How to Create Images with a Clean White Background

Human hand on white background

Number 1. Human hand on white background

This post looks at how to create images with a clean white background. This style of photography is ideal for:

  • adding images to a white page or website
  • photographing products to sell¬†online
  • creating a clean, fresh look for your images
  • building a stock photography portfolio

So, what do we need?

1. We need a white or white-ish background. This can be a white wall, or sheet, or studio background. It can be anything as long as it is white or nearly white.

2. We need two light sources – one to light the subject and the other to light the background. This can be as simple as a window to let natural light fall on the subject and a flash or bright lamp to light the background.

3. A subject! Of course. And a camera! (And maybe some patience if you are doing this for the first time.)

Volunteer concept on white background

Volunteer concept. White background.

How do we create these images?

1. The images here are shot in my studio using a white, muslin backdrop. They have a set of studio lights to light the subject, and a flash to light the backdrop. I use a radio trigger to fire the flash. If you don’t have that equipment, don’t worry. Just make sure you have two light sources.

2. There needs to be distance between the subject and the background. In these images the subject is approximately 3 meters in front of the background. The flash is placed between the subject and the background, aimed at the background.

3. The light on the background needs to be brighter than the light on the subject. This is why a flash works well. It produces a very bright flash of light which makes your white background appear pure white. You can measure the light using a light meter if you have one. If not, use trial and error. If you are using a flash you will rarely need it on full power. I generally use one-half or one-quarter power on the flash.

Money laundering

Concept for money laundering on white background

If you are feeling overwhelmed by different light sources and power settings – don’t be! I have a friend who shoots this style of image using natural light, a single lamp, and a white wall in his house. He produces very clean images like the ones here – without any fancy equipment!

Once you have understood how to light the subject and the background independently it is very easy to create images with a clean white background. They are very useful for both web and print application and are used extensively by graphic designers. Subjects isolated on white backgrounds have been core material for stock photographers.

You can produce images like this too!