Eliminate or Minimize Distractions in Small Product Photographs - dummies

Eliminate or Minimize Distractions in Small Product Photographs

By Thomas Clark

If your main goal in creating an image is to provide a literal depiction of a small product to your viewers, then choose a background that contains little to no distractions. Products are often photographed on plain white, grey, black, or colored backgrounds in order to draw complete attention to them.

The plain background enables you to show the shape of a subject clearly and present it in a clean manner. This photo provides an example of this style of product photography. The bobby pin would be difficult to see so clearly in most other situations.


100mm, 1/160, f/11, 200

Here are some things to keep in mind when photographing on a plain, solid background:

  • Light the subject and the background. Sometimes lighting the subject alone leaves a muddy-looking background, grey and unevenly lit. Always pay attention to your entire scene when photographing macro and close-up subjects, even when that scene consists of plain old nothingness.

  • Choose a lighting style for your background. Lighting a solid background evenly provides a clean look, as if the subject were floating in midair.

  • Include your subject’s shadow to give a sense of space or grounding in an image. Lighting your scene so there is no visible shadow causes the subject to have no sense of place — to float.

  • Choose a camera angle that displays what you wish to reveal. The angle you shoot the subject from determines what viewers will see in that subject. Analyze where the most descriptive detail can be found on a subject to determine the best shot(s) for it.

    In the top photograph, a high angle was used, revealing the features, functions, and controls on the topside of the camera. In the bottom photograph, a low angle was chosen to reveal the subject as if you were face to face with it. This angle serves as more of a portrait, or a hero shot of the particular subject, rather than a descriptive image.


50mm, 1/15, f/16, 400


50mm, 1/15, f/16, 400

If you’re shooting outside of the studio and don’t have a plain background to work with, then you can try one of these techniques to minimize distracting elements in a scene:

  • Keep a great distance between your subject and any background elements. The farther your background from the subject, the blurrier it’ll appear in your photograph. Rather than placing a product right in front of a wall, or in the vicinity of other elements, find a space that enables you to pull the subject away from anything that may be distracting.

  • Then, let the distractions become blurry to minimize their effect on your composition. In this situation, select an aperture that provides the depth of field required to show sharp detail in your subject, while keeping the background as blurry as possible. Shoot at varying apertures to compare the results and choose the one that works best for the product.

  • Seek out a camera angle that minimizes distractions. If there are distracting elements behind your subject, then rotate your camera position or change the height of it. Shooting from a high angle provides a view of the subject and the ground it sits on, helping eliminate distractions in the background. By using a low angle, you can block background distractions with the subject itself.

  • Light your subject with a strobe or flash to make it appear significantly brighter than its background. Doing so helps draw attention to the subject and downplay the background.