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Trying to take stock photos on a white background and all the photos look gray rather than the crisp white like they are in person, and even with trying different settings they are still coming out gray.

Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

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Photos are taken in RAW and in both I have bumped up the exposure and white as far as I can go without blowing out the subjects.

  • I don't think this is a white balance issue. My guess (I'm a beginner myself) is that you just don't have enough light. The first shot looks to have a single light source from the "top of the image", it's probably fairly big given it's soft shadows. Second one, from the specular reflection, suggests it's some kind of large light source, a window perhaps? Perhaps you need some kind of fill light? – Calyth Oct 16 '17 at 20:24
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Images rarely come out of the camera ready for use, but need more or less post-processing, depending on how well the original exposure was made. Adjusting levels, brightness and contrast of the image is one thing you can do later in an image processing software. Taking a look at your first image, even the 'auto levels' function in Photoshop improves the image a lot, making the whites whiter and increases the contrast:

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The white background you are using comprises over 90% of the image area. Your camera, as is most cameras, is calibrated to assume the wall is middle gray. You can easily make manual exposure setting to thwart the gray background outcome. Try and find a large gray cloth. With the camera on a tripod, compose your picture. Now cover all with the gray cloth. Half depress the shutter button and read the resulting exposure data. Remove the cloth, make the manual exposure setting. Now, recompose and shoot. If the cloth is middle gray, your image will sport a white background.

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The background looks gray because you made it that way. In your original image, the lightest part is (.85, .85, .85), in other words "gray".

Here is your original:

Simply making the lightest part white yields:

That still has a bit dingy feel to it. Here is some non-linear brightening of the intermediate tones:

Anyway, the point is that the picture is as dark or light as you choose in post-processing, within a fairly wide range.

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If you want the background to be pure white and not lose the highlights of your objects then you have to make the background brighter than your objects. To do this requires separating them enough to light each independently.

For more, please see this answer to Why can't I get a decent white background for my product photography and the other questions here that are linked in it.

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Taking your first example photo I see three issues :

  1. Exposure : As explained by Alan Marcus's answer you have under-exposed quite a bit.

  2. Uneven lighting : The background is clearly brighter at the top than the bottom, which suggests your lighting is not even across the image. You need a diffuse light source or sources all around the image to achieve this. This is itself not necessarily a problem unless you specifically want to create an all white background.

  3. White balance (or color balance, which is a similar thing). Yes, this is not quite correct, although it could be your choice of background - is it really white ? Many apparently white objects are not strictly speaking white and things like white paint and paper often use brighteners in them to give a human perception of whiteness, which can actually result in an off-white appearance in photos (because cameras don't do the extra internal image interpretation your human vision system does).

In your first example the background is clearly not white and the combination of that with shadows and uneven lighting would be difficult to correct in post processing.

You probably ought to look at using a small studio or desktop lighting setup. Controlled lighting solves a lot of problems - don't mix light sources, window light or room lighting can be poor choices but mixed with each other and/or studio lighting it can be a disaster.

Choice of background is simply tricky. Desktop studio kits, which including basic lights and small stands, usually come with e.g. white acrylic stands and backdrops for just this kind of thing.

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As others have said above, the camera's meter is likely to be trying to interpret the white background as mid-grey and shift everything accordingly. So you end up with an underexposed image. It isn't an unusual situation and people often experience it when taking photos with bright backgrounds, like winter (snow) scenes.

You can try to correct in camera or in post, but getting as close as possible in camera is likely to give you the most flexibility in post. So, two options that spring to mind are:

1) Switch your metering to spot (or another narrow mode) and meter off the flower. This is likely to work but runs the risk of blowing your highlights in some cases.

2) With above or on it's own: knowing that you have quite a large area of white, use manual or exposure compensation to push the whites to where they should be. Use your camera's histogram to check the results to avoid over exposure. In your case you should have a bunch of vertical lines towards the right of the histogram (in the highlight area). Just be careful to have a small gap between the righthand end of the histogram and your data on the graph to avoid overexposing (if you are using RAW you'll have a bit of latitude anyway because most cameras that I'm aware of use the jpeg data for the histogram, not the raw data).

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