White backgrounds show a lot of shadows and imperfections, and something white against something white doesn't really show a lot of detail. However, something white against something black can really highlight the details that might have otherwise been missed, and it's dead easy to create a black background, too.
This Instructable shows how to create a black background in a photograph quickly and inexpensively, and while the examples involve plants, this method is not exclusive to gardening photography of specimens. It can be easily used for photographing items, people, and animals. Probably the best part of this method though is that there is very little editing needed.
To create a perfectly white background, please check out my latest Instructable and get tips on making subjects look shiny and wet!
Step 1: Materials for Outdoor Shots
You will need a sunny day with long shadows and architectural shade (e.g., a building or a car). If you do not have a dark surface, you will probably want something black to put on the ground such as a sheet of black poster board or black fabric.
Step 2: Positioning the Outdoor Shot
Place any necessary black material underneath or behind the item in the shade.
Angle your camera to capture the item with the black, shaded background filling the frame. This might take a few tries to get the angle and arrangement just so.
Once you have the shot, skip to Step 5.
Step 3: Materials for Indoor Shots
You will need something black to hang in the background and a spotlight.
Here is how I arranged the setup for my shot:
I placed a chair on the table with a piece of black poster board taped to the back of the chair. I attached a work light with a daylight bulb to a "stick in a can" and hung a piece of old bubble wrap over it to diffuse the light. I kept the curtains open for extra light, and I used a tripod.
Step 4: Positioning for Indoor Shots
Angle your camera to capture the item with the black background filling the frame.
Step 5: Editing in GIMP
Adjust color levels. "Pick Black Point" will more than likely take care of any adjustments you need to make.
Resize if necessary.