Guide: How to Photograph White/Clear Products on a Pure White Background

If you’re a sole proprietor or small business selling products on Amazon, you’ve probably done some form of the following when trying to get a pure white background for your products: You either use Amazon’s Seller app, which will take care of most of the work for you, or stick your images in a basic editor and turn up the highlights/exposure until the background is as close to a pure white as possible.

For most products, these techniques can create quality images. But if you are trying to sell a product that is either white or made of a clear material, then you’ve probably experienced poor results using typical methods. These products will at best appear washed out, or at worst completely disappear against the background. Here’s a few tips on to get around these problems.

1. Experiment with Backlighting

Backlighting is the easiest approach, and is what most photographers will recommend. However, it will only work well for matte white, non-clear products. If your product is made of plastic, glass or metal, skip ahead to the next tip.

The whole point of backlighting is to make sure your background is a different color white than your product. Since Amazon requires backgrounds to be a pure white (RBG 255, 255, 255), your product will need to be a darker shade of white than the background. The dance here is to: a) make sure your lighting isn’t blown out, making your product lose detail in its highlights, and, b) make sure your product doesn’t look dirty/muddy because it is a darker shade of white.

If you already have your white background (could be a light box, a white sheet of paper that is curved behind/underneath the product, etc.), all you will need to do is make sure you’ve got your main light source behind the product. In the case of using a lightbox or light tent, your background will be your light source. Otherwise, you have to make sure that your background is more lit up than the front of your product is. This may mean shining another light on the background. No matter what, you should also have a second, softer light shining from the front or at an angle, so that the front of your product isn’t a silhouette. See the example below:

Note: You can substitute studio lights here by using the sun as your main light source, and a piece of white cardboard/paper as a reflector at the front of the product to reflect soft light onto it.

2. Use Something Dark to Make an Outline

This is a more intense process, but it produces absolutely gorgeous photos. It’s the solution I recommend and works perfectly for glass products. The idea here is that if there’s a dark object very close to your white or clear product, it’s dark color will reflect on the outside of your product, giving it an outline. Let me show you using an example of the initial set-up for a glass picture I photographed:

This method is the simplest way you can accomplish this. Try cutting out black pieces of paper in the rough shape of your product. The black of the paper will reflect on your glass or white surface and create a pleasing gradient around the outside, almost like someone traced the outside edge of your product in a dark color. In this way, the inner part of your product can be a similar shade of white to the background, getting rid of the muddy look that some products have. However, this will — as you can clearly see from the above photo — require a lot of editing, which leads my to my next point…

3. Cut Out Your Product With Editing

Most product images can get close to a pure white background just by adjusting up the brightness of an image, but doing so will blow out the detail in your white/clear products! Instead, you’re going to to need to cut out your product from the background in editing. Here’s a quick video of what this looks like:

I used an application on the iPad called ProCreate to do this, but there’s tons of options. I recommend using Adobe’s Photoshop Mix on your phone or tablet, or if you want to use a computer, try Photoshop (Or Gimp for a free alternative). All you need to do is use the cut out/scissors tool built into the application to trace the outline of your product, and then either erase the background or brighten it. You’re probably gonna want a more in-depth tutorial for this part, so here’s a couple:

Gimp tutorial

Photoshop Tutorial

4. Cheat! (Don’t even use a white background)

If you’re already planning to cut out the background, who’s to say you even need a white background? This is mostly applicable to non-clear products, but there are exceptions. For example, check out the two images below:

The first image was shot using the black paper technique I mentioned earlier. It’s color balance fits with the pure white, but that’s not what color the Edison bulb is actually going to look like in real life. The second image was shot against a dark background to show the warm light of the Edison bulb, and then cut out to be placed against a pure white. Because of its warm tones and contrast against the background, it is arguably the more striking photo. (Don’t even ask how the bulb was lit without being screwed in. It involved a hole being blown in my background and tripping my studio’s breaker).

There you go! If you follow a couple of these tips, your photos are going to really stand out against the competition. That being said, I know a couple of the techniques get tricky, so feel free to reach out to me via email or social media, and I’d be happy to go into more detail.

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Thanks for reading!