Every business uses some form of technology. And, believe it or not, more businesses use artificial intelligence (AI) than you probably realize. Many even use it in their photo editing processes, especially when it comes to tedious tasks like background removal. However, some things are best left to humans.

So, we were curious, are AI background removal tools all they’re cracked up to be? Or do we still need human finesse and creativity in this part of the photo editing process? Let’s see how background removal by hand vs. AI background removal compare.

Background removal by hand vs. AI background removal

Background removal by hand involves photo editing software, with Adobe Photoshop being the go-to choice for many. When removing backgrounds in Photoshop by hand, you’ll typically use a combination of tools and techniques, including clipping paths, image masking, the Brush tool, Magic Eraser, and more.

AI background removal, on the other hand, involves technology outside of Photoshop. The technology automatically detects the background and the foreground and then isolates each from one another, creating a cropped out image on a transparent or white background. It relies on machine learning to accomplish this process.

Note: Our virtual photo editing team at Path edits every photo by hand—no AI or automations here. We carefully zoom in up to 500x to make sure every last detail is captured. You need those details to convert customers! Especially when they zoom in on your product photos. 

Here is an example of an image we removed the background from. You can see the original, some versions edited with AI, and then the image the Path team edited by hand.


Notice how the AI-edited images differ here—they both cut out the dog’s tail and one of them actually cut out a portion of the dog’s leg! As you can see, if you sell pet products or feature animals in your photos, you might want to pay extra attention to how AI background removal tools treat edges with hair.

Even humans and clothing can pose challenges for AI background removers, as illustrated in these product photos. Be extra careful if you have models with curly hair or products with fuzzy edges like sweaters.

AI background removal

We can’t say AI-edited images are a total flop. AI background removal does have its advantages, though it’s tough to say whether they outweigh the drawbacks. Let’s take a look:

Advantages of AI background removal

  • Faster and more efficient. Compared to removing the background by hand in Photoshop, AI can handle the job a lot more quickly.
  • Requires zero photo editing skill. You don’t need any photo editing skills to be able to use AI photo editing. All you have to do is upload the photo and the technology will take care of the rest.
  • Many free tools available. While programs like Photoshop require a fee, many AI background removers are available free of charge.
  • No photo editing software required. If all you need to do is remove the background, you don’t need any dedicated photo editing software to take care of additional types of edits.

Disadvantages of AI background removal

Requires manual quality check. AI background removal isn’t as simple as uploading and downloading. You still need to check the quality of the image, since there’s no one doing that for you.

  • Frequently delivers imperfections. AI technology, while amazing, isn’t quite perfect. Many AI background removals come back with serious imperfections. Fixing those errors can often take more time than if you were to edit by hand from the get-go.
  • Can’t combine with other edits. Background removal is just one step to your product photo editing process. If you remove the background yourself or outsource your edits, you can also accomplish other required manipulations like drop shadow or retouching.
  • Hidden costs. Many AI background removal tools advertise themselves as free, but this is often for its lowest level of quality or with a quantity limit. You might have to pay for more images or better quality.
  • No one to give feedback to in order to fix issues. More technology means fewer humans, and that leaves you to handle issues on your own without the help of an empathetic person.
  • Degrades image quality. The output of AI background removals often includes image compression or other processes that degrade the quality of your beautiful product photos.
  • Unclear image usage rights. Before using an AI tool, make sure you read the fine print. Uploading your images might grant the program usage rights.

Background removal by hand

Sure, we’re biased. But for good reason. Removing backgrounds by hand helps you get every pixel perfectly edited.

Save a ton of time with pro background removal from 39¢ per image

Advantages of background removal by hand

  • Closer attention to detail. If you’re editing by hand, you can zoom in as much as you like to get super accurate and capture every tiny detail.
  • Ability to make other edits at the same time. Most product photos need more than just background removal. You’ll likely add shadows, retouch imperfections, and make other fixes while removing the background.
  • Collaborate with a human to figure out the best way to edit your photo. Not sure how to best achieve the results you’re after? Working with a professional editor means you can collaborate with them.
  • No limitations in terms of image or edit complexity. There are no limits when it comes to hand-done edits! You can receive original source files and all layers so you can revert edits as well.
Save a ton of time with pro background removal from 39¢ per image

Disadvantages of background removal by hand

  • Takes more time. If you’re doing every background removal by hand, you’ll find yourself spending lots of time making edits—probably more than you want to. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you outsource to a studio that does the edits by hand for you.
  • Requires skill. Not everyone is a Photoshop pro. Background removal requires specific skills, and it takes time to acquire those skills.
  • Must use photo editing software. Photoshop is pricy, and bootstrapped entrepreneurs might not have the budget to pay for quality photo editing software.
  • Costs more than an AI tool. On that note, many AI tools are free or lower cost than programs like Photoshop.

Get your photos edited by professionals—not with glitchy AI

From a simple white background to the most complex clipping paths, it’s important your product photos are perfect down to the last pixel. But with photo editing, a quick product shoot can easily turn into a week or more of retouching and formatting your images. Let us look after the edits, so you can get back to the work that needs you.

Save a ton of time with pro background removal from 39¢ per image

AI background removal vs. background removal by hand FAQ

What is the best way to remove the background of a photo?

The best way to remove the background of a photo is to do it in Photoshop or outsource the job to a photo editing studio.

What is the difference between remove BG and removal AI?

Remove BG has a maximum image file size of 12 MB, while removal AI allows images of any file size.

What is the best AI to remove background from a photo?

The best AI to remove background from a photo is none at all—it’s best to do it by hand or outsource to a photo editing studio that does edits by hand.

What is the best way to remove background on iPhone?

Go to PathEdits.com and order background removal for the photos you need edited. You can visit the site on your iPhone or computer.

In her past agency life, Alex has led digital marketing initiatives for Fortune 500 companies. Now, she’s passionate about helping retailers and retail industry leaders harness the power of the written word and fuse it with strategic content, email and social media marketing campaigns.

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