A bit of background on backgrounds

360 spins look great on white, but there’s no reason why you can’t experiment with other backgrounds. A different colour, a texture or even an image can really improve your spins, if you choose the right one that is.

There are usually three ways in which a product can be photographed in order to be used within a 360 spin: with a shadow, with a reflection or with neither. A shadow makes the product look grounded and is by far the easiest technique to produce. Most of the 360 photography kits will produce a shadowed spin. A reflection requires a highly polished surface and is a bit more tricky to light, but lots of products can benefit from having a reflection.

reflections in product photography

Lots of different products can benefit from having a subtle reflection

The trouble with both shadow and reflection is that it’s very difficult (and therefore expensive) to add backgrounds to them. The shadow/reflection would need to be digitally removed and that means on all 36 images. The best way to get a background is to shoot the product in a way which makes it easy to delete whatever is behind it. A product with no background is called a cut-out and there are a number of ways to achieve one. We have a glass turntable which allows us to achieve near perfect cutouts with some careful lighting, but if this isn’t possible in camera we sometimes have to revert to digital editing.

place images over different backgrounds

A cut-out can be placed over any image to set a scene or add interest

If a product is shot with no reflection or shadow it opens up a whole new creative area of 360 product photography. There are lots of things you can do with it, such as make it look like it’s floating, place it on a coloured background or even add another image as a background.

cut-outs are very popular in 360 spin photography

Cut-out images offer much more flexibility in 360 spin photography

One company who set us an interesting background puzzle were Travall, the high quality car accessories people. As well as being tough and durable their products are quick and easy to install. As their products are often used in the great outdoors, the Travall corporate image incorporates rugged landscapes and wide open spaces.

When they approached us with a view to shooting some of their dog guards and cages in 360 degrees we were only too happy to help, after all, we’d never shot dog guards and we do like to add unusual products to our portfolio. However, when they suggested they’d like landscape images behind their spins we knew we had a challenge on our hands, especially when we saw the first product.

You see, it’s time-consuming enough to produce a simple cut-out of a shoe, T shirt or handbag, but we were presented with a dog guard made from wire mesh. It would take hours cutting out a single image, let alone the 36 required for a smooth spin. In order to achieve the best result we knew we’d have to develop a completely new technique which was quick to produce but kept the quality of image at a high standard.

complex cut-outs can look very effective

Simple cut-outs are difficult enough… imagine cutting out 36 dog guards!

We experimented with simple green screen technology but the wires were so fine they kept disappearing. We then tried shooting against a pure white background, but the white reflected in the product which gave ugly reflections. In the end we managed to shoot against a carefully lit coloured background which was a completely different colour to that of the product. This allowed us to separate the product using some clever Photoshop script which easily cut all 36 images out automatically.

Once the backgrounds had been digitally removed it allowed us to drop in any image we liked. This was great for our client because they had a selection of library shots which they wanted to test behind the products. After a few tests we found that the simpler the shot the better. Our shot of a sunny cornfield worked particularly well.

Give this Travall dog guard a Swift Spin

Once we’d refined our new technique, we were able to offer it to other clients whose products we thought would benefit from having backgrounds. Adidas have used it to display some of their football boots against a football stadium background and we’re also working on some tests for swimwear against a beach background. The possibilities are endless.

If you’re considering this technique for your 360 product spins just make sure that the background image isn’t too bright or cluttered. It’s your product you want visitors to concentrate on after all.

See lots more background samples on our samples page.