Whitespace that should not be white

posted on 8th of september, 2010

Much talk has been about whitespace or copyspace in images - designers prefer it and photographers like to emphasize their subjects with it.


Whitespace should not be white. Why? Because if it is white, it is just empty. Empty space that makes the file (look) big, but in reality only makes the designers pay more for nothing. If you isolate your shots, then you should crop tightly around it, making the image as big as actual information in the image and not more. It seriously is not fun to pay for XXL size, if the usable image in it is only worth Medium credits.

Reviewers take it into account as well, but it is really the education for contributors, in order to avoid ill rejections.
If there is an uniform tone in the background, we advise to treat it the same as white, since any uniform background is relatively easy to extend to either direction if needed. If the background is complicated though, or on a gradient tone, including this extra space might be justified, but only to the extent of the actual frame of the camera.
Otherwise it is plain cheating, and cheating is not nice, you know ;)

Search for "copyspace" resulted in 94,000+ images and the majority of them are over white backgrounds. Most of them have moderate excess space, but there are some extreme examples as well.

Comments (45)

Posted by Photosthai on July 04, 2014
Thank you for your information ,My files has received comment by DT inspector about your topic,
Posted by Upwardway38 on February 19, 2014
All of the "lessons learned" advice on your site is extremely useful. Thanks for passing it on...
Posted by Jarihin on January 18, 2012
That was new situation for me. I sell same isolated photos also from the stock where customer can bye only one size original file. Price and size is there always same.

Sorry my bad english, I hope you understand :)
Posted by Hunor83 on January 04, 2012
Thank you for advice!
Posted by Karsol on January 03, 2012
Thank you for advice!
Posted by Rolmat on February 13, 2011
How would one handle a situation like this where the contributor (me) is trying to follow the rules but can't?

Easy, as always you'll just need to plan ahead. If you intend to shoot an image over white, just keep in mind that any unreasonable white space should be cropped out. Needless to say that you will end up with the main subject below the original size of your camera capabilies. So, just zoom it up so that it fills your frame space as much as possible.
Posted by Demonike on February 13, 2011
We are trying on our end to deliver to our clients what is advertised. If we say our minimum file is 3MP, then we make sure the buyers get their 3MP. If you isolate an object, then it should be cropped closely around the boundaries of the object, in order to not make the designers pay for empty space. There are always exceptions though - if the image is useful and it is on the borderline of minimum MP when properly cropped, we allow for some white area just to make it into the minimum. Always try to compose these objects in such a way, that they will fill most of the frame (diagonally, in this case), and/or get as close as you can. And yes there are many examples in the database, where this rule has not been enforced, some of those are older images and some have slipped through or are too good otherwise, to be nagged about ;)
Posted by Kelpfish on February 13, 2011

I've tried to follow DT's white space rules but when I crop certain images they're too small for your site to accept even though it was shot with a 11 MP camera. I have one in the queue now of an isolated cigarette on white. It is full resolution when I crop it but overall it's a simple image with little data to make the file large enough. I've tried to upload the cropped version but it gets rejected. It's file 18298657 to be exact.

How would one handle a situation like this where the contributor (me) is trying to follow the rules but can't?
Posted by Anhong on January 05, 2011
I have to trim my photo friends. Haha, not too much space!
Posted by Dahuang1231 on October 06, 2010
Thank you for advice!
Posted by Miele on September 26, 2010
Thank you for advice!
Posted by Infotrontof on September 25, 2010
Good to know .. thanks!
Posted by Joezachs on September 25, 2010
Learning is a never ending process.
The blog as well as the comments by others has increased my knowledge.
Posted by Almaterra on September 24, 2010
Lovely photos!
Posted by Alionaz on September 23, 2010
I was impressed with your portfolio!
Posted by Rebeccaosborn on September 22, 2010
i never copped onto this.. thanks for pointing it out - rebecca
Posted by Demonike on September 21, 2010
The rule of thirds does not apply to objects isolated on white (uniform) backgrounds. It only makes the file dimensionally bigger and that is its sole purpose. We do not look forward to files being made artificially bigger by adding "hoax" spaces to the sides. There is no composition on white, since the canvas can extend to infinity in any direction - if the buyer is a designer, she/he can see the final composition in the mind. That is the whole point of isolating objects - to be able to move them around in a number of ways and not depend on the position of the "included space".
Posted by Sutashiku on September 21, 2010
Sometimes white on the right or left of the object is part of the track, just to observe the rule of thirds and if remove the space on the right or left - and the object is suddenly in the middle that is not good in terms of the composition

If a designer really like the picture, he'll buy it anyway
Posted by Demonike on September 18, 2010
Anna, it would be nice, and useful, if you cleared this up then. Please?
Posted by Aardlumens on September 17, 2010
Whitespace is not even the same thing as copyspace. People use these terms interchangeably and also keyword their photos with them, when they're simply two very different things. This advice is good, but it didn't clear up the point I just made.
Posted by Onime on September 16, 2010
Thank you for the info, Good advice.
Posted by Waxart on September 14, 2010
I have just had several images accepted with gray backgrounds, which -, in the light of this thread, surprises me, as I usually take a lot of trouble isolating the subject against pure white, either in studio or in post-processing. Just for research, I tried removing my subjects from their gray backgrounds (produced in camera, not in Photoshop) and found it much harder.
Posted by Laurasinelle on September 13, 2010
Good advice, we learn something new eveyday. thanks for the info, I will follow that!
Posted by Themalni on September 13, 2010
Great information, thank you for sharing it with us, as for a beginner like me (in stock photography) every piece of useful information equals to gold! =D
Posted by Picstudio on September 13, 2010
Great informative blog.
Posted by Thanatonautii on September 13, 2010
Wonderful blog! Thanks for advice!
Posted by Imdan on September 12, 2010
Nine times out of ten, white is NOT really "white," but some variation of white.

As a designer, I'd much rather the photographer shoot on against a white or other neutral color (gray or black) than shoot against a color (red, green or blue, etc.) background.
Posted by Fleyeing on September 11, 2010
Very useful as to sales potential. May I add that "copyspace" also can be applied to models holding boards, screens etc... that are pure white and where the designer can poke anything in easily. Those copyspaces can't be cropped of course.
Posted by 350jb on September 10, 2010
I think the overuse of dead white space, or "isolated objects" is one of the reasons many designers look down on microstock. However,if your image background is even close to white (light grey or a slight beige, say) the image will be rejected as "incorrect colour balance". As such, I try to always shoot on a background that cannot be mistaken in this way. I think as microstock evolves, maybe the reviewers make a little more sophisticated choice with these kind of images. Sometimes a very slight dot in the background helps an image sit on a page.
Posted by Rolmat on September 09, 2010
Extremely useful advices, Kutt. Please let me add that along with the negative effect amongst buyers, it also affects members acceptance ratio in a way that ccould be easily avoided. And that applies to all kind of imagery, not only photos... :)

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Comments (45)

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Photo credits: Yuri_arcurs.

About me

I am a graphic designer, webmaster, photographer. Live in Estonia. 3 kids. Mac-person. Nikon-person. Initially gave my images for free back in 2003. Then discovered that some people would actually be willing to pay for my random photo experiments. Found Dreamstime, had lots to say in the forums and Serban invited me into their family :) • I am totally self taught. Through trial and error. Mostly latter :) • What makes an ideal microstock photo? I think it is broad usability. Solely. • I have studio experience, but am not so active lately. Mostly shoot events, family, object... [Read more]

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