Light on White

I’ve been experimenting with a technique called “isolation on white.” The idea is that you place the item against a completely white backdrop and overexpose the photo such that the background appears non-existent. It’s a technique commonly used for commercial and stock photography that can be readily achieved using exposure compensation, slowing the shutter and/or cranking the ISO.

So in the spirit of Christmas, I thought it’d be fun to try this technique with the wooden toys I was making earlier this year.

It’s entirely possible the professionals have a different setup, but in my case, I created a makeshift “isolation box” with (used) printer paper taped together and the fluorescent light from my workshop to provide an evenly-distributed light source. The EXIF data on the photos below are still intact for your own perusal, but for the most part, my settings were:

  • Aperture: f/1.8 (BLURRYBACK!!)
  • Shutter: 1/50s
  • ISO: 200
  • Focal: 50mm (NEW LENS!!!)
  • WB: Fluorescent (about 3900K)

Clackity Crocodile. Click for video and more info.

Slitherin’ Slytherin. Click for video and more info.

Ape Climber. Click for video and more info.

Sandy the Ammmmmmazing Acrobat. Click for video and more info.

Crawling Caterpillar. Click for video and more info.

NASCARgo – Escargo Racers. Click for video and more info.

Baby Rattle. Click for video and more info.

Peking Ducks. Click for video and more info.

Sporty Bot

Nyan Cat-omaton. Click for video and more info.


RoboX Transformed


2 thoughts on “Light on White

  1. Did you make the RoboX? I’d love to be able to buy one, or get the plans.

    And I’ll file away the isolation on white technique. I’ve always wondered how that was done. Is there a way to keep the entire object in focus instead of just the front part of the object? Maybe that’s just a result of the longer exposure.

  2. Hi Mike,

    Yup, I did make the RoboX, but I certainly didn’t invent it. It was based on a wicked design by a furniture designer named David Weeks:

    My version was just an experiment to see if I could figure out how to do it, so mine isn’t for sale. However, I believe David Weeks’ version is for sale in a lot of places (like ThinkGeek, Chapters, etc) and, I suspect, much more professionally and accurately built. 🙂

    Also, the elastic-based flexible robots are a pretty common design and I bet you can find plans elsewhere. I did a quick search and came across this issue of Scrollsaw Magazine:

    It looks like there might be some basic plans in there. It’s essentially strategically placed slits and holes and elastics and, TADA, you got yourself a posable robot. 🙂

    As for the isolation technique, yeah, I was surprised how easy it ended up being. As for keeping the entire object in focus, yup, that shouldn’t be a problem. I’m a sucker for “blurry backs”, so I like a shallow depth of field. But if you want more in focus, just decrease the aperture size (say, f/5). Remember to adjust the ISO and/or shutter in the opposite direction to compensate.

    Good luck, Mike! Hope it helps!

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