Getting to White (or color)

June 11, 2008

I just came across a very detailed and helpful guide to getting pure white backgrounds for shots of people or products.  There are some good tips to keep in mind, but most important is having sufficient distance between your subject and the backdrop.  Here’s the link!

Coincidentally, I was just using a similar technique to get a variety of colored backgrounds for some jewelry shots for a client.  I used a mid grey seamless and color gels on the background light to change the color of the background.  The model is lit with a medium softbox, about three feet from her. She’s positioned about ten feet from the background, so the light from the softbox doesn’t affect the background. Using a mid grey seamless gives me a lot of flexibility in terms of the background tone.  By combining gels with adjusting the power on the background light I can get everything from near black, to deep, saturated colors, to bright colors, even white if I want.  Here are some examples from the shoot:

In case you’re wondering about the soft focus effect in some of the shots, they’re done with a 90mm tilt/shift lens, which allows me to tilt the plane of focus… Lots of fun!


  1. I love the crops but I find the lens blur distracting and a bit overkill in this case. She’s beautiful and the shots without the blur seem cleaner looking to me and more effective for the subject matter.
    The use of blur can be effective, but can also detract when you can’t see the model clearly which I feel in this case.
    My favourite is the 4th from the right. The earring and necklace work beautifully together and the expression on her face really sells the whole package.
    I think this is different from food, where I feel the blur works really well.
    But it is your vision for this ad so that is what counts.

  2. I think I meant the 4th photo going from left to right, eye, mouth, earring and necklace.

  3. Iden,
    the idea behind theses shots is to focus on the jewelry specifically, so blurring the model was a simple way to accomplish this goal. At the size they’re being reproduced the blur is subtle but effective. If these were being used as full page ads, I would probably have used a lighter touch with the blur.

  4. Is there a difference in how we view blur between shooting and creating with the tilt shift lens, or using masking and blur in photoshop. Does one get the same exact result?

  5. No, the results are not at all the same. Masking and blur in Photoshop does not deal with the actual depth of your subject. You are simply mapping some blur onto your shot and attempting to imitate the effect of actual depth. The tilt/shift lens allows you to actually tilt the plane of focus and control where it passes through your subjects.
    Also, applying blur in Photoshop is different than having objects fall out of focus. The difference is subtle, but it is different.

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