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.
This cup and saucer have been photographed against a white background, but the background ends up looking grey
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.
Top: over-exposed subject on white.
Above: correctly exposed on perfect white achieved in camera without editing or cutting out.
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 email@example.com 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 >>
Oh I’d love this so much!
Lyndsey is wonderful, I have signed up for this course and cannot wait x
Thanks Jennie! We love to see you at our workshops (and we think you should have a goodie bag because you are like a walking advert!)
I would love take better photos and be able to publish with minimum editing. Hope I win ;)
Oh I would love to do this. I currently use a free editing program and it can be quite harsh on delicate objects
I’d love to win a place! The taster session at the Folksy summer school was brilliant!
Thanks Laura! We loved the Summer School too!
This looks absolutely amazing! I have tried so hard so many times to keep things white, this tutorial would be great.
I would love to win this day:) Often end up overexposing ending up with washed out products:(
This would be a really useful course for me! I hope I win.
I would just love to win a place my photography skills are non existent no matter what I do. My husband has to take all my pictures or I wouldn’t have any.
Here’s hoping this entry is a winner!
Great post to help understand the confusing world of photography!
Great article, I could really get a lot out of a course! Thanks Fi x
I make white porcelain so achieving a white background where you can still see the white product in front would be truly amazing.
I’d love to learn these techniques please x
Great information. Its always something I battle with
in my photographs for my jewellery and artwork. I would love the opportunity to be included onto the course, that’s if I win.
Do all my pics but never achieved this. Hoping to win xx
What a great opportunity. I’d love to be included in the draw.
Ooh! Me me me! The photos of my copper and enamel need some serious fine tuning ;)
Looks awesome, I’d love this!
My photo efforts are really not good for showcasing my work. I’ve tried everything I can think of (including a new camera) but still can’t master it. I would love the chance to learn how to take the perfect pics…. Please :)
Yes please……pretty please!!
Thanks for these tips. I’d love the chance to win a place on the course, it sounds just what I need!
Fantastic tips, thank you. x
Be a challenge to see how these techniques can translate to larger items, like my bags
Great news the lessons can be translated to larger items, of course not as easy as a tiny product but still possible :)
Such a useful article, I’m constantly trying to improve my photography and this article is a great help. Now to go play with exposure and crossing my fingers I win a place on the course :D
Hope this is open to us downunders ( New Zealand lol) . I am very much an amateur in both my crafts and photography although I had one expert photo that made its way into Making Jewellery! I would love to learn more – I see all these signs on my camera and have no idea what they are even for!!! So prettyplese pick me!! Cheers
Yes it is! Our courses are open to users worldwide and the 1 day workshop has a 48hr access window to cater for students in different time zones. :)
Yes please, would love to get some good advice and improve my photography skills. I always struggle with light and having products of varying sizes means I need to use different locations which just makes it trickier!
This course is just what I need!
Thank you for the great tips and ideas! I would love to learn more from you!
I would love this! It’s just what I need x
white on white is my nightmare shot, in fact I try to avoid knitting with white!
Oh my gosh, I need this course! I’ve been selling my jewellery online for 3 years and this is still my biggest photography issue.
I would love to know how you get silver to expose properly against white – I always have problems.
Would love to win this course… looking to start a shop soon, and need it looking good from the “off”
I am in dire need of doing a course like this-my photos never come out how I intend!! Exciting. Thanks for running this competition!!
I have been trying for so long to get the elusive white background for my jewellery. Would love to win this course :)
Lovely :) Love the look of the photocraft courses, would prefer to attend in person rather than online, but they’re always in the middle of nowhere! :(
I have tried and tried and tried again, but still have not mastered a white background! Heeeelllllppppp ….! (please)
I would love to leart to take proper shots on a completly white background
You make it sounds so easy but its so difficult! I spend hours cutting out my photos would love to learn how to take better photos.
Would love to win this!
I would love to win this course. As a glass maker it’s hard enough getting decent photos and usually end up having to photoshop the backgrounds to get them white. Tips to do this in camera would be amazing.
My white backgrounds are grey, blue, pink and green. No matter what I do…
I won the full scholarship to the Photocraft full 4 week course and I cannot recommend it enough! This part of the course was one of my most favourite lessons and Lyndsey is a fantastic teacher! If you want to learn about product photography and styling you will not go wrong with any part of Photocraft be it the full course or the new single lessons. I was incredibly lucky to win and I can assure you it will be worth it and I am applying the skills and knowledge I now have to all my images and am in the process of updating my whole library of product images as I can do so much more with my camera and I was a complete novice and non-photographer before and it’s incredible what I can achieve now :)
By Charlie’s Hand
This is just what I need, so glad I saw this. I hope I win :)
This would be incredibly useful. I really struggle with setting my camera correctly to make the best of available light and find it increasingly difficult to get crisp, sharp images.
Great advice, Lyndsey; getting good products photos takes so long and I’m often disappointed with the results. Be really fantastic to achieve the look without spending too long doing it.
Photography is the bane of my life so I’d really love some help :-)
Would love this day course, it will stop the mad panic I get into when magazines ask me for product shots!
Funny, I’ve been working at figuring out how to do this for months! I’m a lot better now but could really use a course. I am sure everyone here feels the same.
Please help me craft my photos!
‘Help me craft my photos’ pretty please!
Ooh yes please, would love to win this!! I’m into photography and learning how to take white background shots is the next thing I want to learn!!
Great advice. Being able to take good photographs of your work is so important for a small business, especially when you’re bootstrapping. A place on this course is just what I need. Good luck to everyone who enters.
I always have real problems photographing shiny silver items, especially textured bad curved ones! Help!
Fabulous blog post! Very helpful, thank you… would totally love to win this course as I can never get a pure white background! Thanks for the opportunity :-) C. x
Always struggle with photographing my jewellery, would love to win a place on this course
Would love to win this, I often end up with a grey background and struggle photographing my painted glassware
I struggle so much with the backgrounds that I always end up doing cut out photos which is time consuming and sometimes make the photos look less realistic… I got a light tent and daylight bulbs but still not happy with it! Next step is buy a better camera… Something has to work!!!
I haven’t a clue what I’m doing!! I have a canon 100D or something….and taking photos is a bit of a nightmare. Trying to get the colours to be ‘true’ to what my eyes see. It has a manual but well…..what I need is a human!
Having just got my first batch of jewellery off to the assay office, the next step is to photograph it and get it on my webpage. I’m quite nervous as having tried a couple of shots before I sent it off, I think I really need help. This course would be perfect for me to get my web site and new jewellery selling career of to a flying start.
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