white background photography: what to know & avoid

by | Apr 29, 2021

white background photography: fairly easy to master. but don’t let its simplicity fool you. 

there are a few things you should know before you get started. including what to generally avoid to get the best product shots possible.

here’s what you need to know – and what you should avoid – when using a white background for your ecommerce product photography.

why is a white background used so much in product photography?

a good colored background can really make those products sing. but a white background can be just as effective at marketing your ecommerce products. 

a white background is one of the most common ways to frame ecommerce photography. and for good reason. 

it all comes down to three main benefits: visual clarity. easy editing. and versatility.

makes the product stand out

a white background lets your product shine. it recedes to the back while your product steals the show. it can also make it seem like your product is popping off the screen.

you’ve only got a few seconds to make a lasting impression on customers. letting your product fade or blend into the background is a quick way to lose their attention. white backgrounds won’t let that happen.

universal versatility

versatility reigns supreme when it comes to images for digital marketing. white background ecommerce photography checks that box. big time.

that’s because big ecommerce retailers (like Amazon & Google) have background color requirements. you can only have white or light colored backgrounds on Google shopping and Amazon restricts all background colors to white for the main listing image.

using a white background for your product image can allow that single image to do double (or triple) duty across multiple ecommerce channels.

ease of editing

editing a product photo with a background makes any image editor’s job a walk in the park. just add a little Photoshop magic.

a white background creates crisp and clean edges – which makes image editing a breeze. simple lasso & go.

and you don’t get weird tones like you might from colored backgrounds. light reflected off colored backgrounds can impact the hue and tone of your product itself. you won’t have to mess around as much with hue and tone thanks to that white background.

what to avoid when using a white background for product photography

product images with a white background can be powerful tools. but only if you know what to avoid when you’re getting those attention-grabbing ecommerce product images.

poor lighting

you should try to balance your lighting source between your subject and your background.

overlighting your background and underlighting your subject will leave your product in shadow. & your background will become the focal point. 

underlighting the background will cast a grey-ish hue over your white background. everything becomes dull and your focal point lacks that ✨BAM✨ that it needs to stand out from the white background.

use soft lighting or flat lighting (when necessary). a good rule of thumb is to make sure your background is at least two stops brighter than your focal point.

low product definition

creating visual definition between your product and the background boils down to a couple of things: flagging and distance

floating object

white backgrounds can create the visual illusion that your product is floating (in the air like a UFO). this is an easy  mistake to make and sometimes you might not even realize it until after you’re done shooting.

your object will appear as if it’s floating for one primary reason: there are no shadows or reflections on the “floor” of your shooting surface.

our minds rely on shadows and reflections to give us a sense of where an object is placed within a space. losing those visual cues confuses the brain. the image will look like a not-so-great Photoshop cut + paste job that went wrong.

no. your product isn’t floating. but it sure does look like it if there are no shadows or reflections on the white base of your shooting area.

overexposure

yes. you can indeed overexpose a white background.

the reflected (i.e. overexposed) light will reflect off the background… and on to the back side of your subject. this will also create a halo effect as it washes out the edge definition of your focal point. 

it’s a vibe. but not one that’s best for ecommerce product images.

you need crisp. clean. beautiful product photos to really stand out from the competition and capture your customers’ attention.

how to use a white background

using a white background successfully is a critical part of capturing that perfect ecommerce product image. there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when prepping for and shooting your images.

it’s all about lighting. lighting. lighting. you’ll need enough lighting/strobes to nail that perfectly white background. you’ll end up with a dingy gray background if you don’t have enough light.

you should also consider the material of your white background. a material with texture will help diffuse the light instead of reflecting it straight back towards the camera. go for a semi-translucent material so that some light will pass through instead of reflecting. but not so translucent that you can see what’s behind the white backdrop.

gathered all your materials? here’s how to get started:

set up your background

start by setting up your white background. it should be distanced about 3 feet away from a white wall or surface.

position your product & lighting

place two strobe lights behind your backdrop. point them at the wall – not at the backdrop itself. pointing them at the wall creates an more evenly reflected (i.e. diffused) light on the backdrop. they should be set at the highest output.

place your subject far enough away from the backdrop that it won’t get washed out or overexposed.

take test shots

take some test photos. seeing a halo? is the subject appropriately exposed? is the background pure white? 

adjust lighting and position until you get those test shots right.

monitor & adjust

rinse & repeat. monitor your images and adjust lighting or product positioning as necessary.

tips for editing product photography on a white background

the hard work is done and now you’re on to editing your beautiful product images. the good news is all that setup work will pay off when you take the time to do it correctly.

rejoice! because editing white background photography is fairly simple. here’s what you need to know about editing product photography on a white background.

erase those edges

step one to editing your white background product photography: get rid of those backdrop edges. a simple crop can do just the trick.

brightness

does the background still seem just a little dull? adjusting the brightness of your image can help make sure you get the brightest white background. white background photography is all about contrast. adjust the brightness until you max out that contrast. you can also use the levels adjustment in Photoshop to crisp up your whites.

color adjustments

you can easily make color adjustments to your image to help boost the contrast of your product against the white backdrop.

there are three main sliders you can adjust: brightness. exposure. and saturation. make small changes until you get that perfect product image.

retouch (as needed)

don’t fret if you spot a touch of dust or lint on your final image. even the most diligent setups can’t avoid fixing all imperfections.

retouch your photos as needed to make sure they are as flawless as can be for your ecommerce store. your images represent your business – so they have to put their best foot forward!

shadows

feel like your product image is missing some shadows? does it seem like it’s floating out in space? it happens sometimes – even when you do your best to nail the lighting and product placement.

add some shadows in manually to help place it within the frame and make it more realistic.

get started with white background product photography

white background photography is a classic and timeless way to make your products stand out – from the background and from the competition. they’re easy to edit. and they’re versatile. 

the process is straightforward and simple. but it can be time consuming to nail that shot. 

contact soona today to let us handle the nitty gritty of getting those perfect white background product shots for all your ecommerce marketing needs.

if you’re looking to ramp up your content game but still feel unsure where to start – check out these resources:

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