Alright, fellow bloggers—how many of you love doing product flat lays for posts and your Instagram feed?
I definitely do, but squirm a little bit every time I see a post that is meant to be on a white background, but instead appears grayish. You know what I am talking about—it looks like this:
No matter how white your backdrop is, or how much natural light you have, this is the way your image will look right out of the camera. A little bit dull and those gray edges will definitely be noticeable on the pure white backgrounds most blogs have.
Luckily, there is quick fix to this that will give you studio-level white backgrounds, with no expensive supplies. All you’ll need is a camera (even an iPhone works!), a white background (I use this $7 piece of foam core), natural light, and Photoshop. If you haven’t invested in the latter yet, I highly recommend it and with their 30-day trial, you can try before you buy.
It might look complicated at the onset, but I promise after doing this a few times, you’ll be a 5-minute Photoshop pro.
1. Open the original image in Photoshop and duplicate the background layer. This allows you to always go back to the original image if you desire. Note: whatever you’re editing, always duplicating the background layer will save you a lot of pain. Trust me.
2. Adjust the levels. You can bring up this panel with the shortcut Command/Control + L or accessing it via Image > Adjustment > Levels.
The whites are represented on the right hand side, the blacks on the left, and the grays in the middle. I usually move the white slider to the left to bring them up and bring the black slider to the right to bring them down. There is no science here—I choose what looks good, which is why I do this adjustment with the “Preview” button checked.
3. Dodge your gray edges to white. This is the step where I feel like a lot of the real work happens since you can visually wipe away your grays to whites. My only words of wisdom here is with great power comes great responsibility—the dodge tool is essentially a highlighter in paint brush form that will make your image brighter. As such, it’s critical to not dodge any parts of your objects otherwise they will start to look a little unrealistic.
You can play around with different exposure levels and whether you want to adjust the range between shadows, midtones, or highlights. I’ve found setting the exposure to around 75% on the midtones range works best for my style of editing. I generally use the dodge tool around the edges and anywhere gray is super prominent. I also try to do short, sweeping motions so if I accidentally dodge anything I shouldn’t, it is easy to undo (Control/Command + Z).
4. Adjust Selective Color. Sometimes I skip this step, but it’s an easy way to remove the last bit of remaining gray. To access this panel, select Image > Adjustments > Selective Color. By setting the selective color to “whites” and entering a negative number for blacks, it will reduce any black or gray tones found in the white areas of the image.
5. Adjust Saturation. Sometimes with all these edits, you’ll notice your image looks a little too bright. You can easily adjust this by knocking down the saturation. Open this panel using the shortcut Command/Control + U or selecting Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation.
Then, voilà! You have a flat lay on a beautiful white background with no gray in sight.