It's safe to suggest that the vast majority of the ecommerce images are done against a white background - based on the share of online sales from marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart. It's a requirement for big online eCom platforms to have items shot against white. However, the intricacies of choosing the right background color for product photography are multiple.
- What channel do you need an image for?
- Is it made for a male audience, genderless, or ladies only?
- How much sentiment do you want to see in the resulting picture?
- Is it supposed to be an attention-grabber, or an informative piece?
- Are you going to get messy with your backdrop?
- Is it for videos or still photos only?
- How moody do you need your product to be?
- Is your model’s complexion a good match with your chosen color?
- Do you want to see shadows and how many of them?
- Is it best to just do a background color swap in photoshop?
There are many questions to be answered and concerns to be accounted for when selecting the best background color for product photography. Let's get down to the bottom of the matter.
Key aspects to look out for when choosing a background for your photography
Color is just one of the multiple facets of the question, as the material, texture, and size all play their part in the quality of the results. Here's how.
Your backdrop can be as small as 60x90 cm for vinyl flat lay versions to a massive 2.7 meter-wide roll of seamless paper background for your studio.
Why does size matter?
- Portability & storage [it's easier to both transport and store a stack of 60X90 cm vinyl rectangles than 2.7 meters wide, 11 meter long rolls]
- Consumption [paper rolls get dirty and need to be cut off, so for a studio getting longer rolls makes sense as they are cheaper].
- Video vs images [if you are using a non-reflective seamless paper roll of 1.36 cm only, you may find yourself limited with shooting space if doing a video].
There are a few popular materials for product photography backdrops, here are the key differences and particulars:
it's not washable, so when it gets dirty, it needs to be cut off. It's relatively cheap and gives you a clean product look. Most of the versions will be seamless and non-reflective.
Muslin & cotton
Both materials are used in different proportions in the production of the piece of photo equipment for durability and price ratio. They will give some texture if not ironed out, but they are portable and mobile.
Some brands come with specific framing so you can only buy mono-brand kits. If on a budget, make sure that universal mounts and C-stands work for this model.
Vinyl backgrounds are mostly smaller-sized pieces, never an endless roll, due to their durability. They are super easy to carry and store.
Vinyl pieces may come with tile, brick, and marble prints, giving your items a certain attitude. Say, white tiles are a great background color for product photos in beauty and cosmetics. These surface-looking prints may lack the depth of the real thing if shot in the macro mode though.
Silk, satin, faux fur, and glitter sequin fabrics are often used as background for ecommerce items, specifically to be used in social media and advertising campaigns by brands. Each of them adds a bit of texture, style, and dimension to the outcome. Silk brings in luxury and comfort undertones. Faux fur may bring in a bit of chic and rebel spirit. Sequin introduces glam and high fashion in this visual equation.
When it comes to the texture of the background material, it matters for 3 reasons:
- Reflective qualities that may need to be taken into account, or the shades that come from the 3D nature of the material, for example, faux fur.
- Shared focus between the item and the background, as texture may compete for attention [a weathered board may have too much character in comparison with a basic classic wrist watch].
- Specific limiting or molding connotation that is emanated by the background [a pink sequin may help bring on a girly mood, but may be a bad choice to reach out to a wider demographic].
Another factor that comes into play is how things are hanging and fixed relative to the object and the source of light. Let’s consider the different models:
Product Photography Background Models & Fixtures
These are the most popular types when it comes to how things are fixed:
1. Wall and ceiling mounts for a studio background setup
These may come as expensive as a used car, as they may have an electronic system of roll control etc. Wall-mounted paper rolls are often part of the professional studio, where the needs differ every day and all shades of background come in handy.
2. C-stand: portable & affordable
C-stand with a few clips to hold the roll fixed is a more versatile, mobile, and less expensive option for professional use. You can mount both paper and fabric backgrounds on such stands.
3. Unique patented frames: the luxury of choice
Some eCommerce backdrop brands, like Easy Frame®, are only compatible with their own unique patented mounts and frames. For those on a budget, you need to make sure the skins you are buying are universal in terms of mounting on a regular C-stand.
4. Flat lay background
No mounting is required for a piece of vinyl to shoot a bottle of shampoo against. Just put it on a table and maybe prop it against the wall for an infinity angle effect.
5. Collapsible pop-up screens
They are all about convenience on the go: portable, double-sided, and easy to use. You can fold them away into the holder with the handle in a minute and get going. White, black, silver, and gray are the most popular colors for collapsible photography backgrounds.
6. Cyc wall: eternal convenience for pros
OK, now this type of wall is a bit of a pain to do, but many pro ecommerce and portrait studios will go to a lot of lengths to have it. This infinity wall has no corners so that the floor seamlessly transpires into a wall.
Why are we talking about the cyc walls in the context of choosing the background color for e-commerce photos? Well, it's because you can paint it during the lunch break. The paint dries fast. But overall, they are mostly white and get re-touched when the floor part becomes dirty.
However, color is overwhelmingly a key factor when it comes to choosing a backdrop for ecommerce. Let’s deep dive into this thesis.
Popular colors for product images photography
Amazon wants you to shoot your products on the white for a reason or two. They have done thousands of A/B tests before arriving at this rule of thumb verdict.
So, yes, the majority of eCommerce images are done against a white backdrop. This is when your product plays the first role, it’s in the spotlight and you need not be distracted by any sentiment - you need to see the physical details of a commercial item.
The other popular color choices are black, gray, greens, and blues.
- Green & blue
How to choose the background color for product photography to align with your marketing goals
A big branding and marketing agency may charge 100 thousand dollars for a logo design and another few hundreds of thousands for a brand book.
Branding being an important vehicle in the sales mechanism, the product photography may reinforce the brand at every touch point with a customer. Here are just a few examples:
Showcase your product in the spotlight
White photo backdrops are used as an alternative to air basically. It’s the next best thing photographers have to render nothingness. Chose white background for ecommerce images, where clutter and emotion don't matter, but the product is, for example:
- On product pages of your ecommerce store, where a customer has landed already but needs more details about the item itself. They need to see the lines, to almost "feel the fabric", scrutinize the seams, and appreciate the color.
- On a busy e-Com marketplace, where you have a few dozens of merchants competing on one page and price, resolution, description, rating matter more than a flamboyant image.
White is not perfect for social media ads, on the other hand, where you need to:
Social media news feeds are packed with highly engaging content. This is why the use of creative, bright, textured backgrounds is justified here. You need to compete with global celebrities for the attention of a user, so if a pink or glittering background is needed - so be it.
A black backdrop may help a photographer to create a scene that’s dark, gloomy, exquisite, mysterious, or manly and packed with testosterone.
A pastel palette may infuse the image with tenderness, naturality, calmness, and tranquility, and give an item a warm homey feeling.
These product photo backgrounds will add mood & style to your images:
- Pink fluffy [girly, for kids]
- Glitter [fashion and glamor]
Sustain your brand
If your brand has a recognizable color palette or a pattern, using bits and ribbons of this color in your backdrops will help reinforce the brand.
Be on top of the trends
Trends are formed by big brands and authorities. Fashion helps people say bye to last-season items easier and welcome new season items in their wardrobe more readily, at a price.
Being a commercial entity, you cannot but take part in the game, where new collections are released and new improved models substitute the older ones.
Color can also be a tribute to something trendy and topical. During presidential elections in the USA red and blue speak tones about their owners.
Color of the year by Pantone Institute can be a good hue to experiment with upon its release at the beginning of the year.
Summary: what background to use for product photography
These are a few basic principles we use at Squareshot:
- If in doubt, go for white.
- If you need a shot for social media and advertising - consider adding colors and texture to your background.
- If you are doing jewelry or accessory photography for a male brand - you might want to see if black will help inject some masculinity and mystery into the shot.
Otherwise, let your creativity and product characteristics guide you to experiments with outstanding results.