">
  </cl-transformation>
</cl-image>
.Net:
cloudinary.Api.UrlImgUp.Transform(new Transformation().Width(250).Height(250).Effect("saturation:80").Crop("fill")).BuildImageTag("shoes.jpg")
250x250 cropped shows image with background removed

This add-on can remove the background from any type of photo, including pictures of people.

Ruby:
cl_image_tag("woman.jpg")
PHP:
cl_image_tag("woman.jpg")
Python:
CloudinaryImage("woman.jpg").image()
Node.js:
cloudinary.image("woman.jpg")
Java:
cloudinary.url().imageTag("woman.jpg")
JS:
cl.imageTag('woman.jpg').toHtml();
jQuery:
$.cloudinary.image("woman.jpg")
React:
<Image publicId="woman.jpg" >

</Image>
Angular:
<cl-image public-id="woman.jpg" >

</cl-image>
.Net:
cloudinary.Api.UrlImgUp.BuildImageTag("woman.jpg")
Original woman photo Woman photo with background removed

The images below have been dynamically created using Cloudinary's manipulation URLs. 200x200 face-detection based thumbnails were created. The image on the left is a thumbnail of the original image while the image on the right is a thumbnail with the background removed.

Ruby:
cl_image_tag("woman.jpg", :width=>200, :height=>200, :gravity=>"face", :crop=>"thumb")
PHP:
cl_image_tag("woman.jpg", array("width"=>200, "height"=>200, "gravity"=>"face", "crop"=>"thumb"))
Python:
CloudinaryImage("woman.jpg").image(width=200, height=200, gravity="face", crop="thumb")
Node.js:
cloudinary.image("woman.jpg", {width: 200, height: 200, gravity: "face", crop: "thumb"})
Java:
cloudinary.url().transformation(new Transformation().width(200).height(200).gravity("face").crop("thumb")).imageTag("woman.jpg")
JS:
cl.imageTag('woman.jpg', {width: 200, height: 200, gravity: "face", crop: "thumb"}).toHtml();
jQuery:
$.cloudinary.image("woman.jpg", {width: 200, height: 200, gravity: "face", crop: "thumb"})
React:
<Image publicId="woman.jpg" >
  <Transformation width="200" height="200" gravity="face" crop="thumb" />
</Image>
Angular:
<cl-image public-id="woman.jpg" >
  <cl-transformation width="200" height="200" gravity="face" crop="thumb">
  </cl-transformation>
</cl-image>
.Net:
cloudinary.Api.UrlImgUp.Transform(new Transformation().Width(200).Height(200).Gravity("face").Crop("thumb")).BuildImageTag("woman.jpg")
Thumbnail of original woman photo Thumbnail of woman photo with background removed

Remove The Background supports additional editing profiles that can be specified via Cloudinary’s API (e.g. keep/remove shadow, transparent/white background, and more). Please contact us if you need a custom editing profile. For more details about this add-on check out our Remove-The-Background add-on documentation.

Final Notes

Cloudinary’s Remove-The-Background add-on helps preserve your site or app’s professional look, without the need for in-house graphic designers or long and complex editing processes. Customers of the Basic plan or higher can try the Remove-The-Background add-on for free then later subscribe to a plan that best meets your specific requirements.

If you don't have a Cloudinary account yet, sign up for a free account here.

Recent Blog Posts

Build the Back-End For Your Own Instagram-style App with Cloudinary

Github Repo

Managing media files (processing, storage and manipulation) is one of the biggest challenges we encounter as practical developers. These challenges include:

A great service called Cloudinary can help us overcome many of these challenges. Together with Cloudinary, let's work on solutions to these challenges and hopefully have a simpler mental model towards media management.

Read more

Build A Miniflix in 10 Minutes

By Prosper Otemuyiwa
Build A Miniflix in 10 Minutes

Developers are constantly faced with challenges of building complex products every single day. And there are constraints on the time needed to build out the features of these products.

Engineering and Product managers want to beat deadlines for projects daily. CEOs want to roll out new products as fast as possible. Entrepreneurs need their MVPs like yesterday. With this in mind, what should developers do?

Read more

Your Web Image is Unnecessarily Bloated

By Christian Nwamba
Your Web Image is Unnecessarily Bloated

As a developer, it seems inefficient to serve a 2000kb JPEG image when we could compress images to optimize the performance without degrading the visual quality.

We are not new to this kind of responsibility. But our productivity will end up being questioned if we do not deliver fast. In order to do so, the community has devised several patterns to help improve productivity. Let's review few of these patterns based on their categories:

Read more

Google For Nigeria: We saw it all…

By Christian Nwamba
Google For Nigeria: We saw it all…

Note from Cloudinary: Christian Nwamba, a frequent Cloudinary contributor, recently attended, and was a main speaker, at the Google Developer Group (GDG) Conference in Lagos, Nigeria. Christian led a session teaching more than 500 developers how to “Build Offline Apps for the Next Billion Users.” The stack he used included JS (Vue), Firebase, Service Workers and Cloudinary. Below is his account of the conference and his talk.

Read more
Viral Images: Securing Images and Video uploads to your systems

When was the last time you got paid $40,000 for a few days of work? That is what happened last year to Russian independent security researcher Andrey Leonov, who discovered that if you upload a specially constructed image file to Facebook, you can make Facebook's internal servers, nested deep within their firewalls, run arbitrary commands to expose sensitive internal files in a way that could easily lead to a data breach.

Read more