Why can't I get a decent white background with product photography?

  • I'm a new photographer, and I'm trying to take photos of a product with a pure white background (#ffffff). I'm using a light box (something like this one), so my lighting should be solid.

    But I can't seem to find the right settings for a good photo. I've taken lots of photos (100+), with a lot of different settings and basically my photos are either overexposed, or the background is not white. Here are some examples:


    product great, background too gray

    The product is great on this photo. Only the background is WAY to grey.

    f/8 -- 1/2000 sec -- ISO-6400


    background white, product overexposed

    The background is pure white. But the product is overexposed.

    f/8 -- 1/320 -- ISO-6400


    too gray and overexposed product Too grey and the product is overexposed

    f/22 -- 1/200 -- ISO/128000

    Based on feedback, I have adjusted the exposure parameters and gotten somewhat better results, but that that alone doesn't solve the fundamental problem. What else do I need to do to get a pure white background without overexposing the subject?

    TL;DR : An all around, all white background isn't just a background. It is a powerful reflector.

  • Matt Grum

    Matt Grum Correct answer

    8 years ago

    There are many improvements that could be made here. Firstly, you need to use a much longer exposure, and a lower ISO setting. Get a tripod, even a cheap one, and use mirror lockup. Could do with stopping down a bit further for depth of field.

    Post processing

    You might be able to get away with your current shots, with some post processing. Here I've taken the second shot and used levels to darken the product whilst leaving the background pure white:


    The proper solution is to look at your lighting. The reason that you cant get the right balance no matter what settings you use is that both the product and background are being lit by the same source, so you can only alter the brightness of both, not each one individually.

    Usually you'd have one light for your subject and one for the background. This gives you the correct amount of control for optimum results. However that is only if you have a large curved white background. Compact light tents such as the one you're using wont allow you to light your subject individually.

    One solution is to black out any parts of the light tent not visible in the shot. That way the amount of light hitting your subject will be decreased, making it darker, without affecting the brightness of the background (since you wont touch any parts that are in shot). Get some thick black card, cut it to size and tape it inside the light tent.

    Thanks for the answer Matt. I can get decent photos with some photoshopping, but it's a lot of work and I plan on making a lot of photos. So thats why I want to get it right "at the source". I think I understand a little bit better why the light tent is bad. The trick with blacking out sounds good, i'll try that!

    If you standardize your settings when you shoot you can batch apply the same actions to all of the photos in many RAW convertors very easily.

    I'm going to accept this as my solution, thank you. I've learnt that while my settings aren't perfect, it's mostly a problem with lightning that I'm dealing with (as you and others have explained). I don't have a result yet that I'm satisfied with, but I think I do know how to get it now. I'll start a new topic if I don't ;). Thanks to everybody for the great help, I've learned a lot!

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution

Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM