Author Photo Tools: How to Remove Backgrounds

Have you got a great snapshot that would make a great author photo, “if only…?”

Here’s how to get rid of distracting backgrounds, whether it’s a tree branch growing out of your head, telephone cables crisscrossing the sky, or the shoulder of you know who. If you hire a professional photographer you can ask them to create versions with transparent backgrounds for you and include round or “bubble” versions of your headshots, too. This is easy for them, and may not cost any more if you ask them to do it as part of the retouching process that’s included with your package.

No money for a pro or you’ve got a great shot? Here’s how to remove the background and clean up the edges.

Free & Paid Photo Background Removal Tools

PhotoScissors and Background Burner are both free but takes some work to get the removal correct. Even so, I would still do a little (easy) work in Photoshop or Gimp to get it just right. You’ll see, in the examples below.

Remove.bg is arguably the best and it is free for one photo only. If you want another, you’ll pay a whopping $89/mo with their subscription plan. This product seems to be for professional photographers or web pros, who may also like their Photoshop extension. So use this tool one time or pay for just one month. Better yet, hire someone on Fiverr if you need to remove the background of more than one image. It really only costs five dollars.

I’ve tried all these tools and here are my results.

My Results with the Tools

Let’s take a look at each of these tools.

  • Remove.bg
  • PhotoScissors
  • Background Burner
  • Fiverr

Here are the details:


Remove.bg did a great job finding every strand of my flyaway hair and smoothing the edges of my jacket. I used their erase tool to eliminate the flyaway hairs. Remove.bg will let you edit one photo for free, then it’s a pricy $89/mo.

Results for RemoveBg photo editing tool

It was easy to erase the flyaway and ghostly hairs using their erase tool.


I kind of enjoyed coloring with PhotoScissors’s highlighters and I think it did just as great a job as Remove.bg. I used the green (keep) highlighter on my teeth because it originally showed my teeth as a white blur. It doesn’t have an eraser tool so I would still need to remove those stray hairs with a tool like Photoshop or GIMP.

PhotoScissors remove background tool

I thinkPhotoScissors is the best free tool for removing backgrounds from headshots. PhotoScissors instructed me to use the yellow highlighter for hair, green for keep, and red for delete. It did a great job on the hair, too. Again, I’d use Photoshop or GIMP to erase the hair outside the area where the sun caught it because their edit tool is a bit awkward.

Photoscissors also lets you change the background color. Note that I uploaded both versions of my image results from Remove.bg–—the one with the flyaway hair and the smoothed out version. There’s a bit of a halo effect but you might like it.

Photoscissors background color change

I uploaded an image that combined both the photos from Remove.bg to use the color change effect in Photoscissors. It’s kinda cool, no?

Background Burner

Background Burner takes yet another approach, offering five gradually more radical background removal options to start with.

Carla King author photo retouched with Background Burner

Once you’ve chosen the starting point, you can touch up the results with red and green highlighters. I used the first (top left) result to create the image below.

The touchup tools didn’t give me great results, leaving me with a “cutout” look on the right side of the hair. Still… a good start!

background burner image removal tool

The Background Burner touchup tool wasn’t as precise as I would have liked and the results are artificially smooth. Using the erase tool in Photoshop or GIMP would work.


Sometimes it takes a skilled human to do the best job. For example, I had a Fiverr Photoshop pro replace the background from the photo below for this product sponsorship shot and he did a great job. In the original image, there was another plane visible behind the jet, some cables across the sky, and the sky itself was almost white.

A Fiverr Photoshop pro created a darker blue sky and touched up my flyaway hair. You can get somebody to do this for you for five to ten dollars.

GIMP or Photoshop?

It’s empowering to be able to edit your own images and there are many reasons you should learn GIMP (free) or Photoshop (not), including touch up, cropping, and resizing photos and all kinds of images. Download GIMP and take advantage of LinkedIn Learning’s (formerly Lynda.com) free 30-day trial to learn how to use GIMP (and other programs).

Learn GIMP for free on LinkedIn Learning Lynda.com

Let’s See Your Author Photo!

These tools make it easy to DIY a great author photo from a photo you really like. Though I always recommend getting a professional author photo, you may already have one that’ll do, for now. So, no excuses!

Did you do it? You can see mine, here. Show off your author photo by including a link to where it appears on your author site in the comments below. Let us know how you made it happen—did you use a pro (and can you recommend them?)—or did you do it yourself? How? We want to know!

Carla King

Carla King is a travel and technology writer turned author and self-publishing expert. She started self-publishing in 1995 and founded the Self-Pub Boot Camp series of educational books, workshops, and online courses in 2010. She runs the self-publishing and technology track at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a series of online courses at www.selfpubbootcampcourses.com.

  • Thanks, Carla! I use Corel Photo-Paint, but it’s good to know about the online services.

    I’ve heard conflicting reports about Fiverr. I guess a $5 to $10 investment isn’t a lot if it doesn’t work out. You got excellent results.

    • Carla S King says:

      Thanks, Kathy. I haven’t heard about Corel in forever! :-). I do like Fiverr for little jobs. You’re right. It can be spotty but you don’t lose much $ by shopping around for someone great.

  • Thanks for the tour of these options, Carla! Hair is always the fun part in this task 🙂

    I used a combination of remove.bg then Gimp for the photo here:

    And the same tools here, although the hair was *far* more challenging in this case!

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