Photoshooting " style" catalog photos with white background

We have the tent lighting set up, seamless roll paper. I'm wondering what exactly the trick is to get the background to come out perfectly white. I'm taking shots, and the background has a tinge of gray. Is the only way to get rid of this in Photoshop? Or is there something I am missing.

Thanks for your help!
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Christopher Jay WolffWiggle My Legs, OwnerCommented:
Not quite understanding, but I'll give this a try.   I've taken a lot of pictures but not like you're doing.  I wonder if your doing people or products.  Do you have a lot of experience and something isn't working right?  Do you mean perfectly white aesthetically, so a judgement call can say if its good enough?  Or perfectly white digitally so your CMYK numbers are what you want in Photoshop?  Reflective light means you'll get variance in whiteness from the distance between paper and light.  Also, what color temperature are your bulbs?  This is usually measured in Kelvin where Cool White is usually about 4200 and white is about 4400.  Daylight is 5000, incandescent 2600, halogen 3000.  You are reflecting the bulbs hue onto white paper to the camera.  The quality of the camera lens is another huge part of this.  My cell cam takes somewhat color muted pics compared to some more expensive cell cams, but is fine for what I do, especially for a $50 phone.  Then your exposure matters.  If you have a camera that will let you set exposure for the person or product being only inches away with no background, then lock the exposure in, back off and take the shot, your product should look better.  And I'm sure you know if you give the shot more exposure your background will turn whiter but you'll start to loose your product.  All of these variables make Photoshop helpful, but its nice to get by with a couple simple edits and save the file, instead of reworking the details on a whole set of shots.  I hope this was helpful.

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David BruggeCommented:
There is no easy and ideal way that works in all situations. The professional photographer has a number of tricks up his sleeve that he uses, depending on the subject, and the results desired.

The trick is to overexpose the background to burn out all shades of gray. Everything in your exposure settings, from you camera readings, to Photoshop auto settings, tries to keep you from doing this.

In an ideal world, a perfect exposure has just a touch of texture in the highlights and just a bit of shadow detail in the darks.

This, however is not what you are wanting. You want to blow out all of the highlights so that you are left with pure white backgrounds.

In Photoshop, I add an adjustment level that blows out all of the highlights, sending them to pure white. Then, I make the mask of the adjustment layer active, and with a black brush, paint over my subject to return it to proper exposure.

I always work in RAW format so that I have the greatest latitude with my exposures. On tough subject matter, I may generate a raw version that is overexposed, and one with normal exposure and stack them on layers. I then punch a hole in the overexposed layer mask to show the normal exposure below. If the client wants a drop shadow beneath, I will soften my brush and lower my brush opacity to allow some of the shadow from the normal exposure to show through.

With this in mind, re-examine your lighting and exposure. Make sure that the exposure on your subject does not over expose it, while it is over exposing the background. You might need to place a scrim or flag to block some of the light to the subject.

I myself have not had a great deal of success with tents. It is very difficult to overexpose the background without also overexposing the subject.

For small objects, nothing beats shooting on a frosted surface with light coming from beneath. Lots of tests are needed to get the ratios correct, but once they set, you can knock a number of subjects out in short order.
It's the tent lighting setup, verses the camera lense opening shutter speeds
In the old days of black and white TV they couldn't get people in white shirts or white background to look white once on the TV  so used a light blue which came back white go figure,  colour white and black and white are different in the language of colours,
We don't actually see the white it is no colour but rather it's  all the other colours that effect the white
Colour Matters
If you want better colour white take a look here or use black and white photos maybe choose a different coloured sheet ;)
How to get a photo correctly exposed by adjusting aperture and shutter speed
If you are interested
RGB and Color Channels in Photoshop Explained
All Photoshop sees is black and white. Well, black, white, and a lot of shades of gray in between, but that’s it. The world’s most powerful image editor, an industry standard among photographers, designers, and virtually all creative professionals, capable of producing millions, even billions of colors, has no idea what color is.
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David BruggeCommented:
@ Merete

Mr Steve Patterson who wrote the article for Photoshop Essentials that your link goes to, is somewhat confused and is very misleading. To say that Photoshop cannot see color is like saying that we cannot see color because the human eye has rods and cones. There are three types of "cone" nerves in the eye. Some are sensitive to reds, some sensitive to blues, and some sensitive to greens.

Photoshop does not see black and white in the red channel, it sees bright red and dark red and shades in between, just like the red receptors in the eye. It is displayed in the channel pallet in black and white by default because it is easier for us to read, but it can be changed to display the actual information in preferences.

But all of this is off the topic and does not help gregholl get a solution to his question.


You might want to take a look at the tutorials Terry Croom has on his blog about different techniques for product shots. He uses the same setup I use for small objects (light reflected from beneath) but he uses clear plexy while I use frosted. Anyway, he's a bit droll to listen too, but his ideas are solid.
David BruggeCommented:
@ Merete

Just read my own post. To be accurate, Photoshop works and "sees" in Lab color space. All other depictions of colors are translated back and forth from Lab. [wink]
Christopher Jay WolffWiggle My Legs, OwnerCommented:
Thought you might like this discussion of color temperature and white balance...
Hello gregholl just sending you a friendly ping, any progress on all the good suggestions?
We can't help you until you respond with some feedback.
As yet you have not posted a comment at all?
Regards Merete
greghollAuthor Commented:
Thanks to EVERYBODY. I got a bit of help from each. I guess I should have made it more clear in the original question. The whole idea is NOT to have to deal with it in photoshop. We are shooting 100s and 100s of products, and to tweak each picture for 15 minutes at the least, in photoshop would literally takes weeks!
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