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Product Photography, white background

product-photography-better-contrast-on-white-background

Photographing products on white background is something that never gets old, with all the e-commerce and catalogs and magazines, clients wants photos that are easy to use everywhere.

But with a white background the products might look flat and boring, often due to the background light that easily can wash away all contrast. Just using two pieces of black paper/cardboard/foamboard can solve that problem.

product-photography-on-white-background-no-flags

This is how this product looks lit with two medium softboxes, one from left and one from right. The white background is made completely white by a third light, high up, aimed at the background.

This was an assignment for a web shop presenting a lot of different products in a lot of different boxes and bags and so on. I chose a very simple lighting so everything could be shot from the same angle and with the same settings.

But the background light made the contrast on the edges very poor.

product-photography-behind-the-scenes-photo-studio2

Here is how it was set up in the studio. On the saw horses I had put a white foam board and on the foam board I had a plexiglass to create reflections. Just reflections was something that the client wanted, and the easiest way is plexiglass, I think. Not transparent, and not ordinary glass, as you can get double reflections that way. This was more milky.

shooting-products-on-white-background-use-flags

Placing black paper on either side as flags reduces the light bouncing around and makes the edges of this white product more and better defined. You can easily experiment with the effect of this by moving the around.

product-photography-on-white-background-simple-tip

Here they are closer to the camera and adds even more contrast and defined edges by also blocking a bit of the light from the front, as well as reducing the light from the background reaching the camera.

product-photography-behind-the-scenes-photo-studio

During this day I shot around 100 packshots of different products, but the first thing I did was to test the light on a sample of them. Trying the lighting setup on the largest as well as the smallest, and then picking something that might be tricky, as bottle or glass jar, as well as the darkest and whitest tells you if you can use the same setup all day or if you will need to change it a lot.

You could of course use a product photography tent, and apply the same trick with black board or something else that you use as a flag, but I feel that this is a more open solution. Having to place something on the right spot inside a small tent without breaking anything or stumble over a light stand can break your back.

But the most important tip here would be to document your setup. I try to do it all the time, and if I am really smart, I also write down the distance from the product to the light as well as the effect I used on the lights. The more specific you can be, the easier it will get to recreate the same studio next the client calls you and wants more photos in the exact same style.

Some behind the scenes shots can help a lot as well.

When I was finished shooting all the products I could import the photos into Lightroom and apply the same settings to all. The black flags saved me from having to adjust some photos more than necessary to make them look good.

If you liked this post, please share it, comment or just press Like (and you could also write a comment to your Like to help spread this content). Thanks in advance.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Lanthus Clark June 13, 2013, 19:44

    We have the habit of thinking that photography in the studio is all about applying lots of light, but sometimes we simply have to subtract light for a better result. Black flags are the saviour of many a product from boring light!

    Thanks for sharing Stefan!

  • Stefan Tell June 21, 2013, 00:39

    Indeed,
    especially if you have a smaller studio, then all your nice light modifiers will become almost useless if the light bounces all around.

  • Peter Pizarcoff July 1, 2013, 03:43

    Thank you for this great article. I photograph shoes regularly and I have a similar setup as shown but now I’m going to include black paper flags (especially for white shoes on white background).

    Could you possibly tell me the exposure settings you used for the photos in this article?

    Thank you…Peter

  • Stefan Tell July 26, 2013, 09:52

    Thanks,
    I used aperture f/10 and shutter speed 1/200s on ISO 200 with a 105mm lens.

  • Amber Skye August 23, 2013, 11:21

    Great post, I really like your pictures.. Product photography is very important to expose you products and business among the people.

  • Kristy October 4, 2014, 08:14

    Thank you so much for sharing Stefan.. Your awesome!!

    Kindest & Warmest Regards,
    Kristy
    Sydney, Australia

  • Stefan Tell November 5, 2014, 00:24

    Thanks again

  • Adam May 1, 2015, 16:15

    I apologize if this has already been answered. But I am looking into buying some profotos for mainly product photography, and I was wondering what kind of profotos you were using. I.E. The 250, 500, or 1000 watt? Was looking into buying the 3 light package that includes 2 1000 watt lights and one 500 watt light. Do you think these would be too powerful? Thanks so much!

    – Adam

  • Adarsh February 16, 2016, 12:24

    Dear Sir

    This is Adarsh from India. I think i could help your business ,We provide high quality image/photo editing services.
    Am working as a freelance Photoshop Designer.

    I have a small team of Four Photoshop experts, who are working hard to fulfill our clients requirements,
    we offer best quality, fast service in a very low price.

    We offer these services

    * Clipping path
    * Removing objects, backgrounds, etc.
    * Photo Retouching

    I look forward for a favorable response from you,
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  • Stephane April 27, 2018, 21:51

    Stefan this has seriously made my day. I’m shooting some prototypes for work that are supposed to go into a customers catalog. My images were coming out flat losing detail and depth. I’ve put together a similar setup and the difference is enormous. I can now continue on with the project after heaps of trial and error. Thanks again!

    • Stefan Tell May 10, 2018, 22:30

      This comment made my day, so thank you back.
      Glad that you found my blog.

      Good luck with the product photography,

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