Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Product Photo: White Background for Eshop

One of the most standard product photos is the white background shot. Used all over the net on almost every eshop, it provides a clean modern look for any product. However, it can be a tricky shot to pull off, especially if your product is also white!

We start with a white paper background, adding the product, and then adding a flash to light the background.

You will see from the image above, the "reflection" is very diffused. By changing to a smooth piece of board, we get a more defined reflection of the product. We also get a better, brighter reflection from the white background, making it easier to create that smooth white background.

We can see that being backlit, the product is rather dull at the front. We can add in reflectors on either side (just the same shiny board as we used underneath the product) to give some fill light to the front of the product, reflecting light coming from the background. It also helps to smooth out the shadow in front of the speakers.

This looks a fair bit better, but the product could still do with a little more punch. The goal after all is to sell these speakers on an eshop! Adding a second flash at low power gives a touch extra light, which is also more contrasty and directional. Using the zoom function means most of the light is concentrated on the product. Since the background is already going to be white, there's no need to use a snoot.

The flash is a bit too far right, so isn't really getting quite enough light on the front of the product. You can also see that the background flash is a little dark. We're still seeing some detail in the background.

To solve this, the front flash is moved a touch left to make the light fall better on the front of the product. The background flash can be increased in power by 1 stop (I'd probably have opted for 2/3 stop if I was using a 580EX, but it was a 550EX on the background). It's not far off though.

This results in quite a nice image, but the right hand speaker seems a little lost in the white background. By moving the background flash a touch left, the falloff of light on the background can be changed at the right hand side, and the speaker becomes darker (it is reflecting the background), along with the top right of the background.

After a crop and a slight curves adjustment, along with a very quick dodge at the top right to make the background fully white, this image is ready for an eshop.

So that's how a simple white background product shot can be set up, and how controlling the light can allow a white product to be made fully visible.

Here's some shots of the setup:

If you'd like to see all the in-between boring stuff, you can watch the entire shoot for this image. Don't worry if you don't catch all the text in the video... it's basically the same as the text above!


Anonymous said...

Very informative, thanks for the explanation and video.

Could you provide some of the exposure settings you used and how you go about determining them?


n506 said...

Hi Dave

For this kind of work, you're not relying on ambient light at all. So set your shutter speed at the sync speed for your camera (in this case it was 1/200s for me) and your ISO speed as low as it goes for the best noise performance (in this case ISO 100 for me). You then need an aperture value which gives you enough depth of field. f/8 sufficed in this case as I wasn't too close in. You can stop down as much as you want, but you just end up having to fire the flash harder.

So given ISO 100, 1/200s @ f/8, experience tells me that around 1/8th - 1/16 power on a 550EX will give me a reasonable exposure when under a metre from the subject.

So to start with on the white background, if I remember right, I fired a test shot with the flash at 1/8 power because the flash was very close to the background. This resulted in a pretty bright background. I confirmed this by reviewing the image, and checking the histogram on the back of the camera. You could of course use a flash meter, but I've not seen the need since digital came along, unless very precise lighting is required with two flashes exactly balanced. As you can see if you read through, I opted to increase the exposure on the background by 1 stop later on, so I reckon that was to around 1/4 power from 1/8th.

Having done that, I then set up the reflectors to add some fill, and then fired off a test shot. It wasn't bright enough, so I added in the second flash. I probably had it around 1/16th power because it was just fill. By chance (or experience depending on how you view it), I hit the exposure right first time. Had it been dark, I'd have done another test shot at 1/8th power, and if too bright, gone to 1/32 power.

There's no real set figures to this of course, because if you use a less powerful flash, you might be at 1/2 power, where I'm at 1/4 power, or 1/8 power on a more powerful flash than mine. You need some form of feedback, and that either has to be the shoot and check method with a digital camera, or the more technical flash meter option.

Don't hesitate to get back to me if you need me to clarify anything!


Anonymous said...

Cheers for the explanation, its really helpful.

I bought a SB-800 strobe recently for my Nikon D70s so I'm trying to learn as much as I can.

Your blog is great, full of really useful info especially with the videos aswell.


n506 said...

That SB-800 is a VERY nice bit of kit, and the D70s can run it via commander mode if I remember right, so you're sorted for starters. You've got to be a bit more creative with reflectors (even using mirrors) to get away with just one flash, but it's possible. I'd recommend getting at least one more if you're serious about lighting stuff though.

Your setup is not far off what David was just talking about on Strobist a day or two ago - his ideal startup kit. His blog is worth a look if you haven't come across it, especially because he's a Nikon man and a lot of what he talks about is Nikon related.

While I use Canon gear, it all applies once you get your SB-800 into manual mode.

By the way, I had a look at your flickr photos. Some good stuff there :)

Anonymous said...


You're right about, very informative.

Ok, I guess I'd better start saving for another SB-800 :-)


Dan said...

Loving your blog....just found it on youtube

I had a brief attempt today, but I cannot seem to expose the object correctly & still get a seemless background

I only have a cheap setup, but as strobist shows you, that doesn't matter if you know what your doing :)

I've got a product box + a cloth sheet that attaches to each corner of the box...maybe the sheet is too thick & not letting enough light through - I'll just have to keep plugging away

Lookin forward to new entries!!


Ali Ismail said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial.
it has been very useful.


Shelley said...

Hello there! I was wondering what you placed the white object on to get the shine reflection? is it a piece of foam core board? Hard to tell. Also, what are the the side reflective panels? I am assuming the first piece is a poster board? Thank you for your time!


n506 said...

It's all foam core board. One underneath for the shiny reflection, and two at either side for fill light, bouncing light back on the product from the background. Brings the overall light up on the product meaning any light I shine on the product is just for additional punch.

Mom of one said...

This is a brilliant tutorial!
I'm a proper novice that needs to have product shots with a white background. Stupid me went & bought the Sharpics D-flector only after viewing your Youtube tutorial. You can probably hear me cry.
My question is this:
I've just purchased a Fuji finepix S1730 but I can not find an external flash that works with it. What would you recommend?
Many thanks in advance for your help. p.s. if you want my D-Flector you are most welcome to it! I've used it for 2 hours & put it back in the box.