The advice on photography can be very confusing – white backgrounds, cut-out shots or lifestyle? Although lifestyle shots often work best on Folksy, the press love products shots with perfect white backgrounds so they can easily be dropped into a page without any ‘cutting out’. But how are they achieved? Here commercial photographer and owner of Photocraft online photography school Lyndsey James shares her advice (and offers two lucky Folksy sellers the chance to win a place on a Photocraft course!)…
A ‘cut out’ is when a subject has been digitally cut out from the original photo background ready to be placed on to a white page. Unless you know how to use editing software effectively, my advice would be to leave the cutting out to the magazine who have requested the photo. Instead, concentrate on getting your subject clear, in focus, and looking great on a plain, neutral background, ready to be cut out. The background must be neutral to avoid colour casts reflecting on to your subject.
A packshot is a product photographed on a plain perfect white or sometimes coloured background. There is no ‘cutting out’ required and it is ready to be used in whatever application it was intended, usually packaging or promotional materials.
Wish Ring photographed by Lyndsey James for Dino Daisy
Getting a perfect white without editing
To achieve a brilliant white background that requires no editing you need to understand a little bit of lighting theory, which is why at Photocraft we run a one-day online workshop all about getting the perfect whites in camera, without any cutting out. Simply placing your subject on white and photographing the normal way will often result in grey backgrounds. One quick tip that can help avoid whites greying is to use the exposure compensation button (+/-) on your camera to fine tune the brightness without overdoing it – this will help keep things looking as they should. Adding a piece of voile to your window to act as a screen helps even out any harsh lighting and reduces shadows.
Avoid over exposure
Be wary of over-exposing your photos. A little fine tuning can be useful but I often see over-exposed products in photos in an attempt to make backgrounds whiter. It’s a shame when the products are beautifully made but then look bleached out in the final shot.
If you don’t know how to create a perfect white, try using a pale grey background – this won’t cast any colour on the white, and because it creates contrast between the object and background it’s easier to cut out afterwards. Or if you don’t want to attempt cut outs, you could always use a complementary shade for background. Or why not create a lifestyle shot instead? Folksy love to see simple, uncluttered lifestyle shots that show a product in use, as will your customers, and you can find and create all sorts of interesting backgrounds and props. So start by browsing magazines for inspiration, and then get creative with some lifestyle shots of your own!
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Photocraft are offering two lucky Folksy sellers a place on the Perfect White Background one-day online workshop on Thursday 1st May. For a chance of winning, either leave a comment on this blog post, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Help me craft my photos’. The deadline for entries is Monday 21st April at midnight. Winners will be chosen at random.
And if you don’t win, you can still sign up to the Perfect White Background course at the early bird price of £50. This is just one of the many online photography courses run by Photocraft specifically for designers and makers. You can see the whole selection of Photocraft courses here >>