A great-looking product is key to any retail or ecommerce photo. Composition and lighting are necessary, but a clever use of background can transform a simple product shot into a visual that grabs customer attention. With so many creative options available, explore the different ways you can use backgrounds and where to source them without spending a fortune.
Why use different backgrounds for product photos
White backgrounds help the product stand out and allow customers to shop more easily. While social media, advertisements, and online stores may demand more unique photos that evoke emotion and attract customer attention.
So while Amazon photography requires a white background, you can get creative when it comes to your own website or other digital channels. Shopify product photography, for example, has a lot fewer restrictions than Amazon.
Photographers often use eye-catching or complementary backgrounds to style photos for a more creative finish—you just need to know the purpose of the shot and the target audience to make choosing a background easier.
Best product photography background ideas
We put together some of the most popular options below, as well as the general use of each background style and color. If you prefer to alter your background digitally, you can change the background color in post-production or outsource your photos to a professional photography studio like POW.
1. Plain white background
As many as 76% of ecommerce product images edited by Pixelz AI requested a pure white background, and there’s a reason for that. Though Amazon requires it, many websites opt for plain white as their status quo for ecommerce photography as well. White background directs the buyer’s focus to the product and creates a uniform look for your website.
You can use one of the following for your next white background product shoot:
- Poster board
- Foam board
- Seamless paper roll
- White reflector
- Plain white canvas or a similar material
- Photography lightbox (these range in cost depending on their features—anywhere from less than $20 to more than $300)
While you can use various fabric and textile materials, like muslin, you’ll need to be cautious of any creases, which you may need to edit in post-production.
2. Off-white or gray background
A pure white background may not be ideal for every product, especially if it’s also white. Off-white, light shades of gray, and other white hues can give just enough contrast for the product to stand out while keeping the overall look neutral and minimal—and the focus on the product.
Eco-friendly cleaning product brand Meliora uses a plain light gray background to show its laundry powder canister in a lifestyle photograph. The simplicity and lightness of the background can also evoke associations with freshness, which works well for the brand’s product lineup.
You can also use off-white backgrounds to add subtle separation and dimension to your product photos. Natural skincare brand Fur uses white for its main background and a gray one laid flat under the products. Adding gray removes the “floating effect” that pure white background creates, and the overall finish still lets colorful products “pop” with such a neutral tone behind them.
To add off-white background to your products, you can find a variety of materials fit for the job:
- A3 (or bigger) craft paper or cardboard–aim for a matt finish if you want to avoid difficult-to-work reflections or sheen
- Wrapping paper
- Wall paper
- Foam or PVC boards
- Fabric–also look out for table cloths, linens, tablecloths, but be mindful fabric will add texture to your photos unlike a flat board or paper
- Other textiles, like a sheet of felt
Black backgrounds have a dramatic effect and often work well for luxury goods, watches, and jewelry.
When using black background, the most important thing is to make sure your product has clear separation from the background to avoid it blending in. Shooting black products on a black background can be difficult because black absorbs all light, compared to white which reflects it.
You can use light and reflections in various ways to modify the level of separation, like in this video:
Chicago-based coffee company Metropolis uses a black cup filled with beans on a plain black background. The rim light around the cup and coffee beans clearly separates it from the backdrop, and the reflection at the bottom of the photo adds dimension.
To add more texture to black backgrounds, Scandinavian design watch brand Nordgreen uses a material with small ribs and light reflections for contrasting surface detail. It’s not a pure black background, but it still adds a sense of luxury to the image. The dotted material ties in with the rest of the brand’s watch collection, which also uses similar materials throughout.
To add a black background, you can use:
- Any type of paper or cardboard in black
- V-flats boards, which consist of two foam boards, usually with black on one side, and white on the other
- Fabric and textiles, like velvet
- Double sided (or two-in-one) photography reflectors or muslin backdrops which come in black on one side, and white on the other side
- Acrylic board, which adds reflections and works particularly well for beauty, jewelry, glass, and electronic products
- Black slate chalkboard or board (you can also replicate the effect by creating your own using wood and chalk paint)
4. Bright or bold solid colors
Have you got a brand with a distinct color palette or want a vibrant photo to advertise your products? You can use bright or bold solid colors as a product background, so as long as the color doesn’t overpower the product.
Colors are a powerful visual tool to evoke different emotions, which is something brands can use to their advantage in advertising and marketing. Research shows that color-emotion associations are largely universal across the world, which makes color an effective way to communicate certain emotions to an international user base without even using any text in the photo.
You can use colors two-fold: as a vibrant contrast to your product shots or as a complementary color that ties in with the product or the brand’s palette. For example, supplement retailer Double Wood uses a green background that matches the product’s label.
To use contrasting color backgrounds for your products, like in the photo below for Milo’s coffee products, you can use Adobe Color tools. To find the right color for your product, use Adobe Color wheel and select “Complementary” in the color harmony selection sidebar. After finding a color closest to your product or its packaging, the wheel will give you a complementary color opposite on the color wheel.
You can also find inspiration from trending color combinations used in the creative industry today or explore different color palettes. When you’re ready to find a backdrop with your selected color, you can use:
- Colored paper or thicker craft paper
- Poster board
- Fabric and textiles
- Vinyl, metallic, PVC sheets
- Canvas, which may also add some texture to your shots if you pick a mottled one
- Wrapping paper
- Make your own by using glue and acrylic paint on seamless paper or canvas (you can also buy already primed paper or canvas which you can use for painting straightaway)
5. Patterns and geometric shapes
If you want to add playfulness and character to your photos, use patterns or shapes for your background. You can either do that during the shoot or at the post-processing stage if that’s easier for you (or if you didn’t plan it at the time of shooting). The effect can range from a subtle marble backdrop (or a replicated marble pattern on a PVC or other material) to striking shapes.
Sustainable home care product brand Full Circle features a subdued marble pattern as the background for its zipper sandwich bags advertisement photo. The pattern resembles a kitchen counter or dining table surface, while in reality it could simply be a PVC sheet.
For luxury or fashion products like accessories, makeup, skincare, jewelry, and others, you can elevate your photos using a mix of colorful shapes to create patterns. Simply combine different color sheets of material like paper, cardboard, vinyl, and others, like in the advertisement photo posted by the beauty and skincare brand Florence by Mills.
For backgrounds with patterns or shapes, use:
- Mixed and matched sheets or cutoffs of paper, craft paper, or poster board
- Patterned fabrics and textiles
- Wrapping paper
- Marble surfaces for lay-flat shots or a PVC or vinyl sheets with marble effect
- Flooring cutoffs with unique patterns
6. Natural elements
Nature-inspired elements are a simple, affordable but effective way to add interest to photos. Elements like wood, dirt, sand, stone, leaves, and others. The best part is you can easily find these without spending much money–you may already have some in your household (don’t forget to check your garage, basement, or attic for unused materials).
You can get cheap or free wood and other cut-offs or boards from furniture manufacturers, flooring companies, lumber mills, and any other business that produces waste you could repurpose. Some local ads may advertise free materials to give away if you can pick them up or arrange delivery.
Natural and organic skincare brand Luxe Heavenly Bodies emphasizes the use of botanical ingredients in its products, so incorporating plants alongside complements the brand’s message. You can use live or fake foliage and flowers to add to photo backgrounds and reinforce the natural aspect of your products or to inspire associations with relaxation, holidays, and tropical themes.
Wood, on the other hand, will help create a rustic and warm environment for your products. From food to products like DIY tools, wooden backgrounds will do the trick. If you don’t have natural materials, you can buy fabric, PVC, and other backdrops with a printed pattern from specialized photography stores. Simply search for your preferred material online and add “photography backdrop” to your search term.
7. On-location backgrounds
If you’re shooting lifestyle shots in a setting, you can use the existing natural backgrounds as your product image backdrop. Besides any walls, furniture, or windows already available at the location, you can also use a mirror, the floor, and a carpet or a rug. It may take a few looks around the location to discover the different background variations you can use.
In the photo below, a blurred background of a room gives context for the products.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles and unconventional compositions like shooting on the floor. If you’re stuck for ideas or the location isn’t what you pictured, you can even use laptop and TV screens for smaller product photos.
7. Stock images
If you want to save time, you can use stock photos in lifestyle composites to add your products to them digitally or outsource the service to a photography studio like POW. Without having to organize a lifestyle shoot, you or a hired photographer can photograph the product on its own with a white background, clip it out, and pick a stock photo to add as its background in post-production.
You’re not limited to simple color backgrounds. You can pick photos featuring people or particular scenes, like a living room setup with models in the photo below. Normally, for a lifestyle photoshoot like this, you would need to hire a professional model, location, and a team to style and shoot it.
8. Gradient background
A photography background with a gradient effect has one color (or image) that subtly transitions to another. You can also have gradients with multiple colors. A popular choice is a gradient that starts from one image corner and transitions to another color diagonally, or a simple top-to-bottom or left-to-right transition. If you use one color, you can also go from darker to lighter.
Other creative options include a circular (or a rectangle-shaped) gradient, for example starting behind a product and blending into another color filling the rest of the photo. You could also use studio lights to create a subtle halo around the product for a simple gradient effect, or mix colorful LED lights or gels to add playfulness.
You can source gradient backgrounds from specialist backdrop stores, but the simplest and most cost-effective way is to add it in post-production. If you want to create your own, you can paint a canvas, but it may be difficult to control the precision of the gradient.
Technically not a type of backdrop, bokeh—a creative blur with balls of light behind the subject in a photo—can work as a background effect for products. The simplest way to add a pleasing blur is to add it during the shooting stage.
Bokeh often enhances photos of jewelry, perfume, watches, and tech gadgets. The effect works well for shots that evoke feelings of warmth, too, like Christmas-themed products or food and drinks in a cafe setting.
Using a camera lens with a large aperture (also known as f-stop), like f/1.8, you can easily create a bokeh. Although it’s called a large aperture, you want to look out for the lowest number after the f-stop. For example, f/22 is a small aperture and won’t produce creative bokeh, even though the number is bigger.
If your resources allow, go for a prime lens instead of a zoom lens—the former will generally allow you to have a larger aperture. Camera lenses with longer focal lengths, like 85mm, will also be better at producing bokeh than wider 24mm lenses. If you use a smartphone, see if you can switch to manual, aperture, or portrait settings so you can adjust the aperture yourself instead of shooting in auto mode.
Each lens has different aperture blades which are responsible for creating that playful effect in photos, from circular to polygon-shaped light orbs. If you want to invest in a new photography lens, see if you can test it out first or check for sample images online to see if it creates the effect you want.
Position your product on a surface and make sure there’s plenty of space between it and any background behind it, like a wall, paper, fabric, or studio or home surroundings. The more distance between your product and the background, the bigger the blur. It’s the opposite for your camera positioning—aim to get as close as your lens allows before it struggles to focus.
Adding a light source (or using natural sunlight from a window) will help create those small circles of light behind your product. Fairy or holiday lights work wonders for this, but you can also use metallic glitter or aluminum foil which reflect light.
Where to get product photography backdrops
There are tons of options spanning all budgets. The simplest but likely most expensive option is to buy backgrounds from online stores that specialize in photography backdrops, including:
You might be looking for something specific. For example, fabric, MDF boards, vinyl, and PE-coated paper, all of which are usually coated or treated for long-lasting use. You can find these by searching using a variation of these terms and adding your color of choice:
- “Solid photography backdrop”
- “Fabric photography backdrop”
- “Flat lay photography backdrop”
But you don’t need to invest in costly backdrops because you can find many of the materials at the office, in your home, or at discount/DIY/hobby and craft stores. If you want to build up a selection of backdrops, the expenses can soon add up otherwise.
Like in some of our examples above, finding product photo backdrops doesn’t need to be costly. Using the resources you have already and even browsing local ads or stores can help you build up a varied collection of backgrounds you can use for product shots. Some styles of backdrops are more specialized than others, but plenty of online sellers offer those.
To source backdrops, have a look at:
- Items in your household or at the office
- Asking friends, family, or colleagues, especially if they have recently done any refurbishment or redecorating
- Local ads for cheap or free materials leftover or from clear outs
- Use the outside environment for nature-inspired materials
- Ecommerce retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba
- DIY, craft, textile, and hobby stores
- Specialized backdrop websites
How to make your product photography backdrop
For a simple white backdrop for products, you can create your own at home. You may even already have some of the materials. For your backdrop, you can use:
- A seamless roll of paper (or a large sheet of paper)
- White poster board
- Fabric (make sure to iron out creases)
- Foam board
- White wall
- Photo light box (sometimes they are also called portable studio boxes or shooting booths)
If you use a fabric, you can use household pegs to attach to furniture or use a gentle wall tape to attach to a wall. You can also pick up an affordable backdrop stand with clips that will make shooting setup easy and fast.
Stands will also work for some of the other material types like paper, but you can use clips with anything in your household, office, or studio. For example, photographer Laredo Montoneri shows in a video how he uses thick white paper indoors to create a seamless curve or paper sweep. It gives the illusion of the product floating and post-production is easier because you don’t have to retouch the horizontal line where the backdrop meets the surface under your product.
If you shoot outdoors, be mindful that you’ll need not just waterproof material, but also something heavy like sandbags (or a heavy camera bag) to weigh down the stand. Paper can be a quick backdrop solution indoors, but it will be difficult to work with outside.
For natural light shots, make use of all the other white materials you may have, like poster boards or foam boards. They work like reflectors and moving them at different angles directs the light. If the light coming in from the window is too harsh, soften it using a diffuser or even a white fabric or cloth.
Maximize sales with the right product photography background
Product photography backgrounds are like a blank canvas for your marketing. From the simplest ecommerce listing photo to an artistic visual statement that makes your brand stand out, you're free to paint them however you want. Even the most cost-effective background solutions can be enough to transform your product photos.
Product photography background FAQs
What background should I use for product photography?
Use white background for ecommerce listing photos and on platforms like Amazon and Shopify. For more creative photos and ads, introduce more color and texture with the help of different materials like vinyl, PVC, fabrics, and more. You can even add props like foliage.
How do you make a background for a product picture?
Use a seamless sheet of thick white paper. Clip it into something like a stand and place the paper onto a table to create what’s called an infinity curve or sweep—a backdrop with no hard edges or corners—which will make shooting and editing photos easier.
What can I use as a backdrop for food photography?
- Solid color backgrounds, like paper, foam boards or fabric, for a classic look
- Textured surfaces for a rustic or modern look.
- Painted canvas, wood, granite, and other household materials and props.
- Plates and tablescapes to set the scene.
What can I use as a backdrop?
- Paper or craft paper
- Fabric and textiles
- Vinyl, metallic, PVC sheets
- Wood boards and planks
- TV screen
How do you make a cheap backdrop?
Take a look at materials in your household for a cheap backdrop. You can use fabrics, like tablecloths and curtains. Use larger white sheets of paper for a simple product background, or get creative with cardboard, canvas, or other materials you can paint. Wood planks, tiles, and other leftover materials add texture and visual appeal, and you can find those cheaply.
Can I use a sheet for a backdrop?
You can use a sheet of paper as a white background or paint it to add a splash of color. Ideally, the bigger the sheet, the better so you have more flexibility. Shooting outdoors may not work well because it’s not water and wind-proof.
What can I use instead of a backdrop stand?
Attach your backdrop to a curtain rail with clips or pegs, or use masking tape to fix it to a wall or other flat surface. Fabric backdrops can also be draped over chairs and other furniture pieces. You can prop up poster boards or similar backdrops with anything you've got on hand, like a stack of books.
What is the best material for a backdrop?
- Seamless paper
- Poly paper
- Crease-resistant polyester fabric