View Full Version : Photography...how to have no background

ben b
25-08-2009, 11:51 PM

The Dragon
26-08-2009, 12:02 AM
Wooo mate - it's 1 in the morning and I've just read your post after a very long day( I started work at 7.30 this morning).

I think I understand what you are talking about in general terms but probably need to read through it a couple of times to be sure.. Don't go far, I may have a lot of questions in the morning when the coffee kicks in.


Solunar Silver Studio
26-08-2009, 06:02 AM
I love the sound of that ben! I must give it a go! It almost sounds too simple to be true...but then all the best ideas are the pure and simple ones!!:Y:

26-08-2009, 08:20 AM

This a kind of example of the above technique...not the most amazing image but I think you can get the idea :)

26-08-2009, 08:27 AM
You can also do it simply by increasing the exposure compensation, and placing the item directly on a white background. I used to take some pictures this way(a sheet of thick a3 paper inside my light tent), not so much now though, but a couple of old examples are below:

26-08-2009, 08:55 AM
I think I might give this a try. thanks

The Dragon
26-08-2009, 10:58 AM

It made much more sense second time around with the addition of caffine, I going to give it a try at the weekend.

26-08-2009, 02:57 PM
Blimey, I must try this as I just can't get my backgrounds whiter than white.
Thanks for the tip.:)

Mind you, I don't think that works for everything - it can look a bit spooky seeing a necklace seemingly floating in the ether.....or is that just me!

26-08-2009, 03:29 PM
The most common reasons for murky white backgrounds are underexposure and incorrect white balance. If you underexpose the shot (which the camera will do for itself unless you tell it - by increasing exposure compensation - that the background is white and you want it to stay that way), the white will come out a little grey and grubby looking. If you don't use the right white balance setting for the light source you use, you can get a colour cast to it too. If your lighting isn't totally even, you'll get patches of 'grey' still showing.

I have a tutorial with these points illustrated: http://www.boo.myzen.co.uk/artisan.html

If you really want to drop out your background to white, using a little too much exposure compensation will over-expose the shot and get an over- bight background, but that may also be at the espense of detail in your piece, where light areas will also be over-exposed and the piece may look lighter than it is.

Perhaps the best way is as the OP suggested is to over-light the background itself, so that your item itself can be exposed for correctly - thereby losing no detail in it. I have an old lightbox I use for such images - I can only find one on-line just now to illustrate this:


This was taken on white paper on top of a lightbox - with lighting applied to the raspberries from above too. So you light your background and subject as two separate entities. If you don't have a lightbox (mine is an old advertising sign from outside a shop, I scubbed the lettering off - I got it for nowt and have been using it for over 20 years now) you can suspend some glass or perspex on some books or something and put a lamp underneath it.

As lesley said, I don't like how they float with no shadows - they were for a particular brief - but I prefer something solid under my pieces and have decided now not to even try for white backgrounds, I prefer interesting textures and a bit of staging instead.

Solunar Silver Studio
26-08-2009, 05:49 PM
That's a fantastic tutorial Boo...mind you - it will take me a month of Sundays to read and digest that lot!:'( I love the fact that you don't have to go out and spend loads on equipment...excellent stuff..thank you!!:Y:

And thanks Ben too for starting the thread off in the first place...=D>

The Bijou Dragon
26-08-2009, 06:07 PM
I use Photoshop CS4 levels... easy peasy ;)

... but then we do have a rubbish camera that would baulk at over exposed surfaces and just refuse to focus or take a half decent photo!

26-08-2009, 06:20 PM
You're very welcome. I hope that I've written it in plain enough English - and illustrated it to explain points - so that it will be easy to understand. It's a technical subject, so it's not possible to eliminate all tech speak and terminology, but I hope I've explained it clearly enough - please ask if you don't understand anything.

I'm all for improvising - I won't buy anything if I can make something myself to solve a problem. Some things you can't avoid buying the right tools for, but sometimes it would just be throwing money away.

One of my future blog ideas is to take some jewellery photos with a very inexpensive and modestly featured camera (the one I use wasn't expensive, even though I have good gear available) and improvised or free supporting equipment - just to prove that you don't need to spend a fortune - a little understanding and know how is worth far more.

26-08-2009, 06:31 PM
I use Photoshop CS4 levels... easy peasy ;)

It's certainly one way to get the result visually and I know that a lot of people do get their white high key backgrounds after the fact in that way and I would too if I needed to. But as soon as you start shifting the tones in that manner, you deteriorate the quality of the image data a little with each adjustment.

Which for small end uses like web site photos is almost certainly not much of a problem - but if you then wanted to use that same image for a high end publication or something, you might find that the data wasn't good enough to print from.

So getting the effect in the camera initially, where that's possible, without potentially compromising the quality of your data would always be a better solution. Just in case a mag wants to run a feature on your work or something. We all wish.

Not suggesting you personally should do it differently, but your comment was opportune to make the observation. It's always going to be better to take the photograph itself as close to how you want it, than to rely on software manipulation. Don't get me wrong, I'm as guilty of it as anyone!

26-08-2009, 06:46 PM
Thank you, I hope you find it useful.

If you don't have lighting, work near a window - preferably without direct sun - and make yourself a reflector - just scrunch some aluminium foil up and then smooth it back flat again and stick it onto a piece of card, shiny side out - the side of a cereal packet will do - I've been using the same couple of pieces for donkeys.

If you position that on the opposite side of your subject from the window, you can reflect some of that light back and lift the shadows - it really does make a difference. I prop mine up with one of those plastic document holders that's a bit like a blob with a curved slot in it - a bit of trail and error will show you were you get the best effect. Arm yourself with some bulldog clips, Blutak etc.

If you're getting too many reflections or hot spots from the light, put a sheet of tracing paper, tissue or fine fabric in front of the window, it will reduce your light a little, but diffuse it too.

I did a blog about foil reflectors: http://boojewels.blogspot.com/2009/05/aluminium-kitchen-foil-as-photographic.html