Friday, June 29, 2012

Why Not White.

Last time we looked at placing products against a solid white background. This time we'll discuss why not to do that.

In one word, drama.
In two words, drama = emotion.
In three words, drama = emotion = interest.
And interest is where we want our customers to be.

To create drama and interest, use these three proven techniques:

1. Add Color - By adding color, we heighten the drama. There are two ways to add color: (a) with our lights or (b) with the surface/background. Here's an example:

Recall our modest soap dispenser from last time. Looks a bit more dramatic, yes? In this case, I gelled the background light yellow (although continued to use white light on the front of the product.) And I also switched out the white background for black Plexiglas® . The Plexiglas® has the added benefit of adding a reflection to our photo, another way of creating drama (discussed below).

2. Camera Angle - Go back and watch "Citizen Kane" (go ahead, I'll wait). Orson Wells uses extreme camera angles to build drama and suspense - mostly low and/or off-axis so-called "Dutch" angles. (In fact, legend has it he asked the studio to allow him to dig trenches inside his sound stage so he could place his cameras below ground level to make his protagonist look even larger than life.) We can do the same with product shots. Again, look at the image of our soap dispenser. The extreme high angle creates drama and interest. Same with our shoe below.

3. Reflections and/or Highlights - reflections under a product are widely used. Whether created in-camera or in Photoshop, they are eye-catching and make even basic product shots more interesting. Likewise, creating highlights or sparkles on the surface of a product heightens the drama and emotion of the shot. There's a reason humans are drawn to shiny objects (Google "why are humans attracted to shiny things" to see the answer.) As someone selling products you may not care why shiny things are more attractive to potential customers - you just need to know that they are. Remember our lowly tea kettle from last time? How you like me now?

"ROSEBUD", eh, I mean thanks for reading. Please get in touch with any questions or comments and check back in two weeks for my next post.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why White?

Most product photos present the product on a solid white background. But why?

Well let's start by noting that this is not always the case and that there are exceptions to every rule. But the vast majority of product photos that you see on the average ecommerce website depict the product on a plain white background. The overwhelming number of requests that I get are for just such photos.

In my opinion there are four closely related reasons to do it this way.

1. Simplicity - product photos that you see on an individual product page of a website are informational in nature. The primary purpose of these photos is to inform the customer about the product. So it is usually good practice to present the product in its most simple and straight-forward form. A plain white background eliminates clutter and simply presents - and presents simply - the product.

2. Focus & Emphasis - By presenting the product on a uniform, uni-color background, we naturally drawn attention to it. The product is clearly the most important part of the image, and for that moment at least, the most important thing in the potential customer's mind.

3. Contrast - Contrast is defined as "the difference in luminance and/or color that makes an object (or its representation) distinguishable." A white background usually allows for creating maximum contrast between the product and background. But consider the request I get at least once a week: to photograph a white object on a white background. In the most extreme case, the product becomes indistinguishable from the background. Luckily, there are a couple of ways to deal with the issue.

The first way is to define the edges of the product. This is usually done by manipulating lighting and/or reflections on the product. A very simple but effective technique is to use black cards to remove light from the edges of the product (this is commonly known as "negative fill"). This darkens the boundary between the product and background and allows the product to stand-out.

The second way is to exploit the fact that humans don't really see pure white. Rather we see shades of gray. So a very effective way to create contrast is to reduce the brightness of either the product or the background resulting in one being more or less "white" than the other. The product will still be perceived as white even if it is actually a lighter or darker shade of gray.

4. Neutrality - The final reason to choose a white (or perhaps light gray) background is that white is neutral in terms of color. While using a colored background can often be dramatic and quite interesting visually, that color is often reflected back onto the product itself. This bleeding of the background color can distort the true color of your product. What few people realize is that white is not the absence of color but actually the blending of all colors. This means white brings out the natural color that is already there.

So there you have it: White is often the best background choice when it comes to creating product photos.

Or is it? As I mentioned earlier there are exceptions to every rule. So next time we'll look at the question of "Why Not White?"

Friday, June 1, 2012


Welcome to my blog. specializes in high-end professional product photography. I strive to create stunning images that help you sell more product and boost your company's bottom line.

Check back in the coming weeks and months for exciting news and information about my business and behind the scenes looks at how I do what I do.

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Peter Alessandria