Photography Software

How do I quickly remove a background from an image?

remove background from an image
Back off: Remove.bg is a fine background-removal tool

You’ve got a lovely photo of someone, but you don’t want whatever’s in the background. How do you quickly remove a background from an image?

Until this week, I’d have recommended a free piece of photo software called Paint.Net or getting your hands dirty with Photoshop. However, a new one-trick-pony website has arrived that does the job automatically and pretty damned accurately too. 

 Remove a background with Remove.bg

Before we get going, there are a couple of notable limitations with Remove.bg. First, it has an upload image limit of 8MB. That means you might need to lower the quality of your original photo to make this service work. 

Second, it only works with portraits of people. If it doesn’t spot a person or people in the photo, it will refuse to do its magic.

Those stipulations aside, using Remove.bg is ridiculously easy. You either select a photo from your computer or enter the web address (URL) of a photo you have on a website. 

Remove.bg does its thang, shows you the results and then lets you download the file. For those of a more technical bent, the file is downloaded as a PNG with a transparent background, making it easy to drop onto websites or to put a new background behind the photo in apps such as Photoshop. 

How good are the results? Take a look for yourself. I threw a variety of portraits at Remove.bg and it coped well with almost all of them. 

The portrait below, for example, is taken from an unusual angle and has some awkward areas to cut out, such as the strands of my daughter’s hair, but it does a very neat job. 

I expected this cut-out of my elder daughter to also include the wall, because it’s in the foreground, but Remove.bg did well to recognise that the wall wasn’t part of the main subject.

The only image of the five I tested where Remove.bg struggled was the image below. It does a pretty good job, despite having two subjects and a very busy background, but leaves a bit of the background behind beneath the handshake. 

Nevertheless, for a free, quick-and-easy service, it really is very hard to complain about Remove.bg. It’s gone straight into my bookmarks. 

Now read this: How do I automatically select the subject of a photo in Photoshop?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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