We're Erica + Jon, professional photographers, Mr + Mrs and Mom + Dad. We like to share insights into our industry, behind the scenes and stories about our life and chips + salsa obsession.
We’re often hired for product photos shot on a white background for our client’s e-commerce stores. Platforms like Amazon require that pictures on seller listings are a true, pure white background, and it can be a little tricky to execute without a solid understanding of lighting. At its most basic level, you have to light your background until the color is blown out to pure white (#FFFFFF), then light and shape your product, and you’re off to shooting! Aside from making sure that the background lights don’t wrap around your product from behind, it’s a pretty straightforward shoot.
But this style of photography is elevated to a different level of difficulty when you add in an extra complication like…the color of your product. Specifically, shooting a white product on a white background.
So in this blog we are going to talk you through our tips for shooting white products on a white background.
Our philosophy when we shoot anything is to get it as close to right as possible when we’re talking the photograph. We don’t like to spend a lot of time in post processing making corrections that could easily be done right the first time. Like if Anna would have just believed her sister the FIRST time, Arendelle wouldn’t have had to face such a TRAGIC winter. SMH. Just remember it’s always a matter of taking the time and skill to set ourselves up for success.
For exposing the background, the first thing we do is set up the lights so that we are focused just on the background. Then we’ll set our camera settings and lights to make sure we are lighting the background so that it appears as pure white.
A tip here is to make sure that you are shooting a wide enough zoom with whatever lights you’re using. This way the light is spreading across the complete background so there is no gradient color. We don’t want the photo to be pure white at the top but then appear greyish blue at the bottom. When you position your lights evenly and adjust for a nice, wide zoom, you’ll spread the light evenly across your background and keep the color consistent. Another way to help with this is by using two lights on the backdrop, one on each side, so that you’re covering the backdrop left to right and top to bottom.
Again, we set our lights so they are just exposing the background first. We blow out the background until there is little to no color information and it is pure white like a fresh blanket of snow. Typically we will work our way up to this point rather than just blast the lights at full power for a couple of reasons:
1. We don’t want to have to deal with long recycle times on the lights.
2. We want just enough light on the background to blow it out pure white, but not too much that the light is then going to bounce back and wrap around our product from behind once we set the product in place.
So to summarize, we light the background by itself, preferably with two lights (one for each side), set the lights for shooting wide, and include just enough light so it is blowing the background out.
The key for lighting white products on a white background is to create separation between the product and the background…just remember your social distancing skills while lighting your products! 😉 If we were to just place the product in front of the white background and try to utilize the lights that are blowing out the backdrop, it would blow out the product as well. No bueno. Sooooo we have to place the product considerably forward from the backdrop. This gives us independent control of how the light is going to fall on the product itself. A good way to test this would be once you expose the background, place your product in different positions working your way out from the background to where the product isn’t really lit at all. Once you find that sweet spot (typically a handful of feet at least), then you’ll be able to have full lighting control over your product.
This is where it gets exciting by bringing in another light source AND lighting your product just like you would any other product. For white products with texture, it would be good to set your lights up to show that texture by lighting them from the side!
Another tip to watch out for is making sure that the product is far away from the background when lighting the product. Double checking that the light on the backdrop isn’t wrapping around the edges of your product. Space it out enough that the lights are not going to wrap around from behind onto the product itself.
Plexiglass can be your best friend on any product shoot, but especially when shooting white on white! We used plexiglass when we recently shot white products on white background because it allowed us to easily separate our product from the background! You can shoot directly through plexiglass without your camera even showing it! Whaaaaat!? YES!
We were able to raise our product up and away from the background, have a flat, solid surface to style on, and remain in full control over every aspect of the shoot!
And that’s it! Those are our tips for lighting a white product on a white background. If you want some information on the lights we used for this shoot, click here to check out our blog post on the only lights we shoot with from Nissin Flash! Happy shooting!