eCommerce Photography: White Backgrounds vs. Photographing Products in Context


A quick glance at most eCommerce websites and you’ll see lines of shimmering products floating against a white blanket of apparent nothingness.

Habitat lamps - white backgrounds

white backgrounds - habitat candles

Quicksilver suits - white background photography

What does this tell us? That white backgrounds rule the roost when it comes to eCommerce product photography.

Our clients at Pixc understand the importance of having high-quality images on their sites and the impact those images can have on their conversion rate. So why do over 90% of them choose to have their photographs edited to remove the background and replace it with white?

Although white backgrounds are the eCommerce industry standard, shooting products in context can and should be considered as an alternative or additional option by eCommerce store owners. 

Other stories - photographing products in context

The case for white backgrounds

White backgrounds are popular amongst eCommerce and product sites for good reason. It’s the go-to approach for most sellers whether they be jewellery stores, fashion stores or furniture stores. A white background:

Promotes consistency

Using white backdrops across all products ensures consistency, contributing to a uniform look and feel throughout the site. Just as it is important to ensure the brand identity of a seller is consistent, the same goes for photography. Imagine a site where each product was presented against a different background, with a variety of lighting and angles. It would get confusing and distracting for the buyer.

Pandora earrings - white backgrounds in product photography

Source: Pandora

Emphasizes the product

White backgrounds mean no distractions. You can focus on presenting the product – the quality of its finish and the detail – without having distracting backdrops or focus points.

Saves you money

By using a white backdrop, you simplify the shooting process. The cost of searching out locations, hiring a model, a pro photographer and an art director can push a shoot budget into four figures. White backgrounds eliminate the need for all of this. They require a relatively simple process, and even less technical expertise. And with services like Pixc available, you don’t even need to shoot on a white background. We’ll do the editing for you.

Speeds up the editing process

When shooting and editing a product in the context of a scene, differences in lighting, color and focus can lead to complications. Editing images of products against a simple backdrop, however, is a lot less time-consuming.

The case for photographing products in context

There are many arguments for white backgrounds and thousands of eCommerce entrepreneurs are white background evangelists. So, the white background route is the way to go, right?


Shooting and selling products in context or in a lifestyle format can be extremely beneficial and have a big impact on your conversion rate. It:

Conveys richer messaging and storytelling

Photographing products in context is a great way to tell the story behind the product and bring it to life. For example, an online fashion store could enrich their range by using look-book style images of the models living the clothes.

& Other Stores - Photographing products in context

Source: & Other Stories

Speaks to your demographic

It’s easier for customers to infer who the product was designed for if they are given context. Subtle inclusions in an image such as a shirt cuff or a laptop could insinuate that the product is designed for the busy high-flyer. 

Motorola Moto 360 - photographing products in context

Source: Motorola

Encourages aspiration and inspiration

Presenting a product within an aspirational setting can enhance its desirability. The customer doesn’t need to imagine what the mirror would look like on their wall, they can see it in full color as part of a beautifully designed interior which can make them want it more.

Ikea mirror - photographing products in context

Source: Ikea

Upsells and promotes complementary products

Selling a multitude of products within one lifestyle image is becoming increasingly popular. It’s a great way of not only selling a lifestyle concept but also of tempting customers to buy the complementary products that sit alongside each other. 

Curries upselling and complementary products - photographing products in context

Source: Currys

Different products need different approaches

With a strong case made for both styles of product photography, you may be confused as to which route to go. Ultimately, the answer depends entirely on your brand and the type of product you’re selling.

For example, if you are selling wearable tech, showing the product in the context of the wearer would be a good way of communicating its purpose. The same goes for design-related products such as furniture or home decor objects, which are likely to benefit from being shown in context.

Fitbit wearable tech benefits from photographing products in context

Source: Fitbit

On the flip side, small or highly detailed objects are likely to require close up shots with good lighting and would benefit from a white background. The same goes for electronic goods and generic objects where specifications are more important than the context, especially where it can be inferred e.g. a fridge. 

Argos fridge - don't need photographing products in context

Source: Argos

Why not do both?

But wait! There’s actually no need to choose between one or the other. Lots of eCommerce stores are mixing it up and telling the story with lifestyle photography, whilst doing the hard sell with white backdrop shots. Here are a few examples of how this can be done:

  • Collages – Make a collage for each product featuring white background product photography next to in-context shots.
  • Rollover images – Where the user can view both types of images just by resting their cursor over the product. 

Azuni rollover image - photographing products in context

Source: Anuzi
  • Interspersing product shots with context shots.

John Lewis - interspersing white background with in-context shots

Source: John Lewis

Instagram to showcase photographing products in context

Source: Instagram

And if none of those options appeal to you, there are a number of alternative image options that could work for your site:

  • Shooting against different colors – Is more interesting than a white backdrop but offers all the benefits of the simple backdrop. 

Pandora different color backgrounds - photographing products in context

Pandora jewelry on different color backgrounds - photographing products

Source: Pandora
  • Still life layouts –  Can be great for illustrating how to use products and add a bit of context in a graphic way. e.g. What fits in your bag? 
    Peak Designs still life layout - photographing products in contextSource: Peak Design

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