One thing I hear a lot from makers is how difficult it is to get a white background for their handmade product photos. And it’s true, it IS really difficult for the DIY product photographer. But the first thing I asked them is, do you really need a white background for your product photos? The answer usually is “I think I do… Don’t I?”
In short: No. You don’t need a white background.
Back in the day when Etsy first became a thing, the recommendation was that you should use a white background. However, they very quickly changed their tune and dropped that recommendation. If you visit any of their “Editor’s Picks” featured collections, you’ll see a variety of different backgrounds, many of them not white.
First let’s figure out when you do and do not need a white background, then I’ll give you some ideas for some awesome alternatives.
There are no requirements for a white background on any of the aforementioned websites. So you’re off the hook!
Your backdrop for your products should support you brand’s overall vibe. Unless your brand is super clean and minimalistic, it probably doesn’t warrant a white background. Even then, a dark grey background may give a better look. For more info on how branding plays into your product photos, click here.
It can be SO tough to get white or light coloured products to pop on a white background. A camera’s limited dynamic range make it difficult for it separate the tones of your product and the tones of the backdrops. I can be done with a lot of editing, but why make more work for yourself?
If you’ve tried every which way to get a beautiful white background and you’re about ready to pull your hair out, then know this - you don’t need a white background. You can switch up your background, save yourself the frustration, and make your photos look even better with a different background.
If you’re confident that a white background is what you need to express your brand properly, then a white background you should have.
And I don’t mean if your handmade listings show up in the regular Amazon feed. I mean if you straight sell on regular Amazon, and not Handmade at Amazon. Regular Amazing does require a white background. Handmade at Amazon does not.
There are some website aside from Amazon and some publications that may want to feature your products that do require a white background. Read the fine print before you submit to make sure. Also keep in mind that there are loads of websites, publications, social media influencers, bloggers, etc that will want to feature you even without a white background. Maybe especially because you didn’t use a white background, and your photos have more interest and are more editorial.
Okay, so now that you know you don’t have to use a white background - what should you use?
- Choose a background that is neutral.
There are many great options out there for background that are simple, neutral and won’t take away from your product. A brightly coloured background can distract from your product and make the photo more about the background than your actual product. The background should be a supporting character, not the star of the show.
- Textures are awesome.
Marble, slate, white washed wood, dark wood, beadboard, shiplap, linen, and so on are all great neutral textures for your products. It’s important to pick one that is a fit your for products, otherwise it’ll feel odd and out-of-place
- Avoid fabric.
Fabric almost always appear wrinkled, messy, and unprofessional. Use thick cut paper or poster board, vinyl, foam board, or specially made photo boards instead.
- Don’t go seamless with a texture background.
Textured backgrounds are meant to emulate things like table and counter top, floors, and the like, so setting them up as a seamless background looks unnatural and unprofessional. The line in the textures don’t curve well and it looks awkward. Use the texture for the bottom only, and use something separate like a white or black foam board for the “wall” behind your product (or an actual wall - that works too).
There you have it! You are now free to drop the white background.
Got a question or comment? Drop it below!
Go-to product photography instructor for creatives since 2017
I'm a photographer and I teach makers, artists, and creatives how to take beautiful, compelling, and effective brand and product photos for their business.
With my signature straightforward teaching style and affinity for blending the technical with the creative, I'll teach you how to not just take a nice photo, but how to LOVE crafting stunning, stand-out images that significantly elevate your creative business.
Change the way you feel about taking photos for your business
Don’t just learn photography.
Join A New Light: A 5-Day Creative Brand + Product Photography Project for free now