Which Background Color is Best for Product Photography?

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If you’re working with product photography clients that don’t know what they want or aren’t sure what will be the best use of your time, you may be wondering which background color would be best.

The color of your background has a strong impact on how your image turns out and can really set the mood. There are also some trends currently using bright colors that will likely evolve over time, thus aging your image.

So what is going to be the best background color? A white background is the most universally useful background color for product photography for several reasons:

  • It works for most products, which makes it easy for those still learning
  • It allows the product to be presented without distraction
  • It allows the photo to be used on many websites
  • It does not cast unwanted colors onto the product

However, that’s only part of the story.

In some cases, you may have more success with a different background color. Before choosing a background color for product photography, it’s a good idea to understand why white is the most popular color for backgrounds and if it will meet your needs.

If you read on, you’ll have a better idea of which background color will work best for you. 

When Uncertain About Your Background, Choose White

When you’re newer to the product photography field, you may still be getting an eye for background colors and how they affect your product image.

If you’re unsure which color background to use for a particular product photoshoot, a white background is always a safe bet. It is the most universally flattering background color so you can be confident that your product will look crisp, clean and professional.

You can experiment with other colors if you have the time and desire to, but it’s best to stick with very light-colored backgrounds if you stray from plain white.

You would also want to avoid any patterns as these can distract attention from the product. Your products should be the focal point of the image.

White Backgrounds are the Most Versatile for Product Photography

If you are just starting out with product photography or you’re looking for the most convenient option, a white background would provide the most versatility.

In many cases, you can light the white background bright enough to separate it from the product during post processing and replace it with a color or background of your choice, and switching between a white and black background can be achieved by a simple camera/lighting trick. 

By using lighting tricks and camera settings, you can make a white background appear different colors, giving it a broad range of applications.

In this video, photographer Andrew Boey shows you how to make a white background look black. By setting:

  • The ISO to 200
  • The shutter speed to 1/200, and
  • The aperture to f/16

—Boey was able to make a model appear as though she were standing in total darkness although the actual background was pure white and the room was bright.

This is done by separating your subject from the background enough so that light does not hit the background, so only your subject is lit.

White Backgrounds Highlight the Product Best

Using a white background for product photography ensures that your product remains the star of the photo. Bright colors or loud patterns in the background can detract from your product if they are not carefully considered and composed. 

Other light colors can be used for product photography with success, but white provides the cleanest, most crisp background. Your product will pop more with a white background than any other color. 

If Using Your Photos Beyond Your Own Site, Use a White Background

If you’re only planning on putting your product up on your own site or social media pages, you can experiment a little and see which background color you like best. You may wish to coordinate with your logo colors or another theme. 

However, if your photos are going to be used on another website, a white background is the way to go. You wouldn’t want to risk using a background color that clashes with a client’s website colors or isn’t consistent with the other product photos on their page.

Most product-only images use a solid white background, and website designers know this and design around it.

In fact, there are some sites, such as Amazon, which require that the product only be photographed on a plain white background. So be sure to check with your client first for any background color requirements or where your images are going to be used.

If you are unsure of what the requirements are, and want your photo to have the broadest applicability, then white is the way to go. This will also eliminate a lot of revision requests, should you have provided only “creative” photos.

What About Different Background Colors for Product Photography?

When choosing which background color to use for product photography, you can experiment with a variety of colors based on your personal preference or the request of the client. 

Although white is the ideal background color for most product photography, there are times when another color may be more suitable, such as with advertising or for thumbnails.

There are a lot of trending variations of colors and compositions to be aware of as well. For instance, bright yellow/pink tend to be popular choices for feminine products.

Regardless of which color you choose for your background, there are a few things to keep in mind for the best product photography.

Light Colors Can Make a Good Background

If you prefer not to use a white background, it’s usually best to choose a light-colored background unless you have a specific mood you’re going for, or are wanting to match your clients brand colors. 

If you’re not opting for white, it’s best to choose a color that is very light, such as: 

  • Beige
  • Pale pink
  • Blue, or 
  • Yellow 

Brighter background colors are more fitting for advertisements where the goal is to draw attention to the advertised business rather than highlight an individual product. But if you set your compositions up correctly, the product and background can work well together.

Keep the Background Simple in Product Photography

Regardless of what background color you choose to work with, it’s usually best to avoid using a busy background. 

Solid colors tend to be the best to ensure that the product is the focal point rather than anything in the background. The product can get lost in a very loud background which defeats the purpose of product photography.

If you’re going to use a busier background, pay special attention to the composition of the product and where it is in the image, making sure it is lit the brightest. Some really cool composites have been made with creative backgrounds where each piece was designed to work with each other.

Experiment with Creative Backgrounds for Unique Results

Sometimes you want to get a little more creative with your product photography, so don’t feel like you always need to use a white or solid colored background. 

If you have the time to try out some unique product photography background ideas, here are a few suggestions for backdrops:

  • Old, roughed-up baking sheets – generally not reflective like new pans
  • Painted Blocks – very popular in cosmetics
  • Newspaper – a great budget option
  • Colored Paper – mix two or more colors together
  • Black sand – a unique twist on a black background for jewelry
  • Rugs – easily changeable by using smaller area rugs
  • Greenery – great for backgrounds in natural health and beauty products
  • Liquid – Splashes and ripples are popular with beverages and are a nice touch
  • Replica Surfaces – interchangeable “replica” surfaces such as these (Amazon) create instant backdrops

For more info and a deep dive on product photography surfaces, check out our post.

Consider the Category When Choosing a Background Color

Of course, all of this should be considered within the context of your client and the specific product category you are photographing. Some types of products may do better with a background other than white, such as fashion or jewelry.

Fashion Photography Often Uses Light Gray Backgrounds

Fashion is frequently photographed with a gray background. Light gray tends not to interfere with the showcasing of the apparel.

Also, if the website background color is white, the gray backgrounds of the clothing images will be more easily distinguishable from the white background of the web page.

This may or may not be what you’re going for, but keep in mind the different seasons can affect which colors you choose. Fall colors such as yellow and orange are great for sweaters, for instance.

Black Backgrounds Make Jewelry Pop

Although the general rule is to choose white or light backgrounds in product photography, there are times when a black background would be optimal. 

When photographing jewelry, black is the ideal color to really set off the diamonds, precious stones, and precious metals. If you look at jewelry store websites, you’ll notice that many of them use black backgrounds to make the jewelry look vibrant and elegant.

Black backgrounds also change the mood and tone of an image, and often gives off a sleek and sexy vibe.

Some trends that are still quite popular is “black on black” where a dark product is against a black background or gradient and is shot with some rim light.

White Backgrounds: The Best for Most Product Photography

By now, you should be feeling much more confident about selecting the right background color for your product photography.

If you’re newer to the product photography field, you may want to stick with a white background until you’ve got more time to experiment and discover your own style.

However, there are also a few further tips to keep in mind, such as:

  • A white background doesn’t have to stay white—learning how to manipulate your shots to make the white background shift in tone adds flexibility to your shots. 
  • Using a clean white background ensures your product photo will meet the requirements of almost any site.
  • If you’re choosing another color background for your product photography, make sure to check with the client for their preferences and keep the color muted so as not to be distracting. 
  • Certain product categories work better with different colored backgrounds, such as light gray for fashion and black for jewelry. 

Now you’re ready to choose your background color to make your product photography stand out and impress your clients!

Benjamin

Benjamin

Hi, I'm Benjamin, Digital Media Strategist and product photographer for Skyline FBA. I have been involved in content creation for over 10 years and love helping people develop strategies to grow their business. My wife and I are Product Photographers that are experienced in Amazon FBA, eCommerce, Lifestyle, and Advertising photography.

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