Beyond the Pale: 6 Alternatives to White Backgrounds

Bland? Many crafters agree!

Bland? Many crafters agree!

White backgrounds are definitely in – just visit Etsy on any random day and take a look at the featured items!  A white background is the current favorite, but experimenting with alternative backgrounds for your photos can be hugely rewarding. Play up your product’s personality, make it pop – experiment and have fun.

Stand out in a sea of whites and greys with these 6 alternatives to white backgrounds.

1) Black

Moody and powerful, black makes a statement.

six alternatives to white backgrounds for your photos black

photo credit: bloody marty mix via photopin cc

Black backgrounds hide shadows and imperfections. Light and white colored products get lost in white, but demand attention against black. Reflective black backgrounds project a feeling of sophistication and quality.

Experiment with black fabric (especially velvet), black plastic or acrylic, and even black electronics such as a flat-screen computer monitor for a black matte surface or a tablet for a glossy black surface.  A trip to your local thrift store will yield many black vases, trays, and other surfaces to use as a photograph background for your products.

Just watch out for…

  • Lint
  • Finger smudges
  • Black that turns grey once lit and photographed
  • Reflections of the ceiling, surrounding area, or your camera in shiny objects

2) Text

The written word is a simple yet stylish way to fill the backgrounds of your photos.  Shoot at an angle and let the words a few inches from your lens blur to easily create a sense of depth.


Steampunk key necklace from Voodoo Bunny Clothing Co.

Books, handwritten letters, sheet music, magazines, foreign languages, and even the comics section of your local paper can all be great backgrounds that complement the character of your product.

Pay attention to font size, word density, and the spacing between lines.  The necklace shown in the image to the left didn’t look as nice over a different book where the text was larger and the lines further apart.

When posing your product be aware of the eye’s tendency to “read” left to right.  Position your text in a way that feels natural to the eye.  If the flow of text in your background is angled oddly or upside down, it might become distracting.

Just watch out for…

  • Readable text!  Make sure the focus is squarely on your subject (and not on 50 Shades of Grey behind your object 😉 ).

3) Wood

Wood is an incredibly versatile photo background: it can be dressed up or down, made bright or dark, and offers plenty of texture and subtle detail.  It’s all in how you style it.

six alternatives to white backgrounds wood planks and boards

Weathered wood planks give a sense of history and perhaps coziness to an image.
photo credit: Fiery-Phoenix via photopin cc

Whitewashed + weathered = casual, shabby chic

Dark + rich = sophistication, masculinity

Worn + grey = autumn, coziness

Your home probably doesn’t have perfectly-weathered floorboards (bathed in perfect lighting, no less!), but wood surfaces are so common it’s easy to overlook them.

Here are just a few places to look for wood suitable for photo backgrounds:

  • Park benches
  • Backyard decks
  • Picnic tables
  • Fences
  • Cabinet doors (easy to remove and lay flat, if you’ve got a drill or screwdriver handy)
  • Desks and dining room tables

Feeling handy?  

You can build your own bit of fake floor by creating a floor drop!  Floor drops can be purchased ready-made, but making your own is easy and way less expensive.

Head over to your local home improvement store and purchase a few wooden boards and a small container of wood stain (rich or pale, up to you!) or paint (any color!).  Nail the boards to a single strip of wood to create a patch of floor, and then stain or paint the whole thing to your liking.

LittleInspiration has a fabulous tutorial for creating your very own, under $5 floor drop.

Feeling clever?  

Head on over to your local flooring store and pick out a few sample boards of hardwood or laminate floors to borrow for a day.  Photograph your crafts, then return the samples.

Just watch out for…

  • Splinters!
  • Dirt on outdoor surfaces

4) Nature

Rocks, leaves, flowers – the possibilities are nearly endless when you use nature as your background.

alternatives to white backgrounds for craft photos nature bark

A piece of bark and a tree stump make a natural background.
Steampunk key necklace from Voodoo Bunny Clothing Co.

Look for colors and textures that complement your product instead of competing with it.  You don’t want your gorgeous silver necklace getting lost on a grey rock.

Need something that’s out of season or out of climate for you?  Try your local craft store for an overwhelming selection of realistic-looking fake leaves and flowers. The aquarium section of your local pet store offers plenty of glittering pebbles, and large, beautiful rocks.

The best way to find great nature backgrounds is to take your craft products and camera outside and just start looking around.  The photo at left was taken with a chunk of tree bark found on the ground – we didn’t set out looking for it, we just found it digging around in our own yard.  Your yard and local park are full of potential photo props you haven’t even thought of yet, so go out and explore!

Just watch out for…

  • Bugs and dirt – nature is natural! 😉


5) Patterned Fabric or Paper

You won’t know what you have stashed away until you start looking, so dig deep in that basket or drawer of fabrics you’ve got stashed away. Placemats, drapes, duvet covers, fabric – you’ve probably got tons to work with right there in your home!

alternatives to white photo backgrounds patterned fabric

Paisley fabric and cozy indoor lighting create an old-timey mood for this necklace.
Steampunk key necklace from Voodoo Bunny Clothing Co.

If you need your fabric to stand upright, pin the fabric to the back of a sofa or clip it to poster board.

Also consider brown wrapping paper, holiday wrapping paper, canvas bags, and textured paper.

Just watch out for…

  • Distracting patterns – keep the focus on your craft product!
  • Wrinkles and folds – much easier to press out before you take photos, harder to remove in Photoshop

Bokeh Background

You’ve seen this effect before: extremely out of focus lights become bright circles in the background.  The term “Bokeh” refers to the “out of focus” area of a photo, often the background.  The word comes from the Japanese “boke”, meaning “blur”.

alternatives to white backgrounds bokeh blur

photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc

Point and shoot cameras tend to focus on… everything, making it difficult to capture a sharp subject with a blurry background.  To get a bokeh effect with your point and shoot, try putting your camera into Macro (flower) mode or Portrait mode, or zooming all the way in and standing far away (a tripod will help).

Just watch out for…

  • Bad looking blurs – Your foreground object must be in sharp focus to pull off a successful bokeh effect.  Don’t let your photos end up looking amateurish in attempt to get a neat effect in the background.

More Inspiration has a fantastic post called My Photography Tips that shows off some of her background staging techniques.  Seriously, check it out – the texture and depth she adds with simple props and techniques are incredible!

Hello there! I'm Mandi, a lifelong crafter with a passion for helping others use technology. DIYCraftPhotography shows artisans how to photograph and publicize their handmade goodies. Thank you for visiting!

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