Pure White Backgrounds

There's a school of nature photography exemplified by Meet Your Neighbors that is natural objects (plants, insects) against a pure white background.  I've been interested for a while and I thought I'd give it a try.

Nikon D810 with Sigma 180mm f/2.8 macro; 0.4 sec, f/29, ISO 200, +2 EV, lighting described in main text, no crop

This is my third serious attempt (that is, one image taken from my third serious attempt to shoot like this).

The first was a proof of concept shot against my Wacom tablet with a pure white background on it.  Because the tablet requires power and lives on my desk, I literally picked a flower, tossed it onto the tablet, and took a shot sitting at my desk.

It kind of worked.  There was a bit of work involved in Photoshop selecting the entire background and blowing it out (because the Wacom wasn't bright enough to blow the background out in the original exposure); the Wacom isn't easily taken into the field; the office light front lighting the flower was too harsh; and so on.

The second attempt used a commercial tracing tablet with LED backlighting for a background. This particular tablet is USB powered, and has an internal battery.  I took it "into the field" (by which I mean my front yard) and attempted to use it as a backdrop.  I had better luck with the rear lighting, but without a strong mount for the tablet (ideally to a tripod), it wasn't going to work.

Today's third attempt was again done inside, using the same tablet hooked up to a USB charger battery pack and supported by cardboard boxes indoors.  I also added a couple of plug-in LED lamps I had lying around for front light.  It's important to place these lights as close to the subject as possible to diffuse and minimize shadows cast on the background.

I experimented with an exposure range from +0 EV to +3 EV, and eventually settled on +2 EV for this example.  Ideally the background is completely blown out to 255,255,255, but only just. The background on this image was probably 95% properly exposed, but I had to use color range selection in Photoshop to select almost the entire background and then touch it up using the lasso to get the last few pixels.  Not more than a couple of minutes work.  Levels then pulled the detail back into the subject and that was all I needed to do.

I spent some time playing around and it's really easy to use Contrast or Color layers to make a lot of interesting variants.

I've got some more lights on order with soft boxes to try this technique in the field and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can get!