DIY Seamless White Background for Product Shots

0Comments

Here’s a quick idea that might help those of you looking to take some product shots (think selling stuff on E-Bay) who might not have the budget to buy a light tent or lighting setup (or who don’t have the time to make their own light tent).

It was put together by Daniel Greene.

Seamless-White-Background

Seamless-White-Background

I think the shots explain themselves but here’s what Daniel wrote in describing the setup:

“I simply used an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of white copy paper and asked my husband to hold up the paper behind the product (coming from beneath the product) to create a seamless white background. I sat at my desk chair and held my camera without a tripod. I pointed my flash up to the flat white ceiling to bounce and diffuse the light. This shot was “take one” (I was happy with what I saw on the LCD after the first shot). I imported the shot into Apple Aperture on my computer, cropped, adjusted exposure and levels, and that was it.”

Thanks to Daniel for giving us permission to use his shots. If you have your own quick and easy DIY photography technique let us know!

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Nice tip, but what is wrong with your husbands thumb? Definitely not a hand model.

  • Jeff Plum

    No really? A tutorial that explains how to use… what is essentially a piece of A4 white card? I want my click back!

  • Thanks for sharing this simple tip.Will try this one out myself.

  • You have it right that is all you need to do for simple jobs.

  • Great idea, but how do you get the background to appear white.Notice how gray it looks. I had to do a shoot with jewelry and ended up “painting” white around each piece to make it white. not a fun way thing to do when you have over 100 pieces of intricate jewelry. If someone knows the secret I sure would like to know it as well. 🙂

  • Brandon Green

    Although some people (see Jeff Plum’s comment above) might think this simple technique is too obvious to mention, there’s a lot of people like myself that at one point, just hadn’t thought of it. The floor/back of a light tent (a photography box) is essentially what you see here, a very gently sloping curve that, due to it’s complete lack of sharp edges or abrupt changes in curvature, does not give away depth and instead, makes the product seem to float in a see of emptiness.

    What I usually do in my product photography is to lower the white point to bring the white backdrop to a true white, and then clean up the edges in photoshop so that the resulting image can be placed seamlessly on the web on a white background with any distracting image borders. The same can usually be done with a black background by bringing up the black point, though this presents it’s own challenges.

    For a quick look at some examples, http://www.google.com/products?q=salt+shaker&hl=en&show=li&lnk=showgrid
    I know this isn’t universal, but I personally am more drawn to the ones that fit seamlessly on the white background.

  • nice tip! I may add here, I usually use white cleaned wide table cloth for bigger items or products especially if we sell them online. Of course, make sure it’s not wrinkle 🙂

  • I use a big 4×8′ piece of plastic bath tub surround. it’s about 1.5mm thick, and has a nice orange peel surface, no gloss. it also wipes clean. Good for big objects. it is stiffer than cloth or paper…. no wrinkles or kinks.

  • I use a white sheet of poster board as they come in many colors and are more durable than paper. You can also use them as bounce cards if you need a splash of color when shooting things that are not for sale, like most children. An orange card to the right of the subject with a splash from a flash can add that missing sunlight to any photo. So, I say go for the posterboard and tape it to a wall FTW.

    http://www.lightshootedit.com

  • I use a white sheet of poster board as they come in many colors and are more durable than paper. You can also use them as bounce cards if you need a splash of color when shooting things that are not for sale, like most children. An orange card to the right of the subject with a splash from a flash can add that missing sunlight to any photo. So, I say go for the posterboard and tape it to a wall FTW.

  • What if you don’t have a husband or wife to hold up the paper? hehe j/k

  • Memoria,

    I had that question on my mind too 🙂

  • Brandon

    @Memoria
    LOL. 10 second self timer, remote shutter cable, or wireless trigger; however those things won’t laugh at your jokes or watch movies with you. 🙂

  • Jamesc359

    I’ve been using poster board for a while now. I love the results I’ve gotten with it. Also I have to second what scott said about it being more durable.

  • Brandon Green

    @Jamesc359
    I’ve been using multiple large sheets of white sketch paper stacked so that although fairly rigid, it is flexible enough to pose and easy to tape the end in place where I need it.

    The main problem I have is that although this works fine for mid size objects, like a coffee cup or larger; doing macro on it, like photographic a ring, starts to expose the fine texture of the paper.

    I’d thought about using poster board, but everything I’ve looked at although very smooth, seems like it might have a bit too much sheen and will end up giving more of a reflection at hard angles than the soft subtle shadow I’m looking for.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m making too big a deal of the texture problem.. any thoughts? I’m going to add a few small examples.. The shot of the ring is the one with the most texture visible..
    .
    .
    [eimg url=’http://lh6.ggpht.com/_-tU0-6Y2Rig/S7YYuA0XvMI/AAAAAAAAUac/1xqQ_CzGEYE/s400/IMG_4405.jpg’ title=’IMG_4405.jpg’]
    [eimg url=’http://lh6.ggpht.com/_-tU0-6Y2Rig/S7YY8ycUVQI/AAAAAAAAUao/_Gdc1dLN_aY/s400/IMG_4411.jpg’ title=’IMG_4411.jpg’]
    [eimg url=’http://lh6.ggpht.com/_-tU0-6Y2Rig/S8DBvl6T1_I/AAAAAAAAU1g/LK6nIXQmUUU/s400/IMG_4275.JPG’ title=’IMG_4275.JPG’]
    [eimg url=’http://lh6.ggpht.com/_-tU0-6Y2Rig/S5TX-LepWoI/AAAAAAAAS6E/WXkm8QXAQMY/s400/IMG_2889%20copy.jpg’ title=’IMG_2889%20copy.jpg’]

  • Doens’t it get whiter if you use a second flash, big power, on a side, and directed on the paper, just to burn it.

  • I think this could easily be done better. I did a shot of a watch with daylight, no flash at all(although i think it would work too with flash bounced to the ceiling). Then also with some white seamless paper on an iron-table and the paper taped to a closet at the back of the iron table. Then just put the camera on a tripod with timer and most of all over-exposing(!!) the shot to get the paper seamless white(only a bit of shadow is left)

    Here’s the shot(hope it works):
    [eimg link=” title=” url=’http://farm3.static.flickr.com//4577336301_.jpg’]
    Or else: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4023/4577336301_b19203e14c.jpg

  • Michael
  • Brandon,
    In your response you mentioned lowering the white point…. exactly how does one do that? I like the way the pictures had the white background to blend into the website – that is exactly what I need to be able to do… looking forward to your words of wisdom.

  • David

    For this shot I think it would have been better to place a white reflector over the subject to cast light back onto the subject. However, there is another method that can be used.
    Try opening levels and clicking the minus eye dropper on a white area, this will reduce the grey background bringing it up to white. The more clicks the whiter it becomes so beware.
    Unfortunately, white backgrounds and white main subjects tend to bleed. This method is ideal when working in a studio with a model against a white backdrop,

  • Killian

    @Scott — you speak blasphemy!! You mean I can’t sell these critters now that i have ’em? UGH. =)

    I like the off-color posterboards for giving a nice color cast, but tub surround? Neat idea!!

  • Bonnie

    Actually, I think the grey cast to the paper helps give contrast to the white tube. If they both were true white, the edges would not have been distinct. But, if you wanted the background to be truer white, couldn’t you have adjusted your white balance? (I’m learning, so this might not be the right answer.)

  • Misha

    Like others here, I think overall the direction of the advice is good. But it’s not a final solution. Since the title says “seamless white background”, well, I see seamless, but I don’t see white. Actually, the final image is underexposed by almost 1 stop.

    What you can do to make it work is to take your flash off camera, position it right outside the frame and put some kind of white diffuser in front of it (shoot-through umbrella, silk, bed sheet). Adjust the spread of the flash to cover the whole diffuser, but not more (this will essentially make it as soft as possible and prevent any light spill). Set your camera to cut out ambient light and fire away.

    Since light source is relatively close and is relative large compared to the product you are photographing the shadows will be small and very soft.

    If you can’t take the flash off camera, instead of using the ceiling, use some kind of white posterboard or foamcore board to reflect the light. Your goal is to create a large light close to your subject to give it very soft light.

    And remember if it looks good on LCD in the back of your camera, the shot is probably underexposed by 1-2 stops.

  • Here is my (semi-comical) attempt at making my own homemade light box staring E.T.

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/2/12/diy-lightbox-version-1.html

  • Jim Weekley

    Good idea. for larger items I’ve used poster boards. They are cheap, easy to find and come in many colors.

  • Ian Kramer

    Thanks for not posting my comment. Even though it was a legitimate critique of DPS’s complete sell-out.

  • Here’s a twist on this idea that uses less hand holding… go out and buy some PVC tube (1/2 or 3/4 inch is fine) and some elbow connectors. Make sure that the connectors are 3 way (two hols at 90 degrees and one hole perpendicular to the others). You want to create an “A” frame kind of like a small swing set. One tube across the top and two legs on each side at 45 degree angles.

    Drill a couple of small screws into the front of the centre tube, but not all the way, you want to be able to hang your paper from them. Next buy some white poster board and punch holes in the top so you can hang it from the screws you just put into the centre tube. It will naturally hang down and curve to create a seamless background.

    You can make this as big or as small as you want depending on how long you cut the PVC tube.

    I hope I explained it well enough.

    DC

  • Another slight twist, still using a sheet of white paper or card. No need for a flash, but you will need a tripod or another means to hold the camera steady while you are taking the shot. For great light coverage with minimal shadows, take the photo outdoors on an overcast day, it’s natures softbox. a photo I took using this method Try to over expose the background without over exposing the subject.

  • Brandon Green

    @Carol in CT

    My last post had a few small example shots, but apparently the moderators didn’t like it so it never posted. In editing an image, the way you adjust the white point is typically to apply something like a “Levels” adjustment to the whole image. There are three basic controls in adjusting the image levels, and they can usually be used on the RGB channels individually or together uniformly; for our purposes we’ll be doing it uniformly. The three controls are the black point, the mid-tone point, and the white point. When you adjust any of them, all the pixel values in the image are adjusted to fit the new scale.

    The black point determines the input pixel value at which the output pixel value will now be 0 (black) for that channel. So if you bring the black point up to 50, anything 50 or below in all three channels (RGB) will now be black, and any pixel with a value above that will be stretched down accordingly, while at the same time leaving the white point alone so white values are still white. So in effect, bringing the black point up makes the image darker by stretching the pixel values down, and anything at or below the black point becomes true black.

    The white point works the very same way but in reverse, so to speak. Bringing the white point down to 205 (it starts out at 255 by default) will stretch all pixel values up so that any value at or above 205 becomes 255 (the max value). So if, in all three channels, a pixel is at or above 205, it will become (255, 255, 255) which is true white.

    Adjusting the mid-tone point basically just adjusts the gamma of the resulting image.

    I know that’s a lot to take in. So here’s a step by step for exactly what I do:

    This probably doesn’t need to be said, but I always shoot in RAW. First take a normal exposure shot filling the frame with the white backdrop, with all the lighting in place exactly how it’s going to be, and use the shot to set the white balance in the camera manually. This will make the post processing easier. Next, setup the product on the backdrop how you want it to be shot. Don’t shoot to fill the entire frame with the product. Leave a decent amount of room around it, especially around the bottom where you are most likely to have a subtle shadow that is probably larger than you expect. There is an option in my camera called “Highlight alert” that will flash red on the screen any pixels that reach true white in an image that is recorded; If you have that, make sure that is turned on. Take a few shots and keep adjusting the exposure until you just barely reach the point at which some of the background begins to flash red, and then dial it back 1/3 of an F-stop, and that is the exposure level to shoot in for that setup. This ensures that you are minimizing the amount of adjustment you have to make later while still retaining as much detail in the source image as possible.

    To be clear, at this point in the process, the background in the images coming out of the camera will probably look bright white, but they aren’t yet true white so there will be a distracting edge if you just use the images as it is on a true white background. So now take the RAW files and process them out into 16 bit per channel TIFF files. You can also just use standard 8 bit/channel JPG/TIFF/whatever if you want, but because adjusting the levels stretches the values, you really want as much bit depth in the image file starting out as you can get. So open the files in Photoshop, though even free software solutions like GIMP are perfectly capable of the adjustment step here. In Photoshop, apply the “Levels” adjustment layer and then grab the white point adjustment (on the right side of the histogram) and begin to pull it left. This may not work in other image software, but in Photoshop, as you are dragging the white point or black point, if you press and hold the ALT key it will show you an exaggerated image preview to help you visualize the areas on the image that will be true white or true black, depending on which one you are adjusting. So pull down (left) the white point while pressing ALT until the object you shot is just barely, but completely, surrounded by true white. Remember, you only want to adjust just as much as you need to. There will probably now be areas around the edges of the image that are not true white, but the object itself is surrounded by true white. This is usually due in part to very subtle, sometimes imperceptible lens vignetting. So now let go of the white point and leave it there, as that’s where it’s going to stay.

    The outside probably looks perfectly white but as you saw in that preview (from hitting ALT while making the white point adjustment), it is not exactly. So we’re going to add a new layer so we can paint over those not-quite-white areas with true white. So now, in order to actually see what needs to be painted over, drag the black point on that levels adjustment layer all the way up (to the right) to meet the white point. This effectively gives you that same exaggerated preview you had before. When we’re done we’ll pull it all the way back down, but for now, create that new empty layer over top of everything else, and use the paintbrush to paint true white over all the outside areas that need it. In the end, you’ll be left with the object you shot, and probably a weird shadow area below it, all surrounded by true white.

    Before you return the black point back down to where it started, you can now crop your image to where you are exactly encompassing only what you need to, while ensuring that the outside edge will be true white. This is harder to do with the black point back where it belongs because the shadow underneath the object becomes so subtle it’s difficult to tell where it ends, but if you accidentally were to cut it in half and leave it on the edge of the image, you would definitely see the hard seam on a true white background.

    So once you’re done cropping, pull the black point in the adjustment layer back down to 0 where it started and you’re done! You can flatten your image and save as whatever now. Note that in Photoshop, if you were working with a 16 bit/channel image, you’ll have to go under the menu Image > Mode and change it from 16 bit to 8 bit if you want to save as a JPG now.

    Some might ask why I didn’t just overexpose the background in the camera when I took the shots to begin with, and it’s because I prefer to give myself some buffer room to play with. I’ve noticed sometimes if I overexpose the background in the camera, the object itself may end up too bright with some overexposed areas throughout it. Because those areas are overexposed, that pixel information simply doesn’t exist to scale them back down in post. I just find it safer to shoot it just under the exposure I know I will need. Working with the image in RAW, and processing the image with higher bit depths means that I’m not really losing anything in the final image by making the subtle adjustments in post, but it can save you a big headache and give you more options in the long run.

    A link to some examples of the early shots I processed like this while testing out my DIY light tent are here: http://picasaweb.google.com/matrixbandit/MiscLightTentPhotos#
    They are not all perfect, but I learned a lot from doing them. I hope this post has been helpful lol, it took awhile to type out. BTW, @DPS admin, if you wanted to use this as a separate tutorial post on DPS, I’d be happy to put together some screen shots for you to round it out with, as I know this is kinda long for a comment.

  • thanks Brandon. I’m going to try this the next time I have to do more jewelry shots. thanks again

  • This is indeed a fast way of putting together a seamless background for a product shot. It’s a great approach especially if you were not prepared with a light box or so.

    Product shots with seamless white backgrounds as described here are great for selling studd on eBay. The photos are captivating and more professional, conveying a better image of the retailer.

    I built a DIY light tent / box recently for such purposes. Here’s my pictorial: http://www.shutteria.com/search/label/light%20box

  • Ger

    @David.

    The levels eye-dropper is golden! thanks!

  • Great tip thank you.
    White is probably the best color for showing off many products. You can get packets of 8 1/2 x 11 sheets in other colors quite cheaply from your local art shop. These can be used in the same way to add a new dimension for some subjects
    You will need to control white balance more especially with yellow and browns but with some experimentation you can add variety and interest.

  • Jimmy

    Sometimes, I use a white towel and 2 big cloth-clips over a table / sofa.

  • Carol

    Here is my all time favorite background trick. Best of all it is portable and easy to store and you can take it anywhere and set up shop. Use polar fleece. Buy it at JoAnn fabrics, where it is cheap and you only need the thin stuff. Because polar fleece has no hard surface it looks like an ethereal white cloud behind your image. Even better you can get it in all colors. A cheap fuzzy print on fleece will give you a blurred background.

    Light your subject to your hearts content, it will bounce off into the nothingness of the polar fleece. If you drape it gently some interesting color variation will occur without detracting from your subject.

  • Yes, it is quick and cheap, but the BG is not white.

    FYI keep the BG 2/3 stop over the product exposure; this will give you a white BG and no light bleeding around the subject.

    If the product is small, place it on a piece of glass and backlight the subject.
    Next, light your product at 2/3 stop less than the BG.

    Hope this helps.
    Tam
    http://www.photographycourses.net.au

  • wayne

    I don’t understand why some people here have to make negative comments about folks that take the time to share their experience by saying things like “I want my click back” or “could easily be done better” why didnt you write this article if you’re such an expert! We’re here to support each other not beat each other down. Daniel, I think you did a great job. thanks for posting.

  • THX for the tips, i just try it out last night

  • nikki_r

    I sometimes use the back of a calendar for doing these shots. I also like using colored papers for more playful backgrounds. 🙂

  • I just recently did my first product shoot for a lady in my church that designs belts. All I used was a white poster board and they came out great.

  • thats a great idea!

  • Brandon Green

    @Wayne
    I absolutely could not agree with you more. If someone reads something they don’t think is right, or they just have something to add, the comments are a wonderful place to respectfully do that, but it should be acknowledged that the people writing these articles are taking time out of their day to share their knowledge and help others. It does everyone here a disservice when people write disparaging things about the author or the article.

  • srkalvala

    thanks for tip, but one thing i want know that if lighting on the product is required which lighting can we add,
    and if shiny product like silver tins are to be photographed the reflections of background is visible on product.
    what type of lighting can we use

  • citmariñas

    I have done this numerous times, using an A4, a piece of cloth, a white cardboard. I could say that the A4 made a nice material, but only for small items.. I have yet to try shooting larger objects..

    For product shoots, definitely, it is good to isolate the object in a manner that the object looks like floating in nothingness.. However, when doing a shoot on objects aside from objects for sale, it’s nice to have a bit of texture in the background..

  • kevin hushie

    i want to change the background of my pictures to a white background on my computer how do i go about it

  • Don’t you hate it when your Item is always off-centered?! It sucks. I try over and over again, and use all the perfect lighting. To make the background whiter, I go to Picnik and Auto-Fix it. It makes it 10 times whiter and all, plus it works even with just a crappy, cheap book-reading-light. Not to sound too Commercially, sorry folks.
    Well thanks for taking the time to read my Response, happy Halloween!
    -John D. Archuleta of France. (Photographer)
    x

  • bahos

    There’s a tool called ZenFotomatic which can do background whitening automatically. This is especially useful when working with large numbers of photos. It also auto crops and removes objects around the edge of the photo (such as your husband’s thumb!) – https://www.zenfotomatic.com/zenfotomatic/

  • Michael Owens

    Ha! Simple as, as simple does! (Gump).
    It works. It works well. Simple yet effective.

    If you want to shoot something a bit bigger, then simple tack tape and two sheets. Who needs backdrops, or light tents eh?

  • TechnicGeek

    And what if I want to shoot in daylight? Will there be too much light affecting clarifty of picture and I will need softbox? I want to shoot small product on table, using mini-tripod with point & shoot camera.

  • Michael Owens

    Shoot in daylight, just change setttings to suit. Softbox is still required IMO!

Some Older Comments

  • bahos April 25, 2013 05:12 am

    There's a tool called ZenFotomatic which can do background whitening automatically. This is especially useful when working with large numbers of photos. It also auto crops and removes objects around the edge of the photo (such as your husband's thumb!) - https://www.zenfotomatic.com/zenfotomatic/

  • J.D.A of France November 1, 2010 11:49 am

    Don't you hate it when your Item is always off-centered?! It sucks. I try over and over again, and use all the perfect lighting. To make the background whiter, I go to Picnik and Auto-Fix it. It makes it 10 times whiter and all, plus it works even with just a crappy, cheap book-reading-light. Not to sound too Commercially, sorry folks.
    Well thanks for taking the time to read my Response, happy Halloween!
    -John D. Archuleta of France. (Photographer)
    x

  • kevin hushie October 3, 2010 10:33 pm

    i want to change the background of my pictures to a white background on my computer how do i go about it

  • citmariñas June 8, 2010 04:24 pm

    I have done this numerous times, using an A4, a piece of cloth, a white cardboard. I could say that the A4 made a nice material, but only for small items.. I have yet to try shooting larger objects..

    For product shoots, definitely, it is good to isolate the object in a manner that the object looks like floating in nothingness.. However, when doing a shoot on objects aside from objects for sale, it's nice to have a bit of texture in the background..

  • srkalvala May 13, 2010 07:23 pm

    thanks for tip, but one thing i want know that if lighting on the product is required which lighting can we add,
    and if shiny product like silver tins are to be photographed the reflections of background is visible on product.
    what type of lighting can we use

  • Brandon Green May 10, 2010 02:28 am

    @Wayne
    I absolutely could not agree with you more. If someone reads something they don't think is right, or they just have something to add, the comments are a wonderful place to respectfully do that, but it should be acknowledged that the people writing these articles are taking time out of their day to share their knowledge and help others. It does everyone here a disservice when people write disparaging things about the author or the article.

  • Mark May 10, 2010 12:28 am

    thats a great idea!

  • David Manning May 9, 2010 02:27 pm

    I just recently did my first product shoot for a lady in my church that designs belts. All I used was a white poster board and they came out great.

  • nikki_r May 8, 2010 03:01 pm

    I sometimes use the back of a calendar for doing these shots. I also like using colored papers for more playful backgrounds. :)

  • Gusriadi Tasrik May 8, 2010 02:11 pm

    THX for the tips, i just try it out last night

  • wayne May 7, 2010 08:40 pm

    I don't understand why some people here have to make negative comments about folks that take the time to share their experience by saying things like "I want my click back" or "could easily be done better" why didnt you write this article if you're such an expert! We're here to support each other not beat each other down. Daniel, I think you did a great job. thanks for posting.

  • Tam Steele Daly May 7, 2010 11:18 am

    Yes, it is quick and cheap, but the BG is not white.

    FYI keep the BG 2/3 stop over the product exposure; this will give you a white BG and no light bleeding around the subject.

    If the product is small, place it on a piece of glass and backlight the subject.
    Next, light your product at 2/3 stop less than the BG.

    Hope this helps.
    Tam
    http://www.photographycourses.net.au

  • Carol May 7, 2010 04:46 am

    Here is my all time favorite background trick. Best of all it is portable and easy to store and you can take it anywhere and set up shop. Use polar fleece. Buy it at JoAnn fabrics, where it is cheap and you only need the thin stuff. Because polar fleece has no hard surface it looks like an ethereal white cloud behind your image. Even better you can get it in all colors. A cheap fuzzy print on fleece will give you a blurred background.

    Light your subject to your hearts content, it will bounce off into the nothingness of the polar fleece. If you drape it gently some interesting color variation will occur without detracting from your subject.

  • Jimmy May 7, 2010 03:50 am

    Sometimes, I use a white towel and 2 big cloth-clips over a table / sofa.

  • Charles May 7, 2010 02:10 am

    Great tip thank you.
    White is probably the best color for showing off many products. You can get packets of 8 1/2 x 11 sheets in other colors quite cheaply from your local art shop. These can be used in the same way to add a new dimension for some subjects
    You will need to control white balance more especially with yellow and browns but with some experimentation you can add variety and interest.

  • Ger May 7, 2010 01:48 am

    @David.

    The levels eye-dropper is golden! thanks!

  • Joel May 6, 2010 06:33 pm

    This is indeed a fast way of putting together a seamless background for a product shot. It's a great approach especially if you were not prepared with a light box or so.

    Product shots with seamless white backgrounds as described here are great for selling studd on eBay. The photos are captivating and more professional, conveying a better image of the retailer.

    I built a DIY light tent / box recently for such purposes. Here's my pictorial: http://www.shutteria.com/search/label/light%20box

  • Carol from CT May 6, 2010 10:10 am

    thanks Brandon. I'm going to try this the next time I have to do more jewelry shots. thanks again

  • Brandon Green May 6, 2010 03:03 am

    @Carol in CT

    My last post had a few small example shots, but apparently the moderators didn't like it so it never posted. In editing an image, the way you adjust the white point is typically to apply something like a "Levels" adjustment to the whole image. There are three basic controls in adjusting the image levels, and they can usually be used on the RGB channels individually or together uniformly; for our purposes we'll be doing it uniformly. The three controls are the black point, the mid-tone point, and the white point. When you adjust any of them, all the pixel values in the image are adjusted to fit the new scale.

    The black point determines the input pixel value at which the output pixel value will now be 0 (black) for that channel. So if you bring the black point up to 50, anything 50 or below in all three channels (RGB) will now be black, and any pixel with a value above that will be stretched down accordingly, while at the same time leaving the white point alone so white values are still white. So in effect, bringing the black point up makes the image darker by stretching the pixel values down, and anything at or below the black point becomes true black.

    The white point works the very same way but in reverse, so to speak. Bringing the white point down to 205 (it starts out at 255 by default) will stretch all pixel values up so that any value at or above 205 becomes 255 (the max value). So if, in all three channels, a pixel is at or above 205, it will become (255, 255, 255) which is true white.

    Adjusting the mid-tone point basically just adjusts the gamma of the resulting image.

    I know that's a lot to take in. So here's a step by step for exactly what I do:

    This probably doesn't need to be said, but I always shoot in RAW. First take a normal exposure shot filling the frame with the white backdrop, with all the lighting in place exactly how it's going to be, and use the shot to set the white balance in the camera manually. This will make the post processing easier. Next, setup the product on the backdrop how you want it to be shot. Don't shoot to fill the entire frame with the product. Leave a decent amount of room around it, especially around the bottom where you are most likely to have a subtle shadow that is probably larger than you expect. There is an option in my camera called "Highlight alert" that will flash red on the screen any pixels that reach true white in an image that is recorded; If you have that, make sure that is turned on. Take a few shots and keep adjusting the exposure until you just barely reach the point at which some of the background begins to flash red, and then dial it back 1/3 of an F-stop, and that is the exposure level to shoot in for that setup. This ensures that you are minimizing the amount of adjustment you have to make later while still retaining as much detail in the source image as possible.

    To be clear, at this point in the process, the background in the images coming out of the camera will probably look bright white, but they aren't yet true white so there will be a distracting edge if you just use the images as it is on a true white background. So now take the RAW files and process them out into 16 bit per channel TIFF files. You can also just use standard 8 bit/channel JPG/TIFF/whatever if you want, but because adjusting the levels stretches the values, you really want as much bit depth in the image file starting out as you can get. So open the files in Photoshop, though even free software solutions like GIMP are perfectly capable of the adjustment step here. In Photoshop, apply the "Levels" adjustment layer and then grab the white point adjustment (on the right side of the histogram) and begin to pull it left. This may not work in other image software, but in Photoshop, as you are dragging the white point or black point, if you press and hold the ALT key it will show you an exaggerated image preview to help you visualize the areas on the image that will be true white or true black, depending on which one you are adjusting. So pull down (left) the white point while pressing ALT until the object you shot is just barely, but completely, surrounded by true white. Remember, you only want to adjust just as much as you need to. There will probably now be areas around the edges of the image that are not true white, but the object itself is surrounded by true white. This is usually due in part to very subtle, sometimes imperceptible lens vignetting. So now let go of the white point and leave it there, as that's where it's going to stay.

    The outside probably looks perfectly white but as you saw in that preview (from hitting ALT while making the white point adjustment), it is not exactly. So we're going to add a new layer so we can paint over those not-quite-white areas with true white. So now, in order to actually see what needs to be painted over, drag the black point on that levels adjustment layer all the way up (to the right) to meet the white point. This effectively gives you that same exaggerated preview you had before. When we're done we'll pull it all the way back down, but for now, create that new empty layer over top of everything else, and use the paintbrush to paint true white over all the outside areas that need it. In the end, you'll be left with the object you shot, and probably a weird shadow area below it, all surrounded by true white.

    Before you return the black point back down to where it started, you can now crop your image to where you are exactly encompassing only what you need to, while ensuring that the outside edge will be true white. This is harder to do with the black point back where it belongs because the shadow underneath the object becomes so subtle it's difficult to tell where it ends, but if you accidentally were to cut it in half and leave it on the edge of the image, you would definitely see the hard seam on a true white background.

    So once you're done cropping, pull the black point in the adjustment layer back down to 0 where it started and you're done! You can flatten your image and save as whatever now. Note that in Photoshop, if you were working with a 16 bit/channel image, you'll have to go under the menu Image > Mode and change it from 16 bit to 8 bit if you want to save as a JPG now.

    Some might ask why I didn't just overexpose the background in the camera when I took the shots to begin with, and it's because I prefer to give myself some buffer room to play with. I've noticed sometimes if I overexpose the background in the camera, the object itself may end up too bright with some overexposed areas throughout it. Because those areas are overexposed, that pixel information simply doesn't exist to scale them back down in post. I just find it safer to shoot it just under the exposure I know I will need. Working with the image in RAW, and processing the image with higher bit depths means that I'm not really losing anything in the final image by making the subtle adjustments in post, but it can save you a big headache and give you more options in the long run.

    A link to some examples of the early shots I processed like this while testing out my DIY light tent are here: http://picasaweb.google.com/matrixbandit/MiscLightTentPhotos#
    They are not all perfect, but I learned a lot from doing them. I hope this post has been helpful lol, it took awhile to type out. BTW, @DPS admin, if you wanted to use this as a separate tutorial post on DPS, I'd be happy to put together some screen shots for you to round it out with, as I know this is kinda long for a comment.

  • Paul May 5, 2010 09:46 pm

    Another slight twist, still using a sheet of white paper or card. No need for a flash, but you will need a tripod or another means to hold the camera steady while you are taking the shot. For great light coverage with minimal shadows, take the photo outdoors on an overcast day, it's natures softbox. a photo I took using this method Try to over expose the background without over exposing the subject.

  • darren_c May 5, 2010 02:22 am

    Here's a twist on this idea that uses less hand holding... go out and buy some PVC tube (1/2 or 3/4 inch is fine) and some elbow connectors. Make sure that the connectors are 3 way (two hols at 90 degrees and one hole perpendicular to the others). You want to create an "A" frame kind of like a small swing set. One tube across the top and two legs on each side at 45 degree angles.

    Drill a couple of small screws into the front of the centre tube, but not all the way, you want to be able to hang your paper from them. Next buy some white poster board and punch holes in the top so you can hang it from the screws you just put into the centre tube. It will naturally hang down and curve to create a seamless background.

    You can make this as big or as small as you want depending on how long you cut the PVC tube.

    I hope I explained it well enough.

    DC

  • Ian Kramer May 5, 2010 02:12 am

    Thanks for not posting my comment. Even though it was a legitimate critique of DPS's complete sell-out.

  • Jim Weekley May 5, 2010 02:08 am

    Good idea. for larger items I've used poster boards. They are cheap, easy to find and come in many colors.

  • Jason Collin Photography May 5, 2010 02:02 am

    Here is my (semi-comical) attempt at making my own homemade light box staring E.T.

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/2/12/diy-lightbox-version-1.html

  • Misha May 5, 2010 12:17 am

    Like others here, I think overall the direction of the advice is good. But it's not a final solution. Since the title says "seamless white background", well, I see seamless, but I don't see white. Actually, the final image is underexposed by almost 1 stop.

    What you can do to make it work is to take your flash off camera, position it right outside the frame and put some kind of white diffuser in front of it (shoot-through umbrella, silk, bed sheet). Adjust the spread of the flash to cover the whole diffuser, but not more (this will essentially make it as soft as possible and prevent any light spill). Set your camera to cut out ambient light and fire away.

    Since light source is relatively close and is relative large compared to the product you are photographing the shadows will be small and very soft.

    If you can't take the flash off camera, instead of using the ceiling, use some kind of white posterboard or foamcore board to reflect the light. Your goal is to create a large light close to your subject to give it very soft light.

    And remember if it looks good on LCD in the back of your camera, the shot is probably underexposed by 1-2 stops.

  • Bonnie May 4, 2010 11:02 pm

    Actually, I think the grey cast to the paper helps give contrast to the white tube. If they both were true white, the edges would not have been distinct. But, if you wanted the background to be truer white, couldn't you have adjusted your white balance? (I'm learning, so this might not be the right answer.)

  • Killian May 4, 2010 10:16 pm

    @Scott -- you speak blasphemy!! You mean I can't sell these critters now that i have 'em? UGH. =)

    I like the off-color posterboards for giving a nice color cast, but tub surround? Neat idea!!

  • David May 4, 2010 10:12 pm

    For this shot I think it would have been better to place a white reflector over the subject to cast light back onto the subject. However, there is another method that can be used.
    Try opening levels and clicking the minus eye dropper on a white area, this will reduce the grey background bringing it up to white. The more clicks the whiter it becomes so beware.
    Unfortunately, white backgrounds and white main subjects tend to bleed. This method is ideal when working in a studio with a model against a white backdrop,

  • Carol in CT May 4, 2010 09:34 pm

    Brandon,
    In your response you mentioned lowering the white point.... exactly how does one do that? I like the way the pictures had the white background to blend into the website - that is exactly what I need to be able to do... looking forward to your words of wisdom.

  • Michael May 4, 2010 08:28 pm

    http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/07/how-to-diy-10-macro-photo-studio.html

  • Henny van Roomen May 4, 2010 07:42 pm

    I think this could easily be done better. I did a shot of a watch with daylight, no flash at all(although i think it would work too with flash bounced to the ceiling). Then also with some white seamless paper on an iron-table and the paper taped to a closet at the back of the iron table. Then just put the camera on a tripod with timer and most of all over-exposing(!!) the shot to get the paper seamless white(only a bit of shadow is left)

    Here's the shot(hope it works):
    [eimg link='' title='' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com//4577336301_.jpg']
    Or else: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4023/4577336301_b19203e14c.jpg

  • Florian Manach May 4, 2010 06:39 pm

    Doens't it get whiter if you use a second flash, big power, on a side, and directed on the paper, just to burn it.

  • Brandon Green May 4, 2010 02:51 pm

    @Jamesc359
    I've been using multiple large sheets of white sketch paper stacked so that although fairly rigid, it is flexible enough to pose and easy to tape the end in place where I need it.

    The main problem I have is that although this works fine for mid size objects, like a coffee cup or larger; doing macro on it, like photographic a ring, starts to expose the fine texture of the paper.

    I'd thought about using poster board, but everything I've looked at although very smooth, seems like it might have a bit too much sheen and will end up giving more of a reflection at hard angles than the soft subtle shadow I'm looking for.

    I don't know, maybe I'm making too big a deal of the texture problem.. any thoughts? I'm going to add a few small examples.. The shot of the ring is the one with the most texture visible..
    .
    .
    [eimg url='http://lh6.ggpht.com/_-tU0-6Y2Rig/S7YYuA0XvMI/AAAAAAAAUac/1xqQ_CzGEYE/s400/IMG_4405.jpg' title='IMG_4405.jpg']
    [eimg url='http://lh6.ggpht.com/_-tU0-6Y2Rig/S7YY8ycUVQI/AAAAAAAAUao/_Gdc1dLN_aY/s400/IMG_4411.jpg' title='IMG_4411.jpg']
    [eimg url='http://lh6.ggpht.com/_-tU0-6Y2Rig/S8DBvl6T1_I/AAAAAAAAU1g/LK6nIXQmUUU/s400/IMG_4275.JPG' title='IMG_4275.JPG']
    [eimg url='http://lh6.ggpht.com/_-tU0-6Y2Rig/S5TX-LepWoI/AAAAAAAAS6E/WXkm8QXAQMY/s400/IMG_2889%20copy.jpg' title='IMG_2889%20copy.jpg']

  • Jamesc359 May 4, 2010 02:27 pm

    I've been using poster board for a while now. I love the results I've gotten with it. Also I have to second what scott said about it being more durable.

  • Brandon May 4, 2010 02:19 pm

    @Memoria
    LOL. 10 second self timer, remote shutter cable, or wireless trigger; however those things won't laugh at your jokes or watch movies with you. :)

  • Mei Teng May 4, 2010 02:15 pm

    Memoria,

    I had that question on my mind too :)

  • Memoria May 4, 2010 12:51 pm

    What if you don't have a husband or wife to hold up the paper? hehe j/k

  • scott May 4, 2010 12:39 pm

    I use a white sheet of poster board as they come in many colors and are more durable than paper. You can also use them as bounce cards if you need a splash of color when shooting things that are not for sale, like most children. An orange card to the right of the subject with a splash from a flash can add that missing sunlight to any photo. So, I say go for the posterboard and tape it to a wall FTW.

  • scott May 4, 2010 12:38 pm

    I use a white sheet of poster board as they come in many colors and are more durable than paper. You can also use them as bounce cards if you need a splash of color when shooting things that are not for sale, like most children. An orange card to the right of the subject with a splash from a flash can add that missing sunlight to any photo. So, I say go for the posterboard and tape it to a wall FTW.

    www.lightshootedit.com

  • Tyler May 4, 2010 12:23 pm

    I use a big 4x8' piece of plastic bath tub surround. it's about 1.5mm thick, and has a nice orange peel surface, no gloss. it also wipes clean. Good for big objects. it is stiffer than cloth or paper.... no wrinkles or kinks.

  • Rechargelife May 4, 2010 11:18 am

    nice tip! I may add here, I usually use white cleaned wide table cloth for bigger items or products especially if we sell them online. Of course, make sure it's not wrinkle :-)

  • Brandon Green May 4, 2010 11:14 am

    Although some people (see Jeff Plum's comment above) might think this simple technique is too obvious to mention, there's a lot of people like myself that at one point, just hadn't thought of it. The floor/back of a light tent (a photography box) is essentially what you see here, a very gently sloping curve that, due to it's complete lack of sharp edges or abrupt changes in curvature, does not give away depth and instead, makes the product seem to float in a see of emptiness.

    What I usually do in my product photography is to lower the white point to bring the white backdrop to a true white, and then clean up the edges in photoshop so that the resulting image can be placed seamlessly on the web on a white background with any distracting image borders. The same can usually be done with a black background by bringing up the black point, though this presents it's own challenges.

    For a quick look at some examples, http://www.google.com/products?q=salt+shaker&hl=en&show=li&lnk=showgrid
    I know this isn't universal, but I personally am more drawn to the ones that fit seamlessly on the white background.

  • Carol from CT May 4, 2010 11:09 am

    Great idea, but how do you get the background to appear white.Notice how gray it looks. I had to do a shoot with jewelry and ended up "painting" white around each piece to make it white. not a fun way thing to do when you have over 100 pieces of intricate jewelry. If someone knows the secret I sure would like to know it as well. :-)

  • Frank Worth May 4, 2010 10:41 am

    You have it right that is all you need to do for simple jobs.

  • Mei Teng May 4, 2010 10:40 am

    Thanks for sharing this simple tip.Will try this one out myself.

  • Jeff Plum May 4, 2010 08:03 am

    No really? A tutorial that explains how to use... what is essentially a piece of A4 white card? I want my click back!

  • Fozzy May 4, 2010 06:37 am

    Nice tip, but what is wrong with your husbands thumb? Definitely not a hand model.

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