Free T-Shirts for Usable Palm/Plant Photos (Tutorial)


Staff member
There has been some interest in an offer of a free T-Shirt in exchange for a usable rare palm or plant photo. So I will try to explain what we need, and why what sounds so simple is not.

1) Of course, the better the camera, and the highest quality setting available, the better. And in a RAW format if possible.
2) I didn't realize it until now, but almost all of my palm photos have some part of the palm missing. There is a frond or emerging spear cut off. Can't have that. The whole crown or leaf must be included.
3) Of course, it must be a good looking specimen - no broken fronds, holes or brown tipping on leaflets. A few minor blemishes I can "fix." And an isolated dead frond that is hanging down can be eliminated as well. But not if it is hanging in front of stuff that needs to be saved.
4) And also of course, focus is important. It is one of the things that can not be corrected after the fact. Too bright or too dark exposure is difficult to work with as well.

But the most crucial and difficult part of this whole process is the background. We need to isolate and remove the background. This is very difficult, and sometimes impossible if it is not distinctly different from the subject palm. Unfortunately, most big palms are not isolated and always have more green palms in the background. Below are two examples of photos I tried to use but could not, due to the backgrounds. (More instructions follow in subsequent posts with photos that worked)


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So that is why the first designs offered are small palms, or just an isolated leaf. Below are the ways I did the first several designs. Anything that creates as plain and distinct background as possible is a plus. Below are examples ot the rough photos, before a lot of Photoshopping of some of the first designs. It should give you an idea of what is needed.

It should also be noted that another crucial consideration is the detail of the subject. That is the reason that all of the first designs have been fan or entire leaf specimens. A finely pinnate palm, even with a good background may prove impossible. However, if a background is perfectly uniform that may even be possible. Those familiar with the "green screen" in video production will understand the principle. In the examples below, I created a background that was distinct and monotone enough, and the plants were undetailed enough, that I was able to remove the background.


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Two more examples of photos that don't work. In the first one from Kim Cyr, she recognized that the fronds are cut off. But in addition, the sun would look very odd in a shirt design. Also the fine detail between the leaflets might be difficult to print, and difficult to remove the sky in those small spaces. However, if it was against a very uniform grey sky, and the file was not compressed (.JPGs are compressed, RAW & TIFFs are not) the grey color could possibly be removed all at once.

And the second one from Pauline's garden I thought I could work with. Even though there is a troublesome background, the fronds have little detail to work around. However, there is too much brown tipping on too many fronds. I could remove the damaged fronds, but the tips of the remaining ones were still too far gone. And another palm "intrudes" in front of a frond. Plus the shadows were bad.


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Something like this may work. Although it is taken with a small telephoto, so not very focused - but on a shirt, maybe not a factor. But if the sky was a uniform color, that would make it much easier. Believe it or not, there are many colors in that sky. So removing by colors is difficult, and removing manually is still time consuming detailed art work. But with a monotonous blue or grey sky, it may be quick and easy.

This is still a work and techniques that are in their infancy. That is why any help with submissions will be rewarded.


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Here are a few sample shots of a plant I bought from Jeff as Dypsis remotiflora a few years back. If you think these will work send me an email and I will send you the original size files.



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That's a perfect candidate Nick. If you could only get the background, including the pot, out of the equation. If the background was all on color, I could remove it fairly simply. But as is, I would have to do it manually like with a tiny eraser outlining the leaves perfectly. With a cardboard cut out behind it, I could program the software to remove that color, and whamo, a shirt is born.

Even a small cardboard to block out the pot, and a better more uniforum surface behind would work. It doesn't look like it, but there are a hundred different colors in that background.

If you want to try it, it would get you a free shirt. The palm's a beauty.

If you want upload the original to the wiki. We can use it in the encyclopedia, and I can play with it as is. I never know what the software will do until I start playing with it. It's just the more uniform and distinctly different than any colors on the palm, the better.