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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Background, pt 2

When is the best background for your product not white?

I often suggest a different background if the product itself is clear, opaque, white, or silver. I also love when an online shop creates a background that is unique to them, and sets themselves apart by creating something that reflects their brand or personality. So that is another great time to add some color!

While looking to make sure I covered the "hot topics" for doing your own product photography I asked my fellow TSUA-List members for their questions, and the subject of choosing a background other then white came up.  Thank you for those members who brought the topic of backgrounds to my attention! I put a lot of thought into it for my clients... and if your doing your own work... you should put a lot of time into it as well.

So what colors should you use?

Product provided by Crafty Gal Creations

Black: It is easy to find, like white you can use fabric or poster board for your small studio at home easily enough. It is solid, easy to edit and light. If your exposure is off slightly it is easy to edit in post production and it highlights jewelery especially silvers and golds very nicely. From a photography stand point it does not reflect light... so if you find your issue is TOO MUCH light on your image, this will absorb it.  If you have sheer cloth, or opaque stones and beads, or white products... this highlights them very nicely. Over all it is pretty forgiving and easy to work with.

Product Provided by: L. W. Hooks

Grey: I have to say... white, black and grey are the most common. Even when I was shooting families in the studio  - almost every skin tone, color combo and product will look good! For product grey is a solid choice if you want something a little different but not too "out there". Again it is easy to find, and forgiving if your exposures are not consistent. Grey, if you remember used to be how photographers balanced their film cameras! Grey is a neutral - it compliments all colors!

Now... you don't always need to think in solid backgrounds. I have several painted grey backdrops that I use.  Depending on the look for your shop, blog or other product use... these are great ways of adding texture or color, and creating a custom look. Just be careful not to get too over whelming with the amount of color or texture if you still want people looking at your product!

A gift from Colletta's Kitchen Sink during a swap I did!
Product Provided by: Streeter & Co

These are a couple of  custom backgrounds that I have hand painted - if you want to learn more about them you can visit my shop or email me directly!

Plus, Grey is not the only neutral in town!

Browns, tans, creams: Also great neutrals you can use for a variety of products, and colors. The tone of the background does really start stretching the limits of what colors look best on it. So you need to be careful here. Too yellow, red, or orange and your product may start to pick up those tones... especially in the whites. I tend to like something like the stone look below for shops with a more organic feel to them.
Product Provided by: Streeter & Co

While mixing a black with grey and brown provides another solid option for you, if you want something more custom looking but not so dark.

<<missing  new background image / Brice >>>>

Blues: Blues start getting very tricky. You have to use a little restraint and start thinking about your product and photography very seriously. It is easy to use the wrong kind of blue and to have that overwhelm your image like here you see the blue reflecting so much that the white starts to take on that tone like the image shown below.

Now, blue is still a very common color to use in studio photography. Typically you wont find it as a solid background, unless it is being used as the blue alternate to the green chroma key.  Where it is so overwhelming it is easily selected digitally and replaced with a different background. However, you will find it as a dyed background, or commonly paired with greys and whites in a mottled texture much like the tan and black are in  the image of "Brice" above.

There are exceptions to the rules and times when a solid blue can be your friend... say if your shooting something that is stone, or natural in color, seashells, or you want that "sea" look... stick with lighter shades of blues to accomplish this and help prevent the color bleed. Or if you have something that falls in the red, yellow, or orange category where you can use the blue to calm and add balance to the colors of the image, while highlighting the beauty of the product. Often it is best to work with something that has several shades of blue, or even white to help that balance.

Product Provided by: Crafty Gal Creations
Blues are very tricky for product photography, especially home product photography because you are typically not shooting with the best lighting gear. Poor lighting leads to blue images to start with... either from shadows, poor exposure, or the  light temperature of your light source.  My suggestion, stay away from solid blues and look for mottled, or pops of blue. Like this custom painted backdrop I made.
Product  provided by: Flynnster

Or by adding it in as a prop! Like this custom prop I created as part of Sweetsies Prop set. 

Cookies provided by: Sweetsies
Greens, reds, pinks, oranges and yellows: Unless you are a professional, and have the right equipment I would tend to steer you away from these background colors. Again, due to the nature of these colors they tend to bleed over into your product colors... reds and yellows are especially bad. Reds, quite frankly are even bad for you to WEAR during a photo shoot around your face, because it will make your skin appear more red and flush!

Not every item can stand up to such a bright background as well as this super cute guy... This type of bright background works great for kid products... but seriously.. you have to know what your doing or this will go very ---- VERY bad for you!

Plus, these colors will quickly overwhelm the eye.With skill and comprehension of the product and the equipment and lighting you have available, you can create great images with bright backgrounds. However,  if you are trying to create a custom look for your shop and that is a major part of your "branding" color scheme I would seriously consider letting me create a custom background where any of these color can be mixed into a more neutral based background, making it easier for you to work with! Too many images like the one above and potential shoppers could be easily overwhelmed! However, you should be aware of your product as well, below is a great example of a great background choice for yellow.  However, just like the blue we talked about a moment ago, it can bleed into your product... like below, this Smelly Jelly by Streeter &Co should be clear, instead it picks up the background color behind it and becomes more yellow itself! A lot of this can be overcome with proper lighting, and camera settings, but if you are starting out you may want to steer clear of the extra obstacles.

Patterns: Mixing up patterns and textures can be a lot of fun... I suggest being careful with the print and texture you use. I also find that people who don't have good lighting, or camera equipment, or who don't understand how to use it really struggle with making patterned backgrounds look good. Using depth of field and posing techniques to showcase an item becomes very important. Also, I wouldn't suggest posting a product like this lanyard with ONLY this image... make sure your following my other guidelines on using multiple images, posing, details and clarity! This can add interest to your shop... but it doesn't really show you want the item is!  - But seriously... HOW cute are the ladybug and bumble bee beads in there! I mean COME ON!

Product Provided by: Crafty Gal Creations
Golds/Silver or other reflective surfaces. These can look amazing. However, you really have to know what your doing. Since these backgrounds reflect light you want to work with that, instead of against it. Utilize your lighting to create a great effect. Like the patterns, I don't recommend this for your everyday image, or for someone just starting out... there is technique and an investment into time, lighting and camera gear required. However, when done right it can have a dramatic effect rather then just going with a black or grey.

Product Provided by: L.W.Hooks
Product Provided by: L.W.Hooks

Product Provided by: L.W.Hooks
It really makes for amazing detail shots! Much like the pattern, I wouldn't try to shoot all the images on a reflective background... just a standout... look at me, kind of shot. I've used the metal look to highlight the chain in the two crochet necklaces, and to pick up the sparkle in the threads of the crochet hat.

I hope this has gotten some wheels turning and helped you think about what you can use in your home studio! Don't forget to join me for "The Background, the final chapter" where I talk about what makes a good background, and what to look for when making or purchasing one, and how to pair the right colors with your product!

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