Do product photographers need more than just a camera and lights? You bet they do! Every product photographer worth their salt needs to have the right backdrop for every product they shoot.
You can’t have a good photo without a good background.
Each type of background has its own benefits depending on the product being photographed; however, each is versatile enough to be used with various products. But if your backdrop is too eye-catching, it might draw attention away from the product you’re trying to promote. So learning how to use proper backdrops is an important part of every product photographer’s education.
6 Backdrops Every Product Photographer Should Have includes:
- White Background.
- Green Screen.
- Colored Paper Backgrounds.
- Photo Paper Backgrounds.
- Foam Boards.
- Fabric Backgrounds.
These will allow you to take impressive photos without spending a lot of money.
Read further and discover how these backdrops can improve your pictures without breaking your budget!
White backgrounds have become the industry standard for e-commerce photos. They give the viewer a more accurate idea of the product’s color and offer no distractions that might draw eyes away from the item’s details.
Most e-commerce photography sets start with a round of white background product photos. The reason is that white backgrounds are versatile, simple to use and can be used in combination with other backdrops.
It’s also the backdrop most professional product photographers have at their disposal for every shoot because it allows them to quickly photograph a number of products without needing to spend much time in post production.
You can take these pictures by throwing a white sheet over your bed, but you’ll get better results using diffusion material that is “photographically” white, such as Savage Translum (available on Amazon).
This will give you a white backdrop big enough for full body shots yet seamless so that you can use it for macro shots in product photography.
Drape your backdrop on the floor or another surface, and you have a reflective but non-glossy white background that’ll highlight your products in the best possible light. If you have no dedicated backdrops yet, a white background should be your first purchase.
Green screens can be tricky to use because the light can spill a green hue onto your product if you’re not careful. That said, green screens offer the most flexibility of any backdrop because they are completely customizable. You can simply replace your background with a new image or video in post-production to create an endless array of backgrounds for product photos.
Professionals use green screens because they don’t match any natural skin tone or hair color. It’s easier to remove green backgrounds without also erasing parts of the model in the foreground.
For green screen shots, you must ensure that nothing on your product or model matches the color of your screen. You must also ensure your green screen is evenly lit so that its color is uniform as possible across the shot.
After you get a picture of your product, you can remove the green screen in post-production. From there, your background choices are limited only by your imagination and trademark lawyers. You can put your product in a desert, on an asteroid, atop the Empire State Building, or any place that’ll make prospective buyers take a second look.
This Chromakey Blue & Green 2-in-1 Collapsible Backdrop with Stand (available at Amazon) will get you started in what professionals call chroma key compositing. If you’re shooting a green product, you can use the blue screen.
Colored Paper Backgrounds
One of the most popular backdrops for product photos is colored paper. It’s cheap, easy to work with and provides great contrast for product shots. You can buy colored paper backgrounds at any arts store, or you can use poster boards from an office supply store.
When using sheets of colored paper as backgrounds, the key is making sure they either match or contrast with what’s on your product (or model).
You can find colored paper rolls in many photo studios, video shoots, and retail displays. Colored paper offers a photographer a blank canvas to set a mood. If you buy from an established brand like Savage, you know that your color will not vary between rolls, and the paper will be reflective but not glossy.
You could use 26-inch Savage Seamless Orchid #29 found on Amazon or one of Savage’s 64 other colors with one photoshoot, dispose of the paper you used, then put the rest of the roll away for later. If you want to do portraits, Savage also makes paper backgrounds in 53-inch (1.35m), 86-inch (2.2m), and 107-inch (2.7m) widths.
Colored paper backgrounds are inexpensive and not especially bulky. A few rolls stored in your closet could be your first step toward turning your bedroom operation into a professional product photography studio.
Photograph Paper Backgrounds
If you’re looking to get more creative with your product photos, you could use a photograph or print as your backdrop. A paper photo background has a predictable pattern and is less prone to reflections or distracting rough spots than stone or wood surfaces. It’s also considerably easier to carry around than a marble slab or weathered board.
Photo paper backgrounds come in many patterns and offer reproductions of surfaces ranging from butcher blocks to Spanish tiles to graffiti-decorated walls. Artists may drag their favorite mossy log to a photoshoot. Professional product photographers rely on lightweight substitutes to get the job done.
Be careful when purchasing photo backgrounds. Many photo paper backgrounds are designed with portrait photographers in mind. Professional product photographers typically shoot from a much closer distance which can easily show the backdrops imperfections and texture.
A background that looks great on portraits might appear pixelated and phony from extreme close-up and macro range.
The Allenjoy 3pcs Double-Sided Photography Background Set (available on Amazon) was designed for product and food photographers. These backgrounds allow you to place your jewelry, food items, or larger products against various marble or wood surfaces.
White foam boards are cheap, lightweight, and readily available. They’re also very reflective and we use them all the time for adding light back into a scene. So when you use a white foam board as a backdrop, you can create a nice backlight effect for your product.
Your foam background can also pull double duty on secondary lighting. A strategically placed foam board can reflect a diffuse fill light toward your subject. This fill can be used to soften harsh shadows or emphasize details.
Lightboxes—white boxes which reflect light toward your product in the most flattering way—are a must-have for product photographers. But lightboxes can limit your range of motion in setting up your lighting.
You can create a workable lightbox using foam boards, a poster board, and duct tape if you’re really on a budget. This YouTube video from DIY Tryin will show you how:
Foam boards are a professional photographer’s secret that even amateurs can afford. At Amazon, you can get five sheets of UCreate White 22” x 28” (56 x 71cm) Foam Board for less than a new tie. And if used properly, those foam boards will do more for your product photography career than any tie.
Muslin or microfiber backdrops are more durable than paper and even easier to store. For product photographers, this makes them an attractive option.
However, they are not without their problems. Unlike paper backdrops, fabric is prone to wrinkles. You can stretch or steam your fabric backdrop, but you’ll need to watch out for unsightly creases when shooting. You may want to keep a portable steamer on hand if you’re using fabric backdrops.
If your fabric background gets dirty, no need to cut away the stain. Simply wash your backdrop, and it’ll be good as new. Fabric backgrounds can be reused for years with proper care.
You can also use fabrics for their color and texture. For example, velour and velvet make a lovely base and backdrop for luxury products and come in many colors. Satin’s sheen adds a touch of class to a photo, and lace can be useful when photographing antiques, baby products, and more.
This Neewer Photo Studio Backdrop Support System (available at Amazon) comes with stands, crossbars, clamps, and stabilizing sandbags. With this support system, you can set up backgrounds quickly and securely in your studio or for an offsite shoot.
Good product photography requires imagination. With a little creativity, you can take professional-quality photographs without spending a lot of money building a studio.
Not everybody can afford $25,000 worth of studio lights. Just about everybody can afford colored paper, some foam boards, and a basic white background. The time you invest in learning backgrounds will pay off in better sales—and maybe even a photography career!
For more info on how to take great product photos, check out the rest of our blog!