Taking pics with no background

Discussion in 'UK Photography' started by R D S, Sep 6, 2005.

  1. R D S

    R D S Guest

    I have taken some pics of products for a website I recently set up but my
    results are a bit naff.
    They are spectacles, I have taken them against a white background but they
    always show with a mucky coloured background.
    I can brighten them up using software but I lose clarity.
    I have tried to take them illumitated by lamps but this delivers worse
    My camera is only 2mp and I was toying with getting a better one but i'm
    sure its my tecnique that is the problem, I assume a better cam would just
    result in bigger files.

    So I would like advice on how to take a good clear pic and get the
    background as white as possible.

    Any input appreciated,
    R D S, Sep 6, 2005
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  2. R D S

    John Fryatt Guest

    Could you put a couple of examples on the Web somewhere and give a link
    to them, so we could see what you are talking about?

    Also, describe what you did to take the shots. e.g. Did you use natural
    light from a window?
    John Fryatt, Sep 6, 2005
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  3. R D S

    Neil Barker Guest

    Your problem with the white background is almost certainly caused by an
    exposure metering problem. A camera meter that takes an average of the
    scene relies on the fact that it expects to see what approximates to
    "18 percent grey". For the vast majority of typical photographs, that's
    correct enough to give good exposures, however when you've got a scene
    with either strong highlights (white backgrounds, for instance) or
    strong lowlights (black backgrounds etc) then this will not work.

    The white background will end up as 18 percent grey and that's why your
    backgrounds look 'mucky coloured'. If it was a black background, you'd
    also find that would come out the same colour/shade of grey.

    The solution is to increase the exposure by about +1 stop, though
    depending on what camera you have, I don't know how possible this is.

    What camera is it and do you know whether it has the facility to vary
    the exposure at all beyond what is automatically set ?
    Neil Barker, Sep 6, 2005
  4. R D S

    Phillip Kyle Guest

    Why have you run away from demon.service, Nelly?

    Phil Kyle™

    "Be very aware that my willingness
    to continue to criticise your sig
    is infinite." -- Neil Barker
    Phillip Kyle, Sep 6, 2005
  5. R D S

    Stu Carter Guest

    (Bravely posting first advice)

    I would suggest that the auto-metering on the camera is being blinded by
    the white and knocking the exposure down by two or three stops. Does your
    camera have either exposure compensation or exposure lock? Or manual mode?

    a) Exposure compensation - knock it up a few stops. Experiment until it
    gets it right.

    b) Exposure lock - expose against a grey background, lock, then remove the
    grey leaving just the white.

    c) Manual mode - note down the camera's settings for white and overexpose
    manually, OR note settings for grey and set those settings even when white
    is present.

    Yeah... I think this is underexposing the whole scene because of the
    white. That means that the information you want stored about the
    spectacles is lost - any amount of brightening won't bring that
    information back, so you need to expose correctly.

    The number of pixels won't be the problem. Exposure features may well
    be. Or quality of the lens.

    I'm sure people will correct me if I'm barking up the wrong tree.


    Stu Carter, Sep 6, 2005
  6. R D S

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    Spectacles look best on people...
    Geoff Berrow, Sep 6, 2005
  7. R D S

    R D S Guest


    Link was in the sig, didn't want to dwell on it for fear of accuse of

    I have tried in natural light, but have found that results vary on different
    times times/days.
    I then tried to illuminate using 3 desk lamps with 100w bulbs, this seemed
    to make things worse.
    The best results from a clarity of image POV seem to be when I pic them in
    normal light and allow the background to remain. I lose image clarity with
    the flash and when trying to remove the background with software.
    Im just wondering which way to go with this, would a bunch of images all
    with a slightly different natural background come across as unproffesional?

    R D S, Sep 6, 2005
  8. R D S

    R D S Guest

    Are you putting yourself forward as a model?

    R D S, Sep 6, 2005
  9. R D S

    R D S Guest

    The cam is a rather cruddy premier DC2302. I think its a rebadged Konica.
    There is a manual setting for the following

    Auto Manual: 0.3 EV step, -1.8 ~ +1.8 EV

    Auto, Sun, Shade, Fluorescent, Tungsten

    I will have a tinker tomorrow, thanks for the help.

    R D S, Sep 6, 2005
  10. He's just trying to make a spectacle of himself

    Tony Parkinson, Sep 6, 2005
  11. R D S

    Tony Polson Guest

    He should have gone to Specsavers ...

    Tony Polson, Sep 6, 2005
  12. R D S

    Lofty Guest

    He could also put a flash on the background to white it out as perfected by
    David Bailey
    or meter of a 50% grey card and the background should then (in theory) come
    out white
    as in the zone scale as perfected by Ansell Adams,
    Better still he could throw the camera in the bin and use a decent film
    camera and he would have much better results.
    Lofty, Sep 6, 2005
  13. Does it have to be white? It may be easier to get an even background if
    you use black instead. Try a piece of black velvet, light from above or
    from the camera position. You should be able to get the exposure to the
    point where the background is a dead, even black. Experiment with black
    or white cards to put shadows or highlights on the lenses to suit your

    If it has to be white, you could try using a sheet of translucent white
    plastic and lighting it from below, in addition to lighting the
    spectacles from above. This should, if you adjust the light intensities,
    give you an even white shadowless background. Black/white cards as

    Finally, provided you get the background near-white, try masking and
    paint-dropper in Photoshop to get a whiter background.

    Let us know how you get on.

    David Littlewood, Sep 6, 2005
  14. R D S

    Neil Barker Guest

    I've had a play with that image in Photoshop and it doesn't respond
    well to adjusting the levels, either - the background simply becomes
    too high contrast and 'bitty'.

    It probably will unless you position them in the right way - simply
    pointing lights at the subject with a white background behind will
    confuse your camera meter even more, probably resulting in an even
    murkier background.

    The simplest and easiest way to light them would be as thus:-

    Get the background setup - curved paper continuing under the
    spectacles, avoiding any visible join line.

    Bring the spectacles away from the background - several feet, ideally.

    Light the background with two identical lights, making sure that these
    lights are positioned to the side of the spectacles at 45 degrees to
    the background - you're aiming for an even lighting across the
    background. Position a pencil sticking out from the background with the
    point towards you and it should cast a uniform shadow either side if
    you've got it right.

    The idea of this is to totally 'bleach' the background out, so it's
    totally white.

    Now light the spectacles with a smaller light from slightly to one side
    - this is to give it modelling and avoid a flat, 2-dimensional look to
    the glasses. You may need to use a small reflector to add a bit of
    fill-in to them from the other side, but your idea should always be to
    have a main (key) light and a fill-in.

    Ensure you've set exposure compensation of about +1 to + 1 2/3 stops
    and that should work - exposing for the glasses and not the background,
    which you want to go totally white.

    You may also find that you need to be careful of colour temperature
    when you're doing this, depending on what lights you use. If they're
    normal, domestic table type lights, then they'll be tungsten and will
    give out a 'warm' light - this will result in a warm or mildly orange
    colour cast to your pic. Hopefully your camera's auto white balance
    will deal with this, as I doubt you'll have the facility to alter white
    balance on your particular camera.

    If you find that you're getting too many reflections in the lenses, the
    the other way is to use a light-tent, where you place the glasses
    inside a dome-type of arrangement covered in translucent white material
    and poke the lens through a sealed opening at one end. Then light them
    from outside the tent - this will give you a very even light with no
    reflections and is commonly how you'd photograph very reflective
    jewellry / silver and similar.
    Neil Barker, Sep 6, 2005
  15. R D S

    Neil Barker Guest

    It wouldn't necessarily work though, would it ?

    The camera meter, expecting an average scene of 18 percent grey will
    simply turn the black background into 18 percent grey :-(
    Neil Barker, Sep 6, 2005
  16. R D S

    Tony Polson Guest

    I think you probably meant an 18% grey card.

    In over 30 years of photography I have never
    seen a 50% grey card, and probably never will.
    Tony Polson, Sep 7, 2005
  17. Yes, I thought others had explained all that quite well.
    David Littlewood, Sep 7, 2005
  18. R D S

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    Ooo no! glasses don't suit me at all. <g>

    Couple of ideas for you though in addition to the other stuff.

    For shadowless images consider using a piece of white perspex lit from
    below as well as top lighting.

    Another approach might be to forget the plain background and put the
    glasses in a pool of light which fades off to darkness. You then play
    around with the shadows cast by the spectacles (I can see what I mean
    but its hard to explain. See
    http://www.macom.org.il/images/daniel-spectacles.gif for the general
    Geoff Berrow, Sep 7, 2005
  19. R D S

    Tony Polson Guest

    I am surprised that no-one has offered the most useful advice of all,
    which would be to get a professional photographer to take the shots.

    Your web site makes your whole business look amateurish, yet the page
    design is good. The photos let it down.

    A professional would take competent shots of all your spectacle frames
    in a very short time. You could opt to accept the unedited shots, and
    do the simple corrections and cropping yourself, or the pro could do
    all that for you - satisfaction guaranteed.

    Product photography such as this is bread and butter work for many
    pros. No sweat. You would not be limited to white backgrounds,
    either. The possibilities are endless.

    And you would probably be surprised by how little all this would cost.

    The alternative is to muddle on, using received advice and/or a better
    camera, getting slightly better results - but not so much better that
    they enhance the image of your business rather than detract from it.

    Think about it!

    Tony Polson, Sep 7, 2005
  20. R D S

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    It's good advice but why are you surprised? It's a photographic
    question in a photographic group.
    Even professionally produced photos of rimless glasses, shown on a web
    page will not do them justice. See
    Even the detail shot is crap

    I just don't think this white background approach works.
    Hence my advice about using models or more creative photography.
    Geoff Berrow, Sep 7, 2005
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