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Pure White Background for Better Photos

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

Many amateurs that want to feature small products or even some macro shots tend to photograph their subjects where they lay. Just simply place the item on a surface and snap a picture.

Assuming the light is correct, the exposure and all the other technical aspects are technically sound the background is often disregarded as not something to really worry about. This is far from the truth.

A non distracting background is more important than many other elements when taking close ups, especially for macros or product photography.

Pure white backgrounds have two main qualities that make macros or product photography stand out and it is mostly what professionals use. First it eliminates all distractions from taking the eye away from the main point of interest.

Second they are easy to set up and you can fully immerse yourself in other technical aspects without having to worry about what is behind the subject.

Why You Need Pure White

If you have ever photographed someone on a “white” backdrop only to find the white came out more of a gray you know why this episode is so important. An image with pure white edges will fade perfectly onto most websites but how do you get your whites to be “oh so white”?

In this episode we show you how to make a pure white background in photoshop without losing too much detail in your images. As a bonus we also show you how to make pure black.

To start set up a solid platform where your product or specimen will be placed. You need to line the location with pure white paper like the one used in copiers and it should be non glossy to avoid too many reflections being present in the final shot.

Make sure to extend the paper above the edges of the subject; this needs to extend beyond the scope of the subject on all sides by a few inches. You can crop the final image later using Photoshop or any other digital manipulating software program.

Illuminate the subject with ate least a couple of lights with one of each side of the subject and preferably at 45 degree angles. Make sure to add a diffusing material to each light source for better results. If the light is too strong shadows and reflections will be present. Also aim one light directly at the background to eliminate any possible shadows from the ones used to illuminate the subject.

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Photoshop elements tools dialogue box (Background Colors)


Once you have a pure white background like one composed of white copier paper, if you wanted to make it even whiter then using Photoshop will take just a few steps and the result are usually excellent for this type of photography.

First open the image; from the tools select image-adjustments- levels, choose the clear triangular-shaped slider (see photo).

Once you click on it another window called levels will open up. Slide the top slider (bar) to the left but not so much that the actual subject begins to be affected (or starts becoming lighter).

The more you move this slider the lighter (whiter) the background appears.

That's it but if you see the original subject has faded a bit then slide both sliders (top and bottom one) a little to the right until you get the desired results (tonality) on the actual subject.

You can also play with each slider until you achieve what you want plus you get to experiment with different results the more you move one slider or the other.

Simple once you begin to play with it and this is one of the best tools that professional product photographers use to make their subjects pop out.

If you come to the realization that your images would best be suited for viewing with a pure black background, the steps used in Photoshop can be reversed to obtain a pure black instead of a pure white so long as you change the white copier paper sheets with a non glossy black background as your starting point.

Pure blacks are also easier to get by simply placing the background a few feet back from the subject and using a large aperture.

I have a confession to make, I tend to most always use a pure black background simply because I like the feel of the image and the dramatic effect that this background gives my particular choice of subjects which are mostly macros.

Gimp's elements tool dialogue box

  • How to get a pure white background | Brandi Girl Blog
    Using Photoshop Elements, I’m going to show you how to do exactly that. There are two ways I’ll go over in the video, one for users who have either regular Photoshop or Elements 9 or 10, and one for any Photoshop/Elements user (if you want to see the

Pure black can also be a good alternative to pure white

© 2015 Luis E Gonzalez

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