If choosing the right backdrop for your ecommerce images sounds like a one-second decision, you are either a professional photographer or haven't recognized the sheer importance of the process. The perfect photo background can increase CTR, lower your post-editing costs, evoke emotions, increase merchant rankings, and strengthen brand recognition.
This to-the-point guide gives a 360-degree overview on the matter, so you can take advantage of all of the benefits of this supporting actor in product photography.
Why use backdrops in product photography?
Let's start the conversation with the reasons for using some kind of prop to shoot the object against that makes it so important:
Put a product in the spotlight
Fundamentally you need your product to shine and the rest be a background to it, so you use… a background.
But sometimes this supporting actor gets to give another dimension to the star of the show or even outshine it.
Capture user’s attention and drive CTR
In an information-crowded space like a social media feed, a colorful cloth at the back of a product can make the user stop and pay attention.
Shape brand identity
By consistently using some color or texture you can contribute to the recognition of your brand, where a user associates a vintage, marble, or sequin photo background with your product.
Reduce the post-editing work
All professional photo equipment is designed for easy usage, so you can usually keep things clean and spotless with no effort, wiping off vinyl or giving a cloth a quick wash. Once you have a homogeneous spotless layer of color at the back of a photographed object, post-editing tasks boil down to resizing and manipulating the product itself.
Trigger emotional response and create a sentiment
A pink or sequin background oozes femininity while a retro or wooden one is more associated with masculinity. While the statement sounds sexist, it’s also true, so if you need to make a product image of a female cosmetic product, using some sequin will add some glitz and glam to it.
Align with ecommerce marketplace standards
Many marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have very strict product photo requirements to create a harmonious and homogenous browsing experience for the user.
Match your product backdrop to the distribution channel
Product photo backdrops can be creative or classy, colorful or B&W, brand-affirming, or universal.
Choosing the right background for your product images mostly means adding to the user experience in the framework of a specific distribution channel. You want to showcase your product design against a white background on your online shop product page, but you want it to pop and grab attention in your Instagram feed.
Types of photo backgrounds
From small photo studio box kits at $50 to complex roller systems for thousands of dollars, there are backgrounds for every budget, purpose, and taste. Let's check out the major types.
The simple roll of paper is easier to ship and mount a roller system integrated into the photo studio ceiling. Professional photography equipment comes at a price, but it serves for years and is designed to reduce the workload for the shooting crew. From the simplest to the most sophisticated, these are the types of photo backdrops:
The material in rolls and pieces: seamless photography background paper
If this is paper, fabric, or vinyl, many of the backdrops will come without support systems and are reusable. They'll come in rolls or just in one piece.
A paper variant, for example, is usually heavyweight solid color rolls of paper that can be mounted on a stand or simply pinned against the wall.
The cheap price and ease of cutting a torn piece off make it popular with professional photographers and amateurs alike. It's crease-, and wrinkle-resistant, so it provides a seamless endless surface to shoot against.
It comes in different colors and size ranges, with minimal roll usually measuring 4.4 feet wide by 16 feet long.
Photo Backdrop stand
Background stands differ, but the simplest model will have two steady tripod stands that hold a horizontal crossbar to put a roll of paper on. Such photo backdrop stand systems come with clamps, crossbars, and sandbags.
Roller system: motorized and mounted in ceilings
A professional photo studio will have a motorized system of background drives set, that allows to remotely change the background. The roller system is usually mounted into the ceiling and has a few colors of background rolls.
Some materials offer a seamless creaseless experience, like paper, some are supposed to enrich an image with texture, like wood, or cozy feel, like furs.
These materials are most often used to produce professional photo backdrops:
- Paper [classy, universal, creaseless, seamless, colored, matt or with slight reflective effect, may come with printed patterns]
- Cloth [washable, silky, seamless]
- Plexiglass [reflective, glossy, durable]
- Rose cloth [textured flower cloth, gives a lot of dimension to an image]
- Sequin [textured and glamorous]
- Vinyl [durable and seamless]
- Wood [textured and vintage]
- Marble [classy, reflective, and heavy]
Naturally, there are cheap and expensive ones, single-use and durable props out there. So if you want to quickly DIY a product image, you may well do with a piece of white cardboard to shoot against. If you need a commercial-grade roller system, you may wish to spend on a mountable motorized system.
7 tips on how to choose the right background
For those struggling with how to choose a good studio backdrop, the below algorithm may come in handy.
- Think of the budget
If you only have $50 bucks for the entire shoot [shout out to all ecommerce beginners!], you'd better get yourself a tripod and use cardboard from a dollar store for a background.
Consider durability, expected life span, ROI when purchasing any photo equipment, specifically such a versatile thing as the photo backdrop. If you don't need it for long, you might as well do it with some cheaper version or a substitute.
- Account for deadlines and time restraints
Professional photo background systems that need mounting onto a wall or ceiling may cost a lot and require weeks or months to be shipped from overseas. Take your deadlines into account – are you prepared to wait for sea shipment to save a few hundred dollars on delivery?
- Think of the distribution channel
Marketplaces call for white backgrounds. No, they mandate white backgrounds. Social media invites all sorts of creative, colored, and textured ones.
- White vs other: product photography backdrop classic
A white backdrop is classy, it makes your product pop, eliminates noise, keeps focus on the product's facets. It's also easier to edit and change in post-production.
A colored surface to shoot against is limiting, it changes the vibe of the image. It can overpower the product if used incorrectly or to complement it.
5. Texture or no texture
Simpler shapes may take a bit of competition from textured backgrounds, like sequin or flower cloths.
Say, a mono-colored lady's bag with an elegant silhouette may get that extra glam from a sequin background.
Wooden texture may add some audacity to a leather bracelet or men’s perfume.
- Reflective vs matt
A Plexiglas background is reflective. You should only use it when you want that extra layer of the object in your image. Needless to say, fingerprints and dust pecks are the biggest enemies of all reflective surfaces and photo editors. So make sure you give a good wipe just before the shoot.
Some of the vinyl backdrops may also have some reflective qualities to them. If you are in a photo equipment shop, try making a test shot with your lights on to see the extent of reflection.
- Creative angles: smoke, water, light
Some more imaginative types of product photography, like hero shots and commercial advertising call for use of extra layers. These are some of the creative background ideas for your next product shoot:
- Smoke can add a bit of mystery to a shot.
- Water can be dispersed to create a rainbow effect at the back.
- Light can be put through shades or palm trees to provide a creative shadow for added emotional impact.
- Or, you can add a foreground, like a glass with water drops to mimic the effect of looking out onto an object through a window during a rain.
- A mirror can also be used as a background on rare occasions – you'll need to do a lot of planning to edit out a photographer though.
- Falling objects, like features, flowers, or snowflakes can be either captured or edited during the retouching stage.
Whilst most of the ecommerce product images are done against a white background, colored and textured ones are guaranteed to be your show stopper.
These are just some of the background colors and ideas that we use to showcase our products to our clients. Please check out our portfolio for more examples.
Our hero shot offer is a best seller among new customers and old partners alike for a reason: we, at Squareshot, love finding unusual creative approaches for commercial images. We agree on the props, textures, and colors intuitively on the fly with our clients, without involving expensive art direction services. So, the resulting images are a good value-for-money for our ecommerce clients, that keep attracting those clicks.