I am working on photography art work (from my wife) which has a white background and elements which are white with no paint. I have a reasonably good Nikon D3400, tripod, lighting with 4 5000K lights (LED 1600 lumens). The background comes out with a bit of grey in it, which I can rip out using photoshop magic brush. The problem is that it's hard to rip out the white within the painted object, oh like a zebra swallowtail butterfly, as there are lines in the art which are greyish too.

I've been trying to follow directions on lighting etc. Adjusting the lightness on the camera, adjusting the color in Luminar and/or Photoshop. Using a Passport Colorchecker, bringing in the color profile to Luminar (which is like photoshop, I just didn't want to buy a newer photoshop than CS2) and adjusting. The printer is a Canon Pro-100.

Nothing is giving satisfaction. I'll include an image (at a lower res) so you can see. So, I am wondering what pros do when photographing art like this (acrylic painting) for reproduction by printing.

Zebra Swallowtail

  • Welcome to the Photo.SE! I am by no means a professional, but I think that it is not a matter of white balance (assuming your white comes out as neutral grey) but rather exposure. Ty to overexpose a bit or increase contrast in post-production.
    – Jonas
    May 23, 2020 at 16:41
  • 1
    Why do you actually want the white of the butterfly to be 'absolute' white? It will look like someone cut holes in it. White on white really comes out best when the intended foreground 'white'.. isn't white. It wouldn't be totally white in life.
    – Tetsujin
    May 23, 2020 at 16:49
  • Johas- I have turned up the exposure on the camera using the Exposure Compensation. +1.3 is about as high as I can take it, beyond that it's too light. I have also played around with contrast and many other adjustments in Luminar/Photoshop. May 23, 2020 at 22:11
  • Tetsujin- I am trying to reproduce the artists work, which uses a lot of background for white. It's not like in a photo, where there's lots of colors filling up the entire picture. Here, it's on the sparse side. You can see that in the picture I attached. May 23, 2020 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


The trick to perfectly white backgrounds is overexposing them by about 1 stop.

Since you mention you have 4 studio lights at your disposal, I recommend to dedicate two of them to exclusively light the background. Use some kind of flag to keep the background light of your subject.

Then, use the remaining two lights to light your subject. Remember, the subject should be correctly exposed and the background should be overexposed by 1 stop.

  • There's no separate background. It's just the painting. I might get a bit more than the painting in the picture, that I crop out to just the painting. I put the 4 lights, 2 on each side, at a 45 degree angle, 2 above and 2 below the picture. Trying to cancel out shadows and get an even light. Using the S or shutter speed setting, it's at about 1/8 sec, such that the ISO is 100. On this butterfly, I turn up the exposure by +1.3. I am not yet seeing an answer to my question. May 25, 2020 at 1:14
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    What exposure mode are you using? May 25, 2020 at 7:06
  • Done in S or shutter speed mode. I adjust so the ASA is 100, typically around 1/8 s. May 26, 2020 at 12:05
  • Maybe try switching to manual mode so your exposure is consistent from shot to shot. Then, gradually decrease your shutter speed until the whites look correct. May 26, 2020 at 12:25

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