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  • Member since
    July 2010
Posted by roony on Monday, January 9, 2017 9:35 AM

I've been using a white background, but sometimes get a red tinge.  Someone suggested a black background to get more surface detail to show.  I see most model companies use a grey background for their pictures on the box tops.  What do you find best?

  • Member since
    January 2006
  • From: NW Washington
Posted by dirkpitt77 on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 2:41 PM

I use a sheet of light blue posterboard. I'm not sure if it's ideal or not, but it gets me by.

 DSCF5997 by theirishavenger, on Flickr



    "Some say the alien didn't die in the crash.  It survived and drank whiskey and played poker with the locals 'til the Texas Rangers caught wind of it and shot it dead."

  • Member since
    April 2016
  • From: Parsons Kansas
Posted by Hodakamax on Thursday, January 12, 2017 8:55 AM

Good subject. In the last year I've posted my entire collection, one at a time, on the Forum. My profession is Commercial Photography and has been for decades. I've shot zillions of products and my basic conclusion after all of this is the background should draw attention to the product. It should compliment the product through factors such as contrast and complementing colors or in the case of aircraft where the operate, like blue sky.

White is a good background in that everything jumps out on white, there's nothing to detract from your subject. Another big plus is that light is bounced back up to the bottom and sides of the subject illuminating otherwise dark areas. That's one of the problems of colored backgrounds in that they reflect their color to the subject. Black backgrounds eat up light and do nothing to illuminate the bottom and sides of your subject making it difficult to see detail.

Some in-between ground can be reached with various shades of gray. If  part or all of your subject is white it can be made to separate from the background on various grays.

This is all fairly basic stuff and the real answer is to set it on different backgrounds and see what looks good visually and makes the subject stand out without distacting or overpowering your subject. This is not expert advice but more of a trial and error situation.

For those interested, I probably could post some examples as I've tried almost everything in my presentation of my Comparitive Aircraft Museum, as I call it, which is really just my office collection.  Smile

I hope this at least helps a little or at least inspires a bit of trial and error that is a part of the learning process.


  • Member since
    July 2010
Posted by roony on Thursday, January 12, 2017 11:18 AM

Thank you both for taking your time to reply.  I found it very helpful. 

  • Member since
    May 2013
  • From: Indiana, USA
Posted by Greg on Thursday, January 12, 2017 11:39 AM

My 2 cents is I prefer white, most of the time. (not meaning to "me too" Max's post, I read it in it's entirety, yes). I agree with his assessement.

If you are getting a color "tinge" as you put it using a white BG, my guess is you are shooting under ambient room lighting,which is usually more yellow-orangish looking in a wrongly color-balanced photo than red though. Or if you are shooting under flourescent, goodness knows what you'll end up with.

If you could get your setup close to a bright window (with no direct sunlight falling on it), might be a good experiment to see if your color "tinge" goes away.

There's also the matter of exposure measuring with a white bg, but that's beyond the scope of your question.


  • Member since
    April 2016
  • From: Parsons Kansas
Posted by Hodakamax on Thursday, January 12, 2017 1:07 PM

Getting whites and grays to photograph as they are can be a problem particularly with an inexpensive point and shoot. Not only are different light sources different colors but if some large part of the picture is some bright color the camera will try to make things neutral by adding an opposite color in an attempt to balance the scene. I shoot most of my models with an advanced point and shoot but it can still be fooled. The camera needs the option to set for the light source used, for example, flouresent or even type of flouresent. Compared to direct sunlight, Tungsten bulb house lights are red/orange/yellow, some LED lights can be blue, Cloudy day light is blue and things in open shade are lit by the blue sky are yes, blue. Flouresents used to photograph green but have now been improved to match tungsten and even daylight.

Even with a good camera with all these settings (some even continuously variable), some materials reflect some of these sources differently. All of these variables can be fixed with different post processing software before you post or print the final photograph. Some are Aps or added software in varying complexities and cost. Being a professional photographer and my wife a graphic artist we use the professional Photoshop program but for most posts I just use a program called Photos which came with my new Mac.  

Complicated huh. I'm from the old school of film where light sources were corrected with glass filters over the lens, so to me this is all great just using sliders to balance things! Quite the learning curve but I battled through it. (Or still am.) There's always something new to learn. Smile


  • Member since
    November 2003
  • From: Virginia
Posted by Mike F6F on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 5:02 PM

I've recently retired after a 30+ year-career as a photojournalist, and corporate photographer and college photo teacher. Like Max, i've photographed many subjects in the studio and dealt with many  background problems and possible solutions for a long time.

I don't recommend using a white background for model photography unless the photographer is using a rather sophisticated camera and has lots of experience.  White is probably the most difficult background to use well.  It can create a wonderful photo, but for casual picture takers, it can often lead to disappointing photos.

For most model work, a light to medium blue often creates the most pleasing results for the casual shooter.

Human eyes are used to seeing things under a blue sky, so any reflection of blue onto a photo subject will often appear natural or at least acceptable to the eye.

There are of course exceptions to the rule, but my experience has shown that for the "quick and dirty" model photographer who doesn't want, need, or can afford really sophisticated cameras, lenses and lighting gear, a simple blue backdrop is a very successful set-up.

I most often use a blue background for model photos I've posted here on the FSM forum.

Just have fun with it.  Simple is often the best way.



"Grumman on a Navy Airplane is like Sterling on Silver."

  • Member since
    April 2016
  • From: Parsons Kansas
Posted by Hodakamax on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 8:42 AM

Hey Mike, good input on the subject. No matter how experienced we are, there's always something to learn in photography (and life for that matter.) I also taught college photography and was amazed what I learned from teaching. Students can come up with some challenging questions for sure.

Model photography can be challenging to do well I'm finding out. Angles, lighting (and the color of the light), background colors and the ever present laws of physics challenging us with depth of field problems make the subject somewhat intimidating to say the least.

I think I'll try to reshoot a few on light blue and compare them to ones already posted. Hopefully I can post a few examples soon.



  • Member since
    November 2003
  • From: Virginia
Posted by Mike F6F on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 5:24 PM

Yup Max, learning never stops.

Here on the forum when the question's asked, I always try to give folks the simplist and most likely solution to their model photo problems. It is one thing for a pro approach with all the lighting gear, cameras and lenses at your disposal.  It is another thing to try with point and shoots and a table lamp.

If anyone wants to learn more sophisticated approaches, I'm here if one asks.

One professional model shoot I was assigned was a model of a proposed ship design.  The model's hull was made of solid wood and was too large for a studio table and needed the full width no seam paper back drop.  This was during the film days and the assignment required both neg and transparencies to be shot.

So I used several cameras and lay prone on the floor to get all the "water-level" angles they required.  The FUN part started when they told me they needed shots of the model showing all the different topside configurations planned for the design.

So... it was shoot neg and slide of the model at one angle.  Then designers is their sock feet (to keep foot prints off the no seam) would alter the configuration and I'd shoot the same angle again.  This was done with bracketed exposures of course.

After finishing the shots of all the configurations at the angle, two guys would heft the model to a slight change of angle and it would all start again.  After about two-and-a-half-hours of this, I brought in a ladder, climbed up with the cameras and did the same things all over again for higher angle shots.

That was a model shoot.



"Grumman on a Navy Airplane is like Sterling on Silver."

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Thursday, February 9, 2017 2:47 PM

My primary interest is sailing ship models. That sort of model usually features lots of light and dark rigging lines, both of which need to show clearly against the background. I like a medium blue or turquoise background, with medium (18% or so) grey as a good second choice.

Well-stocked photo stores often carry big rolls of background paper, which typically cost about $35 or $40. We have a remarkably good camera store, ASAP Photo, here in the teeming metropolis of Greenville, North Carolina. Unfortunately those fine folks can only carry grey background rolls. But two huge mail order houses, B&H Photo and Adorama, sell a huge assortment of background rolls.

Depending on the modeler's/photographer's situation, that amount of money may be a bit awkward. Our ship model club (Carolina Maritime Modelers, meetings on the last Saturday of the month at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort; visitors and new members always welcome) came up with a solution I like. We used money from the club treasury to buy a couple of backdrops.

Once a year we have Photo Day. The club members bring in their models and we set up a backdrop, using a simple hanger that I cobbled up from a piece of PVC pipe, a pair of eye bolts and nuts, and some metal chain. (Cost: less than $10.) I bought a couple of hot photo flood lights with stands and umbrellas. Anybody who wants to can put a model in front of the backdrop, and anybody who has a camera is welcome to shoot pictures. Simple, economical, and congenial.



Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Friday, February 10, 2017 9:00 AM

I find my model ships the hardest thing to photograph.  Because of the full hull, I cannot do my photo backdrop technique, so I do the model as art or eBay style shots on them.  As someone mentioned above, I often take them in room with lots of south exposure windows, but not direct sunlight.  Don't want to spend money on that large photo backdrop paper, so photograph it on table against pastel wall.

I do have a few sea backdrop photos I can place ships against via software.  When I am planning this I shoot the model outdoors in direct sunlight.  But on ship with rigging, this turns out to be a quite-involved project.  So-called smart selection tools are never quite smart enough, and it remains a lot of work!

Don Stauffer in Minnesota


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