Build a Back-Lit Slope Backdrop For Better Product Photography

Child's shoe isolated on white background

The following article is a guest post by Ilya Titov, a photographer and web designer, who also runs a great blog at

Are you a photographer who needs to take dozens of high quality photographs every day?

Are you a designer who has to process the above? – I am both, and I cheated.

Well, not really, I just optimized the way I go about achieving the target outcome. I dothis by using a home grown illuminated light table (or slope). Read on for full details.

I work for The Golden Boot and part of my job is to get all the stock online as quick as possible. And it has to look good.

Before I got the Slope backdrop working, it was taking me good 2-3 days to photograph and process a delivery of products. My setup looked like this:

shoe setup

Don’t work like this!

I was spending a lot of time tweaking the lighting in the tent, and even more time processing to remove the shadows. Getting new season’s collection online was a painful and lengthy process.

After completing the second season I was challenged by my employer to speed up the whole photography aspect of managing the online store.

After a 2 months holiday I came back with a great idea and this AutoCAD drawing:

slope backdrop drawing

I figured that the light was the most important influence on quality and that if I could eliminate the shadow at photography stage, it would speed things up considerably.

Product photography tent proved pretty useless in the past so I though “Why not make the background brighter than the foreground?”

The sloped shape was pretty obvious.

I shared the idea with my employer and he agreed to build it. Most of the stuff we used was lying around the shop.

We got a large sheet of opaque plexiglass to fit in the carcass we’ve built. We had the electrician wire an array of 16 daylight tubes and 4 switches.

Build a Back-Lit Slope Backdrop For Better Product Photography - progress

It was a very special feeling to see the whole thing work.


Going through Autumn-Winter 2009 stock, I appreciate how easy it is to photograph items with fur elements. They are a nightmare to isolate from the background and will never look as neat.

Here is how fur looks over this slope:

Detail of fur over white

And here is a Manas Heston Boot:

Build a Back-Lit Slope Backdrop For Better Product Photography - manas-heston boot

This backdrop is very handy for fluffy items. And it almost eliminates any processing required. It comes down to increasing the contrast and exposure slightly to bleach the background when importing from raw.

Another bonus is that there is little to non lens flare to deal with. (The images in this post were taken with an EOS400D and an EF-S18-55mm lens)

Build a Back-Lit Slope Backdrop For Better Product Photography

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Written by Ilya Titov
Images of shoes courtesy of The Golden Boot
Hi-res images taken with slope box available on my flickr account.