How To Get Pure White Backgrounds In Flat Lay Images

Flat lay image showing how to get a pure white background

From time to time, you might want to create an image with a pure white background.  Pure white backgrounds can come in handy when you are displaying a single image of a product; others can "clip" your image from the web and include it on a style board with other inspiration images or in a gift guide.  These types of images can also be used as the backdrop for magazine pages or presentation slides with text overlaid.  However, while desirable, a completely white background is often challenging to achieve for many people.  Since I often get questions about how to get a completely white background, I thought I'd share my process below.  Please let me know if this is helpful or if you have other questions related to flat lay photography.

How To Get a Pure White Background

1.  Start with a smooth, white background.  I typically use white foam core.

2.  Make sure that your flat lay set is evenly lit.  I typically use natural light from a large window, combined with a reflector.  If you don't have a room that gets good light, take your setup outdoors!  You can also use artificial light.

3.  Take the picture, making sure that it is properly exposed.  Expose for the subject, not the background.  The background will not be pure white straight out of camera (SOOC).

4.  Edit your photo in Photoshop (PS) and/or Lightroom (LR).  I typically make preliminary adjustments in LR, pull the image into PS for additional edits, and do any final touch-ups again in LR.  In PS, adjust the levels, using the white eyedropper on the white background.  This should turn your background pure white or pretty close to it.  If necessary, move the highlights level on the right to further brighten the white background, making sure that you don't wash/blow out the rest of the image.  Adjust the mid-tones and shadows as needed.  (If you have areas that still don't look pure white, use the adjustment brush in LR to clean up those areas by selectively adjusting the "whites" or "exposure.")

5.  In LR, check to make sure that the background is truly white by hovering your mouse over various areas of the white background.  It should read R: 100% B: 100% G: 100%.  This last step if very important because what looks white to the naked eye may not actually be pure white.

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