My friend asked me to create a photo like this:

enter image description here

I noticed that its shadowless and my first question is whether it was setup to be shadowless, or was it made shadowless in post? How many lights are involved here? I think there's one for the background, and one above the product pointing something like 30 degrees down, and then some reflectors to the side. Just guessing.

I did some Googling and came across this setup. How could that be shadowless? Looks like the product is a few feet above the ground, which is a white seamless background, and the camera and all the lighting are all pointing down. How could there be no shadow on the ground?


  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ (1) The example is not shadow less. (2) The setup object is on a glass table and there are flashes pointing downwards which will erase any shadow, probably by blowing out the background. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your reply. I don't really see how "flashes pointing downwards will erase any shadow." The light from the flash will be blocked by the object, hence creating a shadow.. no? I do agree with blowing out the background though. \$\endgroup\$
    – rabbid
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 7:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ ok silly me. I just realized that the flashes are pointing down and only lighting the background, not the subject. The subject is lighted by the 580+umbrella and the softbox. Correct? \$\endgroup\$
    – rabbid
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 7:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ In my opinion don't make it complete shadow less. A bit of soft shadow at the base gives object a place to stand. They look floating in air otherwise. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vikas
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 7:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @rabbid, First link is down... please embed the crucial image into the question itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pacerier
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 2:05

7 Answers 7


Also on Digital Photography School, Alex Koloskov walks through creating attractive product photos. And in his blog he shows how to achieve almost the same results with $55 light setup. His blog in general is very educative, as he's professional product photographer who regularly shares the setups used to get the results he got.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In that link, what is he doing with strobe #4 to create the gradient? Can you help explain? Thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – rabbid
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 7:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ He is restricting the angle of the strobe with both narrow rectangular softbox and piece of foamcore plastic sheet that's white on one side and black on another. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zds
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 9:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ To create gradient, you need to make the angle of your light narrow, so that the transition from lighted area to non-lit happens within relatively small area/angle. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zds
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 9:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ So that strobe is pointed towards the background and it has a narrow angle, is that so? \$\endgroup\$
    – rabbid
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 0:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's my understanding. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zds
    Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 9:41

I'm sure someone will chime in with a 2 page rundown on how to do this. But the basic idea is to get a lightbox, light tent, or a pop-up light tent. You can read a tutorial on how to make one yourself here at digital photography school.

Once you have a lightbox and properly setup lighting, Photoshopping out the remaining few shadows is quite easy for anyone familiar with Photoshop. You can get nearly shadow free images with the lightbox, but fine tuning the rest can be done.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1. Here's a setup you can use: strobist.blogspot.com/2006/07/…. The example images all have shadows, but if you balance the lighting it's trivial to remove any faint shadows in photoshop/lightroom/aperture/etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – kubi
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 0:32

There are photo shooting tables that are used to achieve seamless background and are made with some translucent acrylic flexible surface. You can place a lamp or strobe under the table, and it will overcome almost any shadow from most lights you can put over the product. I have no reference to point you at, but I have personally used this kind of technique. Google the term "photo shooting table", then click "images" at the left side and you'll get a bunch of images of the kind of table I'm telling about.


To what everyone else has said, the background needs to be 1.5 to 2 stops brighter than the foreground. It's worth metering with an incident meter if you can. That's the only way to achieve truly isolated object photography in camera.


Doing shadowless product photography with only a camera and lighting setup is incredibly hard. Its even harder to do while getting great lighting setups on the product itself.

For the enthusiast: The optimal setup would be a large back-splash light on the background with the object placed on a transparent glass surface. It is important that the background is brighter than the object. If your doing it entirely in the camera, then it has to be significantly brighter than the lights on the object. This may cause light from the backdrop to splash onto the product though.

For the people who don't mind using Photoshop: Given the previous light setup, where the background is brighter than the object, doing some simple levels in photoshop should make the background entirely white.

For typical light setups (not like the one above), but only a couple photos to do: There are plenty of businesses on the internet (for example http://www.retouche.com) who will do background removal for pretty cheap - only a few dollars per photo - and give decent quality results. Saves tons of time. If you want to use Photoshop, selecting the background with the magic wand and then manually lightening the places where it doesn't get it the best approach.

For typical light setups, but you have dozens to hundreds of photos to do: Photoshop takes lots of time, and if your like me - you simply don't have hours to spend on re-touching photographs. I recommend a site called http://fotofuze.com for that as it takes seconds to do what it can take tens of minutes to do in photoshop. This is especially the case if your lighting setup is not ideal.


Here is the article I promised. You can find the original one here, but this one is almost the same too :)

Altough I’m not a professor or expert on studio lighting, I want to write about “shadow-less object / product photography”. You know we generally put our objects on a white seamless paper or anything like that and whenever we click the shutter, there is a shadow on the ground. Then we struggle to delete that shadow to make the object totally isolated. Using this very technique, we can get shadowless images, which means we will save a lot of time during the post-process (almost no isolation needed).

Here are 2D jpegs of this lighting diagram. I upload from various angles to let you see the scene perfectly.

If you want, you can click on the link below to download Google SkechtUp viewer (free) and take a look at the much more detailed 3D version of the lighting diagram. I will be gladful if you spend sometime to take a look and share your ideas if it is more useful and easier to understand then the oldschool 2D diagrams? I will appreciate it...since I created the basic objects, I can draw more examples using those 3d objects, if you like it :)

You will have to download Google SketchUp Viewer from Google's official page to see the diagram.

Click here to download the 3D diagram (2Mb) Official Google 3D Warehouse Link

2D Light Diagrams in .jpeg format

These individual letters are shot using this technique and spend very short time for the post-process. I didn’t use any pen tool, It would be really hard to isolate every letter one by one. So I used this lighting technique and some subtle levels adjustment.

I will not write every step, because it is already easily in the drawings. But I want to add some tips about the lighting, which I can’t mention in the diagrams.

  • Use a clean glass. It will save you lots of time in the post process.
  • Make your background light +1 EV then the main light, so that you can have a bright background and no contrast loss in the object.
  • Obviously, never let the background light spill on the subject. Barn doors are vital here. If possible, use a honeycomb to direct the light to the background (home made barn doors can create wonders)
  • We place a black reflector, because we don’t want the light to reflect off room walls and effect the lighting. Place the black reflector carefully and lean it downwards if possible. It is black but it will still reflect some little light.
  • You don’t want that powerful light reflect from the white and jump in your lens. So, place the background light as low as possible, because we want it to reflect from the white background and get lost in the black reflector. If you have issues about the contrast, look for possible reflections.
  • Keep the object as high as possible, so that you can prevent unwanted reflections and contrast loss.
  • We know that light lose power according to the distance it traveled. So if you place the BG light too close, you will get a gradient on your background. Placing the BG light as far as possible will let you have an equal “white” on every part of the frame.
  • If you are going to take a series of objects (like letters, watch, jewelry etc) you better fix your camera on a tripod and mark your frame on the glass. This will help you creating frames without having to use the camera. I did so :))
  • If you don’t own 2 light sources, still use the glass to take the object away from the background, it will still help you with the shadow.

Thanks for reading, I hope you find it helpful. I’ll appreciate if you share your opinions about the 3d diagram, if you can take a look at it.

Parkinson Sniper

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note: your link to the JPEG is broken. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 21:10

I have done very similar product shots before. You can start with 4 lights. 2 in front with big softboxes to light the subject and 2 with big diffusers to light the background. Adjust the distance and power of each of your light to taste. There is no one right way to do it.


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