Remove Image Background using GIMP in Real Estate Photography

We’ve come to love and be familiar with Photoshop as our main mode for photo editing especially for the task to remove image backgrounds. Real estate photography has always been reliant on this software and has grown to create a household name with it within the industry. The technique of background removal has time and time again proven to be one of the essential tools in real estate photography and editing.  It allows photographers and realty editor alike to use objects in the photo and isolate them so they can be flexibly used in different images. One other such software that been making a name for itself is GIMP or also known as GNU Image Manipulation Program. GIMP is free to download and use for power users across platforms. There is no subscription fee as well as no hidden costs when updating the program. GIMP’s ability to remove image backgrounds come in a variety of ways. Photographers who are keen to take advantage of them will notice that some methods will be similar to that of Photoshop and some even unique to GIMP.

How to Use the Different Ways

As mentioned, GIMP’s ability to remove image backgrounds comes in different ways. What we can say though is that all of them are effective and useful in their own ways. You may find the use of layers, outlining tools, selection tools, and some that are shades of the known techniques in Photoshop. Nevertheless, using GIMP as an alternative to Photoshop will just be as powerful and effective and best of all, free of charge.

  1. The select tool for easy to trace objects

This is GIMP’s version of the lasso tool. It functions in a way that surrounds an object, creating the boundaries where you can work with next steps after. It comes in two different options to remove image backgrounds; one is a free-hand option and a polygon recognizing option. The free-hand option requires a lot of precision so try and select objects that are simpler to manage or better yet, use a stylus with a touch screen device to ease the process. After you’ve gone around the object, clicking at certain points to anchor down the selection, click again on the very first point you’ve made while pressing on the control key on your keyboard indicated by the abbreviated “CTRL” to indicate that the selection is complete. Find the invert option on the select option on the toolbar on the top part of the screen and select invert. This invert option easily detects the areas outside of the object that was selected and well, you’ve guessed it, it inverts the selection to all areas not selected so you can remove image backgrounds. GIMP’s offerings for real estate photography are immense, especially with tools like these to help aid changes such as sky replacements or virtual staging.

  1. Working with layers

Open the image as layers, selecting from the tool bar above through the “File” option. What you need to do next is to select the areas you want to discard. Perform the selection process once again on the desired area but this time go to the “Layer” menu. Within this, select the add alpha channel option, the fuzzy selection tool, and hit delete, and voila the background will be reduced to a transparent image ready to be saved and exported.

  1. The foreground select tool for more complex objects

The steps within the foreground select tool caters to more complex objects that require you to remove image backgrounds. It can be found as an icon with a silhouette of a person surrounded by dotted lines with a solid square at the back of it. Similarly, it can be found in the selection tools menu. In some cases of real estate photography, there are objects which are not wanted within the photo but are excruciating to remove. The foreground selection tool begins by making an outline around the object you want to preserve. At this point it is acceptable to select a rough outline with very little precision. The next step is to hit enter to create a layer or a mask on the image that still shows the distinction between what was selected and the background. Using a brush, color within the object you just isolated. Make sure not to cross boundaries outside of that object and simple lines will do for as long as it represents the scale of the object you want to retain. Hit enter to confirm the selection and then invert the selection through the select option once again, and you are now ready to delete the background. Finish the job off by hitting delete on the keyboard to retain your object.

  1. Selecting by color works for homogenous backgrounds

If you have images with backgrounds in homogenous colors, then this method to remove image backgrounds will be simpler. The icon is depicted by three circles, one of them will be enclosed inside a dotted square one will be a solid circle while the third one will be hollow. Simply click on a background color you want removed and note that multiple selections can be made! Multiple selections mean that several shades of the same color can be recognized as part of the same family of colors. Hold the shift button down as you make multiple selections will make GIMP recognize all the shades you want removed. After this step, simply hit the delete button on your keyboard to remove the background. Simple yet effective.


GIMP makes being an alternative to Photoshop a very competitive program. There is a lot from GIMP to offer when it comes to real estate photography and now that we’ve seen, even in its capability to remove image backgrounds. If you want to expand your knowledge base or simply to have fun using a different software, GIMP might be the one for you. It comes free so there are no strings attached and above all, it can perform just as well. Power users will surely get a kick out of trying this out and for whichever reason it is, we encourage you to be adventurous and learn new software which may surprise you on complexity and capability once you get the hang of it.


Relevant Quick Links: