How Product Photographers Tackle Indoor Plant Problems

Published: 12th November 2011
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If you don't have anything much better to do over the next hundred hours or so, try this. Take a photograph of an indoor plant in a nice pot, and then on the computer very carefully remove the background. This will mean carefully going round every leaf with your mouse, cutting away the bits of background visible between the leaves and stems. Now look in a catalogue which displays plants for sale, or online, and notice just how many plants they have on sale. Imagine just how many thousands of hours product photographers must spend cutting out leaves!

Of course the truth is that they don't, and professional product photographers have two neat solutions for this tricky problem. Taking a photograph of a pot plant in a warehouse is never going to show it off well. Any slightly distracting backgrounds will make it hard to see the plant properly. If you have a background that's too dark then it can be hard to distinguish the detail of the plant, and it would be a nightmare trying to manually cut out every single leaf and stem. So how do the professionals manage to make plants look so fresh and fabulous, and so clearly displayed?

There are two approaches to photographing plants professionally. You can either opt to take a picture of the plant without any background at all, or choose a background which will suit the plant. Each has its merits and its challenges. If you opt to take a product photograph of a plant without any background then what you'll usually need is something called an infinity cove. This is a smooth, gently curving wall, usually painted white. It has no corners or edges, but smoothly sweeps from the floor up. This means that anything placed in this space can be photographed against a completely uniform white background. It's then fairly easy on a computer to digitally remove the white elements automatically, meaning that you have the plant ready to superimpose onto any background you like.

Some people try using sheets instead of an infinity cove as it's obviously much cheaper, but often a sheet will reflect the light unevenly, creating lighter or darker patches. It's also difficult to ensure that no creases, folds or seams are visible, meaning that the end result is usually not quite as good. It's also important to get the lighting right, because if you photograph plants with the lighting only directed at it from the front then you're losing out on all the lovely colour and detail contained in the leaves. Having light reflected off the back wall, or directed from behind through the leaves makes it look very much more fresh and vibrant, with the detail of the veining and pattern of the leaves significantly clearer.

The other option is to have the plant photographed with a background which suits and complements it. You might for instance choose to have the pot plant placed within a simple office space, or in a living room or conservatory. As long as the environment is not too distracting, and the colours are fairly neutral to help the green of the leaves stand out well, then this can often be an effective choice. However, it is still important to get the lighting right, and this can be harder in such situations.

It's also hard for anyone other than professional product photographers to acquire the locations and items of furniture to create these settings or backgrounds, which means that if you're looking for quality advertising images of plants, it's usually best to talk to the experts with green screens, if not green fingers.

The Packshot People Ltd is a professional photography studio specialising in advertising and commercial photography. Their product photographers are able to offer a wide range of skills and services at very competitive rates.

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