Shadowless Lighting for Photographing Products on White

In this live show, Karl demonstrates a useful technique for creating shadowless lighting when photographing products on a white background.

This technique is often required for e-commerce or catalogue product photography and is something we’ve been asked about a lot. To help you achieve this look Karl demonstrates a start-to-finish shoot showing the simple technique that can be used to achieve this.

To start, Karl shows how one would normally light products on white (you can find more in-depth demonstrations on this in classes such as our packshot product photography class, high-end headphones product shoot, or rings jewellery photography shoot). The problem with this technique is that it can be very difficult to eliminate shadows entirely, which is what is often required when shooting e-commerce products.

The solution to this is actually very simple and requires nothing more than a simple change of background material.

In the show Karl demonstrates exactly how to achieve this shadowless lighting, thereby eliminating the need to spend hours in Photoshop doing cutout work. He then goes on to show a simple trick to make cutout work even easier and how to easily change the background colour in Photoshop!

Topics covered in this show include:

  • Creating white backgrounds
  • Photographing products on white backgrounds
  • Creating shadowless light for product photography
  • How to create quick cutout selections in Photoshop
  • Changing background colour in Photoshop

There is also a follow-up live show related to this, where Karl demonstrates how to create natural-looking artificial shadows in Photoshop.

Comments

  1. Hey Karl, long time viewer, first time commenter.. . 😀 Love this site and all you teach, man, thank you!

    I need to set up the glass setup you have in the video above for (many) flatlay clothes shots on pure white background, as it’s killing me in photoshop time cutting them all out afterwards. (Really finicky with white parts always being mistaken by the various selection methods.) My studio has an eight foot ceiling and the widest lens I have is a full frame 35mm, on full frame camera. Tethered on a c-stand extended touching the ceiling I have to capture clothes with a maximum length of roughly 106cm or so. (Adult jeans etc).

    My question is how high off the white board on the ground underneath would the glass have to be to avoid any issues with the light reflecting off of it, beneath the garment, or would there be any if there was only enough room to get the light pointing beneath the glass and garment? I am building white mdf boxes like yours at 40cm X 60cm X 81cm. Hope that’s a clear picture for you! Thank you!

    Kindest regards,
    Craig

    1. Hi Craig, yes I understand your problem but it’s difficult to answer without testing. The problems I would visualise are not getting the light to spread properly because the lights had to be too close too the ground and also the product being too close to the light sources so the product picked up some of the background lighting directly which would then ruin the purpose of the technique. As you saw in this class I was elevated only on my standard blocks at about 80cm high, my guess is I could probably get away with 55cm with a bit of playing, fill card bounces under there and wide angle reflectors on the lights to get an even white but whether or not my subject would start receiving enough light to affect is the unknown.

      1. Thanks Karl, for the swift reply. I see what you’re saying, and yes, that’s what I imagined might be the issues. I will have to try it out and see. I only have softboxes or bare bulb Elinchroms, no other reflectors such as a standard or the likes, though I do need to pick one or two up, obviously. (60 X 80 Rotalux, 35 X 100 strip Rotalux which I intend to use on the clothes, or the smaller basic Portalites with no inner diffusion that came with the D-Lite RX 4s.) So, sorry, one more question, could you tell me would bare bulb would be a problem for that technique, or would it be doable without any reflectors on the lights?

        I might be able to shoot them in a warehouse with ample headroom if all else fails, though obviously more ideal in my studio… but c’est la vie..

        1. Actually, I imagine the answer is no, that I will need to purchase a Standard P70 or P90 for that even spread? I am trying to spend as little as possible as the job is already costing me money at this point, but it’s to secure a long term client… my first paying client since I first picked up a camera last December, being honest! (And your site and expertise has been invaluable. Legend.) 🙂

        2. If you mean using the bare bulb to light the floor then yes it will be a problem because alot of the light will also be directed towards the camera and the clothes.

          1. Yes that’s what I meant, thanks Karl. I’ll have to get a standard reflector, so. All the best!

          2. You might want to see if you can get wide reflectors if you are shooting at a lower height.

          3. Excellent, thanks for the advice Karl. I’ve just ordered two Godox low light stands and two Elinchrom Umbrella Wide Reflector 90s, 16cm. Hope they are the right ones for the job! (Don’t have nor use umbrellas but I understand they work well with or without them for spreading the light evenly on backdrops).

          4. Hey Karl,

            Just looking to get a piece of glass, going for 1200mm squared. Is the one you’re using standard ‘clear’ glass with normal iron content, do you know, or do I need to use the significantly more expensive, (three times the price nearly), ‘opti-white, low iron content’ glass with better light transmission? The standard iron content glass will have darker green tint visible on the side edges, as I understand it, if one needed to differentiate. Thanks in advance for your help!

            Craig

          5. Hi Craig, the one I was using was standard which is fine for this as once a certain value of light gets through it the tint is not visible.

          6. Ah, that’s great to hear, thanks a million for the help Karl, you’re a sage and a saint!

            All the best!

  2. Hi Karl

    Thank you for such a great tutorial. Im new to your course and photography and am having a blast.

    Ive been helping out my wifes friend with photos for her small online store but could never get the perfect white background.
    I gave your technique ago last night and it worked great. I only have two lights at the moment so had to play around a bit but very happy with this.
    Thank you again for your great instruction
    Luke

  3. Great stuff! Been struggling with white background photography for a while.

    One trick I use in Photoshop to create complex masks is to paste the photo itself into the mask layer. In the case of this example, the mask photo would work even better.

    You can paste any image right into the mask layer by Alt clicking the layer mask. This lets you see and edit the mask as if it were a regular layer. Then you may need to use Levels to turn shadow areas into full black for the mask to be correct.

  4. Hi Karl

    Fantastic video – I’m new to this channel so just a couple of quick questions, apologies if you’ve covered them in other tutorials and I haven’t got around to viewing them yet –

    Can I achieve this technique using only static lighting? I noticed the flash going off, will it make any difference as my set up is purely static lighting.

    Also in the edit you used some sort of metres to measure the white level in order to achieve pure white from the floor, what software is this please and is there a button somewhere I can click to view my levels.

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi, thanks for joining us. You can use continuous light for this as long as you are shooting in a controlled darkened space with no ambient light pollution. The difficulty with continuous light is the fine tuning control of power with some lights, some of the new ones allow finer control. I was measuring RGB values in the tethered software (which was Phocus in this case) you can also do this with Capture One, Lightroom Tethered or most of the default tethering software that comes with cameras. We have some of this covered in our Introduction to Product Photography section. All the best Karl.

      1. Thanks for your swift response Karl, I come from a videography background so using continuous lighting is something I’m more familiar with and have access too so to hear that it’s still achievable is great.

        And thankyou for that, I’ll check out that tutorial – it’s great to have this kind of knowledge available much appreciated 🙂

        Max

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