Topps isn’t blurring out the backgrounds

7 02 2016

I’ve read a lot of complaints about 2016 Topps.  A few people don’t like that the borders are gone and the cards are now full bleed.  A few more (including myself), don’t like the smoke / cloud effect in the corners.  A bunch more (I’m definitely in this crows) don’t like how close the photos are cropped.

But that not the major complaint I’ve read.  The major complaint is the blurred effect of the background.  In just about every, if not every, write-up I’ve read about the set, the assumption has been made that these photographs have been photo-shopped out the wazoo.  I was fully on board with making that same assumption until yesterday afternoon.

That’s when two things dawned on me.

First, I remembered something. For my first 4 or 5 years out of college, I was on a quest to go to every park in the majors.  I would usually end up structuring a vacation around it every year.  My girlfriend and I went to Texas one year, and hit up Arlington at the start and Houston at the end (with Galveston for 4 days in the middle) so I could knock off 2 ballparks.  Luckily, that same girlfriend put up with my idiosyncrasies and is now my wife.  When I did that, I used to take A LOT of photos.  This was before your cell phone doubled as a good camera, so I usually had a $300-plus camera on me.  I probably had about 3 different cameras like this.  And what I remember happening with the last one was that it could focus on specific objects better that the previous two.  But when I would focus in on a single player, sometimes the background would blur.  Not always, but I think to make a specific subject focus more, part of the deal is blurring out the background.

That didn’t matter all that much, though.  I went back and looked at some old photos, and the effect actually didn’t happen as much as I remember.  It’s the 2nd thing I thought of that was more relevant.

I remembered that I can look up the original photos myself.  Topps buys almost every photograph for their products from Getty Images these days.  And if you have enough clues from the photo itself, or if you’re patient enough, you can find the photographs online for the card you hold in your hand!

I did this and I can “report” with pretty good certainty that Topps isn’t photo-shopping anything.  The photos on your 2016 Topps are exact replicas of those from the Getty Images site, except for cropping (some of which is necessary to fit the dimensions of a 2-½” by 3-½” card).  I didn’t look this up for all 350 cards, because that would take forever.  But I checked quite a few, and I’ll show some of them below.  The Topps card is first, then the Getty Image is next.

Ryan Howard

2016 Topps Ryan Howard

Howard Getty 2016 April

Buster Posey – this was the first image Topps released to showcase the 2016 design

2016 Topps Buster Posey

Posey Getty 2016 April

Andrew McCutchen

2016 Topps Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen Getty 2016 April

Nick Hundley

2016 Topps Nick Hundley

Hundley Getty 2016 April

As you can see, the blurriness is in the photos Topps clearly purchased from Getty Images.  So Topps didn’t take them and then photo-shop the pictures.

Now that’s not to say the pictures aren’t photo-shopped.  They very well may have been by the Getty photographers.  I’m not sure.  I tend to think some of them are, but I also think it may be the way the photos were originally (as I mentioned, you can increase focus on a specific subject by decreasing focus on the background in today’s cameras).  I also think the smoke in the corners of the cards enhances the blurriness.

Most importantly, that doesn’t mean you have to like it.  To me, Topps could pick photos where the background isn’t blurred.  As I looked for these pictures on the Getty site, I noticed plenty without backgrounds blurred as much.  They tended to be pictures that had more of the ballpark in the background.  That’s how I like my cards.

Mostly, I just wanted to shed a little light on this, as I had an “ah-ha!” moment.  Also, I wanted to show a few Nolan Ryan cards from the latter half of his career.  The background has been blurred before, it maybe just wasn’t as noticeable then.

1982 Topps best card Nolan Ryan

1990 Topps Nolan Ryan

85 Topps Nolan Ryan

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5 responses

7 02 2016
nighttimeowl

There is a greater frequency of background blurriness, whether this is due to Getty Images or Topps or the tendency the last several years to pick out super-cropped images. Background blurriness has always been around, but it’s more apparent now because of the greater tendency to zoom in on the player and the lack of borders this year. That’s what’s caused me and others to focus on the blurry backgrounds. It’s not that it’s a new thing, it’s just I’m finally fed up with it.

Topps may not have tinkered with the backgrounds but there is definitely something going on with some of the photos because they look more like paintings than pictures.

7 02 2016
chuckneo

Yeh I think there is some type of effect where they bring the black out to be a little stronger.

At the end of the day, what matters is if you like the card or not, and I don’t like alot of blurry backgrounds either. I just assumed Topps was doing it intentionally – honestly I thought it was a legal thing like they don’t want some fan suing them for use of likeness or a company for showing their brand on the outfield wall. When I realized it was just the picture selection, it at least gave me something to think about.

8 02 2016
nighttimeowl

P.S.: More cards like the George Brett card on your sidebar!

7 02 2016
mrcoach00

Huh, so Topps isn’t purposely blurring out the backgrounds. Sometimes we just need a villain, you know? And now that I know it’s not of their own doing I’m not sure how I feel.

7 02 2016
The Lost Collector

Nice research. Thanks for that. I agree that the filters make some players look a little cartoony. I have no issues with blurring out the backgrounds regardless. I want a card of the player, not a fat old guy eating a hot dog.

I’m one of the few that like 2016 Topps base, and don’t like Perspectives. I guess I’m weird.

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