White Seamless Tutorial :: Part 4 :: Simple Changes In Post Production.


If you are just joining us, this is part four in a multi part tutorial about the many uses of white seamless as a background material. You can catch up by reading part 1, part 2, part 2b, and part 3.

For part four we are going to look at making simple changes to our photos in post production. We are going to change the composition of our photos shot on pure white or pure black. We will also look at a way to add some color back into the background on the images shot on pure white.

The first thing we are going to do is change our composition. When I’m shooting on a pure white or pure black background, I shoot 95% of those images vertically. I fill the frame with my subject as much as I can. I want to maximize the image area they take on the sensor of my camera so that I have more options for enlarging the photo later if I want. If I want a lot of negative space in the final photo, I’ll add that in Photoshop later because it is easy to create white or black space and still have a full frame of the subject. Imagine the area of your camera’s sensor for a moment with the photo above on it as it is captured…


That is a lot of dead space thrown away on your chip. You can maximize the captured resolution of your subject by filling the frame.


There are two simple ways of expanding your photo to change the composition. You can change the canvas size or you can use the crop tool. I prefer the crop tool because it lets me visualize the new composition I’m trying to create. For the example below I want to deliver the vertical full frame shot to the client and I want to deliver a horizontal shot as well. I’m going to keep them set to the same dimensions by locking in my aspect ratio then flipping the width and height numbers. See the photo below.


The crop tool options can be blank if you want so you can free form a crop. Here are the step to expanding it.

1. Make sure the photo is a locked “background” layer.

2. Set the BG color swatch to pure white.

3. Select the crop tool and pull it out over the image. It will not pull out beyond the edges of the photo. Once you hit an edge of the photo LET GO of the mouse button. Some bounding box tick marks will show up on your crop rectangle.

4. Grab one of those bounding box tick marks and begin to pull the crop out past your original image.

5. Once you have the composition you want, hit enter or return to apply the crop. Since your BG swatch is set to white it will become the color of whatever is beyond your original image after it is cropped. Its magic and stuff!




From looking at the next image, you would think I have a massive studio space.


This is how it was done.


Again, the original image was shot vertically to get the most bang for the buck out of my sensor…


We can do the same thing with images shot on a PURE black background.


Going through the same steps as above, I have now just changed the BG color swatch to black instead of white. I have also moved the light source around a bit.



I made a selection around the light then used the move tool to drag it around. With the BG swatch still set to black, it doesn’t make a “hole” in the photo when you move it.


Here again is the final frame after about 20 seconds of work in Photoshop.


That’s the simple simple stuff. Now we’ll add just one more layer to the pure white image to change it up a bit more… I sit with my clients and walk them through a series of changes. I let them know they are getting an image shot vertically but with some simple changes it can go to a larger vertical image for a concert poster or it can go to a horizontal image for a promo card or CD artwork. Here is another thing I show my clients that can change the overall look of the original image. Let’s make a square crop like we are doing CD artwork or something. Here is the original image as shot in camera.


I’ve cropped the image to a square, turned the image into an unlocked layer, and added a new layer underneath the image. I’m going to be making a radial gradient fill on the new layer UNDER the photo.


Turn the photo layer off and select the new layer you made under it. I’ve made my gradient fill and stretched it out a bit. I want a soft white under my subject.


I go back to the photo layer and select it and turn it back on. Then I change the layer blending mode to “multiply”. Anything that is pure white will drop out and the color from behind will show through.


It looks like this.


You can change the color, density, and saturation of this type of gradient fill with levels, curves, hue/saturation, etc. Here is a change up to the bottom layer with hue/saturation.


Here is the image with this change.


This isn’t the way to just drop a subject into a whole new location. You have to get into some layer masking and a few more steps to do something like that. These are just some simple steps to show you how to change things up a bit for images you want to make for your clients or promotional images you need to make for yourself. You can create the perfect amount of negative space to add logos, text, etc. If you are into textures you can then start adding those into some of these steps as well. Using the multiply mode on white backgrounds opens up new possibilities for you. Note – It doesn’t work the same on images with a black background.

For the next post, I’ll show a few lighting options you can have when shooting on pure white backgrounds. After that I’ll have a post asking for questions you may have. I’ll also be going through all the comments on this tutorial so far and answering those questions in one single post.

Then we are going to have a contest! If you are starting to shoot this stuff or have been, you can now begin adding your images to the Seamless & Cyc Flickr pool I have started. Let’s see how creative you get. I’ve filled up the pool with my visual pollution to get it started. You add the rest. I’ll have prizes for first, second, and third place. I’ll give you details on it coming up soon. Add your images that have been shot with any of the techniques we have discussed here when using a simple white background. If you are just using a white wall to start you can post those as well.

Continue Reading :: Part 5 Wrap Up, Questions, and Contest!

ETA – If you have questions about any of this, drop them in the comment section here on Part 5 of the tutorial. I will be following up on this tutorial with a new post answering all the questions at once.

Cheers, Zack


  • Damon said on May 14, 2008

    Wow. So much great advice. You’re a saint, St. Arias.

  • Danny Ngan said on May 14, 2008

    Funny. I did this very same thing for one of my recent photos (you just saw it on my blog, thanks for commenting on it!). Glad to see that the big boys do this too. :)

  • Dave said on May 14, 2008

    Hey man…

    Thanks for taking the time to do these. Literally five minutes ago I just got through setting up our studio here at work for a full length executive portrait on white that I am shooting tomorrow and these tutorials helped make it far easier than it usually is!

    Thanks again!


  • Sara said on May 14, 2008

    Great post! Something that seems so intuitive, but when I’m shooting in the studio studio I definitely compose the shot as I want it to look when finished instead of filling the frame and recomposing later. Great advice!

  • Mike said on May 14, 2008


    This is going from strength to strength, you really are an inspiration, not only in your photography, but also in the way that you write, attention to detail. Fantastic.

    You really have made a lot of fans with these Tuts, me included.
    Site bookmarked.
    Will be back on a regular basis.

    As an English Photographer/Graphic Designer living and working in France,
    and the fact that your Hosting Coordinator Kara Pecknold, likes travelling, eating good food, reading good books, watching good films and being with good people, theirs really no excuse not to do a workshop here in France, you’ll both find plenty of the above here in France lol.

    Here’s hoping one day.

    All the best.


  • K.C. Larsen said on May 14, 2008

    Awesome as always. I can’t wait to get home to try it out. This is very inspiring. Thanks Zack.

  • Jameel said on May 14, 2008

    Ha. I remember you doing the gradient thing at the one light. Awesome tip on the background composition.

  • Michael Gowin said on May 14, 2008

    KILLER, Zack.

    You showed the “shoot tight and expand the b/g in PS” trick at the Indy One Light last year, and I’ve been able to use that quite a bit. Thanks for the addition of the gradient trick as well. Cheers.

  • Damon said on May 15, 2008

    Great information, great photos, and great writing.
    You are the best.
    I’ve bookmarked this site on my yahoo page, and am looking forward to more!

    Damon (not the same guy as comment number one)

  • Tom Zane said on May 16, 2008

    Thanks for the very clear instructions. I have never had the confidence to try this sort of shot before. Your approach is both affordable and replicable. I will try this over the weekend.

  • Stephen Kiers said on May 21, 2008

    I love this series. I have been doing this for awhile, but your clear instructions just opened my eyes to doing it better. I really appreciate the effort put in here.

  • Karen M said on May 22, 2008

    This is so great – thanks

  • Marlene P said on May 30, 2008

    I love shooting high key, and do a lot of it with kids and babies. I have always wanted an easier way of changing the bg color, thank you so much, oh, and the shooting vertical and then making the image what you want later, I LOVE THIS! The subject just looks so much better with so much more detail. Thank you for sharing!

  • Darryl said on May 30, 2008

    Zack reminds me of a chess master….his moves are so fundamentally sound that they are easy to overlook…and then when he shows you… you just hit your hand on your head and say man….that was a good move !!!

  • Howard said on June 1, 2008

    Just be careful with the black backgrounds that they really are black. For example, on the previous page (part 3), the seam of the image of the lady with feathers is easily visible on a monitor. (It won’t show up in prints.)

  • James said on June 5, 2008

    Thanks again Zach. I just can’t believe all this information is free. When are you coming to Australia? :)

  • Robert C said on June 7, 2008

    I 2nd James view, Australia NEEDS you Zack … you are awesome!!!

    Cya soon ;o)

  • Cory said on June 9, 2008

    Great stuff. Love the high key tutorials. I got some of that paneling from home depot and wow what a difference!! I would love to attend one of your workshops.

  • John said on June 11, 2008

    You’re blog is now favorited.

    I wish more blogs like this were as easy to understand– without all the cuss words involved 😛

  • Chuck StJohn said on June 11, 2008

    Tried the gradient technique…for the life of me, couldn’t get it to work. Had a couple other PS folks try it…nada.

    What we doing wrong?

  • Pat said on June 12, 2008

    The gradient technique worked for me after a few goes. Things I did wrong were: selecting the wrong layer to change the blending mode on, not making enough white area behind the subject, not stretching the gradient enough.
    An additional good thing you can do is to add a layer mask to the gradient layer and paint out any stray colour on your subject.
    Brilliant tutorial Zac.

  • DWBell said on June 15, 2008

    Great tutorial series. Thanks Zak.

    Gradient technique is a no go though. With multiply white let’s all colour through, black lets non through, 50% grey lets 50% colour through. You therefore get some colour through the subject depending on the lightness value at that point. It doesn’t just come through on white and not on any other colour. Unless I’m doing something wrong?

  • Sondra said on June 25, 2008

    This is so great! I have been playing with old photos for an hour!
    Thank you!!

  • Peter Marin said on July 6, 2008

    Hey Zack,
    The work you have put into this is very much appreciated.
    I read it all a couple of times before my very first shoot, which was today. The knowledge I gained from you was priceless, and I learned heaps while doing the shoot also.
    I have one of 600 shots here http://www.pbase.com/image/99744292

    Was shooting tethered in a hairdressing studio in town, took along most of my lighting gear, the seamless was a real hoot and looked so much more professional than the white sheet the owner had prepared before I got there this morning. Ended up shooting 5 models without even one bad shot all day.
    Thanks to you, I have nailed 2 more shoots from today’s gig.
    Thanks heaps, your legend.

  • Pat said on July 9, 2008

    Zack,man, the video is sweet :-)

  • Lenny James said on August 29, 2008

    Zack – the effort you have put into these tutorials is seriously appreciated. From a standing start in studio photography, this has been a real education & inspiration. Nice one!

  • Doug said on September 20, 2008

    I swear this is the greatest tutorial ever!!!!

    There were several Ahaa moments in this one!

  • Roby Davis said on January 7, 2009

    Thanks for sharing. This has been great information. I heard you on lightsource a while ago now I see that you are truly full of useful information. I think you may have sold another DVD

  • Geoffrey Levy said on January 14, 2009

    Hey Zach, this tutorial helps a whole lot. So does your DVD.

    My inquiry is that I want to change the backgrounf color while still keeping the reflection perfect at the bottom. What’s the smoothest way to do this?

  • nicole said on February 19, 2009

    you amazed me….wow.

  • James Allen said on February 26, 2009

    I have been wasting pixels, until I saw this! Thanks for the tip.

  • Justin said on April 14, 2009

    Im really happy you have posted these up. I could not ask for anything more. You explanations on lighting is just simply amazing.

    Thank You.

  • Sheri Johnson said on April 22, 2009

    very cool tips here

  • Daryl Chan said on May 2, 2009

    Great stuff! I gotta start practicing. Thanks for all the great explanations for us beginners.

  • chris wharton said on May 19, 2009

    i’m having trouble filling the gradient fill into layer 1…how do i do this? i’m using cs3

  • zack said on May 20, 2009

    Hi Chris,
    Check out this video. That should clear it up for you.



  • chris wharton said on May 20, 2009

    yeah i found it after i posted my question…. thank you

  • Eric said on August 7, 2009

    I keep coming back to these posts time and again to soak it all in. Thanks again for all of this.

  • Brandon Pittam said on August 23, 2009


    Been working a lot with hi-key setup similar to your’s. However now into the post production, you mentioned that the backgrounds are opened up for more possibilities. When I bring the image into CS4 I make sure I have a pure white BG as you mentioned. After which time I edit the layers to match what you did. However I have to select “darken” rather then multiply. Even with “darken” set to the hi-key layer, there is still color of the BG in the skin tone that will have to be masked out. Any reason why neither multiply or darken do not eliminate the white BG as your’s did?


  • Adrian said on September 27, 2009

    I’m glad to see this site. Again, it’s superawesome. I decided to just buy a white background only. Thanks for sharing.

  • Elizabeth said on November 8, 2009

    Zack, thank you SO MUCH for this – you have really inspired me this week! I did this after reading this tutorial: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elizabethhalford/4087643508/

  • shipra said on December 16, 2009

    thank you, thank you, thank you! What a tremendous help.

  • Gary said on January 2, 2010

    Where were you when I started this journey decades ago? ROFL

  • J Samuels said on January 24, 2010

    Thanks Zack. I have gained so much from your blog it is beyond words. I am gonna put this to work in the studio tommorrow.

  • Mike said on January 26, 2010

    Wow! I was sent to this page and it’s extremely helpful. I do have a question: When I followed your steps about adding color to the back ground, but I’m left with some color of the gradient on the model, my friend says to create a layer mask and paint the color off my model? How do I do that?

  • zack said on January 26, 2010

    Would love to go in depth about creating a layer mask but I don’t have the time. If you google “creating a layer mask” you’ll find many resources. Your friend is right. You can also stretch the gradient. I do that a lot. Transform function for that.


  • Marco said on January 29, 2010

    One thing that should be stressed for this example is that the center background gradient has to be white. Multiply- as the name implies- multiplies the two layers. It does not simply ignore off-white regions they are just toned down a bit. If the gradient did not have white in the center then the subject’s top and highlights would change color as well.

  • Russ said on January 31, 2010

    Thanks so much for this amazing tutorial. You have answered more questions on these few pages than I would have ever thought possible. Just today I am finishing up a remodel of my garage into a studio based on what I have learned here. Thanks again,

  • Nick (from lil old England) said on February 25, 2010

    Hi Zack. I picked up a link to your blog from Jeff at Serious Amateur Photographer. As I sit here with 2 new lighting kits and background rigs still in their boxes and a kids photoshoot party tomorrow night… this tutorial couldn’t have come along at a better time.
    A G&T is beckoning

  • Binny said on March 14, 2010

    Thank you Zack… this was awesome..you made me think :-)

  • Tina said on March 30, 2010

    Hi Zack,
    You are truly amazing. I learned so much from you here. This is the style that I want to do. And thank you so much for sharing the great tutorial/tips!

  • Pawel said on April 27, 2010

    Why crop at 72dpi? Don’t most printers print at 300dpi

  • Sean Fenney said on August 13, 2010

    Amazing Zack – just bought my first studio setup and this has helped me SO much…..great advice thanks,

  • koray goksu said on January 30, 2013


    How do you strech the radial gradient in photoshop cs6??


  • Zack said on February 4, 2013

    Same way

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