Would you like to break a couple photography rules and make your photo-life much easier?
Ever read we should avoid the harsh noon light? Not shooting at noon? Not having the light behind the subject? And how about when your only light is through an immovable window with grilles that cast unwanted shadows on your subject? Would you like to create the perfect white background using just a 5 dollar prop (that you probably already own – and no, it’s not a whiteboard) your phone camera and no editing software whatsoever?
If yes, read on because I accidentally found an amazing trick and I’d love to share it with you.
How is it going to help you? For one, it expands the available shooting times: no need to avoid noon, strong harsh light, or the only spot in your house that can fit what you’re shooting. Another good reason is it will save you time while editing. And if you have an eye for photography, you just might not need to edit at all.
This trick does not require any software, nor any expensive prop. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t edit the result to your heart’s content; just that is not necessary and at the very least, it makes your editing life WAY easier.
When I found this trick last summer, I kept clicking in awe that I could reproduce that starkness and white-ness but didn’t use a tripod or even focused on super styled photos. I was happily clicking and playing around that vase of flowers. The quality of the shots may be lacking but once you know the trick, you can shoot masterpieces. #itsreal
I share the photos as they were shot that day, so you can see all the mess that was hidden just by the right light. Look at the table too, that is a very dark red-ish mahogany looking color. Even that gets white and I left the corner still showing in one of the photos for you to see the table is still there.
Before you go on, I’d like to give you a heads up. The prop required costs 5 American dollars but the phone is another story. You will need a smartphone that has the ‘tap & focus’ system, generally a phone made in the last couple of years. Those buggers are expensive!
A friend that saw the before and after said it was “all magic and unicorns” lol but, she’s biased; she’s my friend. I do hope you guys find it helpful though!
~ Solutions that didn’t work ~
Crisp white background is one of the most sought after in today’s social media, product and blogging photography. I often tried to get the elusive perfect white and I scoured the internet to see how other photographers and bloggers do it. There are a lot of ways to get the pure white result and to mention the most prominent:
- 1. Use a whiteboard
I tried that but for some reason all my photos still had a distinct grey hue. Then I tried thicker and thinner white boards and paper. The grey hue was there and extensive editing was required.
Case in point: our DIY wooden toy blocks, every photo has the dreaded grey cast.
- 2. Boost highlights, light, etc
That works but opens a can of worms to properly adjust the settings, to manipulate shadows and hues and so on. Not to mention curves. CURVES *whimpers*.
- 3. Use a lot of equipment
Hangers, diy contraptions, extra lights, bouncers and diffusers.
Ummm…There is actually an easier way.
~ The easier way ~
One day, trying to hide our redneck-chic deck, I pulled the curtains and took a few shots of my flowers, trying to figure how the focus on my -then – new, fancy and terribly expensive iPhone, worked.
I started with THIS (not very alluring, is it?):
It was a hot summer day and the sun was strong, coming through a southern sliding door. The camera is having trouble deciding how lit to shoot this photo and compromises by lowering the outside glare and – inadvertently – creating strong shadows inside.
See the door grilles? Before the prop trick, I just couldn’t shoot there: the grilles always cast unsightly shadows over everything, making me regret (a little bit) not choosing a simple slider. The problem was, that area, was the only lit enough to shoot with my point and shoot camera (I since have upgraded to a fancy DSLR that I rarely use. Go figure, eh?).
So, I pulled my white curtains (more on that in a few), to hide the…glorious exterior:
Pulling the curtains did hide the unfinished exterior but – naturally – everything is darker now. Notice how I didn’t even bother straightening the curtain for the next shots. It won’t matter one bit and you will see why.
It’s time to turn this from tragic to magic!
How to break a few photography rules
get a beautiful shot
1. You shall shoot behind a southern door or window, during a super sunny day. Get that harsh light IN, baby! The more light, the better, because we will dapple it in step 2.
You shall also shoot your object from its shadow side, having the light coming from behind it.
2. Use any thin white curtain you have. The idea is the curtain should allow a lot of light through but NOT much of the window/door shadows.
No white curtains?
ENTER THE $5 PROP
Pull open your existing drapes or , grab a $5 white twin sheet (I got ours at Walmart) and throw it – or hang it – over the curtain hardware. (I am actually using twin white sheets as treatments for real in our home. They are precisely as sheer as I need them, to both allow a lot of sunlight in and block the view during the day.)
3. Place the item you want to shoot in front of that super lit background. Style at will.
4. Use the Focus function on your phone (on iPhone, tap and hold at the precise spot you want focused). A square will flash and stay on, while at the same time a luminosity line will appear to the right of that square.
Slide that bar and watch magic happen. The phone camera will keep your object crisply focused, while the light bar will blow the highlights, creating a super white background! You can play around shooting from different angles, or adjusting the slider up and down.
Going over the photos, you can notice the different levels of highlights and detail, caused by different positions on the exposure slider and from different focus points. Any shadows in the background, from window grilles to curtain folds, magically disappear thanks to the power of photographic exposure.
The ONLY thing you need to pay attention to, is focusing at the right spot. The best shots came from focusing precisely on one of the flowers.
That, gave me the most crisp white without losing any detail from the flowers:
Technically, this works similarly to having a huge lightbox while the subject is backlit with adjusted exposure and all that
jazz fancy photography jargon.
And I am itching to try it with my DSLR and see if I can get the same result. Until then, my smartphone is my best friend for shooting dark objects and even people (try it focusing on faces while the sun is behind them).
Found it helpful?
Affiliate link follows, you can read our full disclosure here.
The flowers which are both fabulous and cost effective (last for 3 to 4 weeks easily) are Peruvian Lilies (Alstroemeria).
The hammered golden vase is from Target, comes in two sizes and photographs fantastically (you can get it here).
Ready to break a few photography rules and get the perfect white background?
Get your smartphone out (and a…sheet) and shoot away! 🙂