Your choice of food photography backgrounds can have a big impact on your photos.
There are several resources online where you can purchase professional backdrops but these options can be expensive.
Here are 12 DIY food photography backgrounds ideas that look great and can save you lots of money.
12. Painted Canvas Backdrop
One of my favourite food photography backdrops for a magazine quality look is painted canvas.
Buying professional canvas drops is expensive. But you can make your own for a fraction of the price.
Buy a canvas painter’s dropcloth at your local hardware store. These are large pieces of canvas you use to protect your floor while painting you walls at home.
Canvas drop cloths are ordinarily quite large, so you can cut them into half, and then half once again, to get four backdrops out of one stretch of fabric. Or eight–if you paint the other side, too!
Purchase two to three colours of paint samples in a similar tone for each backdrop. You can buy the paint samples at the hardware store as well. They usually have a large selection.
Note that you may also want to purchase primer. The canvas soaks up a lot of the paint and you may need to purchase more than you anticipated.
Layer the paint on with a small, good quality roller, moving the roller in different directions.
If you would like to add more texture, scrunch up a rag or large sea sponge and dip it into the paints. Randomly press the rag onto the canvas.
One bonus of these canvas backdrops is that they are easy to roll up and store.
11. Ceramic Flooring Tile
Another beautiful yet simple backdrop is porcelain or ceramic tile. You can get it from your local home improvement store like Home Depot or Homebase.
These are inexpensive and look great. Also, they are easily wipeable, which is a bonus in food photography when you are dealing with drips and spills.
Make sure that whichever tile you choose that it’s not shiny. The reflections or glare it will cast can be difficult to manage when doing food photography or fix in post-processing.
Also choose a neutral colour and avoid backdrops that are orange-toned. These can be unflattering to food. Good colours to choose are grey, black, white, or cool brown tones like taupe.
Food is often warm in tone. Shooting on a neutral or more cool-toned backdrop is complementary and enhances the food subject, while warm tones will tend to compete.
10. Paint Your Own Wooden Backdrops
Painting your own wooden food photography backdrops can be lot less costly than purchasing them.
Buy some thin plywood sheets at the home improvement store. The bigger stores can also cut larger pieces into smaller ones, so you can get more mileage out them.
However, ensure that the pieces are at least 2×3 feet to accommodate most of your set-ups.
You can purchase paint samples but also craft paint will also do. Make sure that whichever paints you choose are water-based.
Choose three or four colours in a similar colour family and pour them in the middle of the board. Take a large sea sponge and dab the paint all over the board to create a blended and subtle mottled effect.
Finish with a thin coat of matte, water-resistant sealer. This will prevent wear and tear and so food will not stain the backdrop after repeated use.
The nice thing about plywood is that it is lighter and easier to store than some other types of wood used for food photography backgrounds, such as pine or spruce.
9. Craft or Construction Papers
Coloured or textured craft or construction paper can make pretty and inexpensive food photography backgrounds that are light and easy to store.
If you enjoy colourful food photography, using craft paper can be a great option.
Source large pieces of craft paper or construction paper at your local craft supply store, or check out sites like Amazon for packages of paper offering a variety of colours.
In the image above, I used a large piece of yellow construction paper as my background.
To recreate this look, distance your paper a fair bit away from your set. This will help you get a blurred out horizon line and so your food doesn’t look “stuck” to your background.
8. Old Cookie Sheet
This is another favourite way food bloggers and photographers add an attractive background and texture to overhead food shots.
It’s such a popular look that all of the big suppliers of wooden backdrops sell boards that have been painted to mimic the unique and textured look that old cookie sheets bring.
Cookie sheets that are as distressed as possible are ideal.
If your cookie sheets are looking too new or you want to rough them up a bit further, coat them with butter or oil and bake them on high heat until they brown.
Repeat this process until you get the look that you want.
Another nice thing about cookie sheets is that they are wipeable and contain any drippings from foods with liquids properties, or melting ice.
7. Vintage Tray
Don’t get rid of any old or vintage trays you may have kicking around. They also make fabulous food photography backgrounds.
Depending on the metal, they will often have a lovely patina that will add pizzaz to your food photography, without the heavy texture that can compete with your subjects.
They look great close up or at a distance, or can be used as an element in telling your food story.
You can often find vintage trays for a good price at secondhand or antique stores.
Online sites like Etsy and EBay can also be a great place to look.
As with any backdrop, it should not be reflective.
In the images below, the tray doesn’t look overly shiny, even though I have backlit my subject.
6. Contact Paper
Contact paper, which is used to line kitchen shelves can be a great stand-in for expensive and heavy slabs of marble. Look for paper that is cool in tone and not shiny.
There are a lot of variations, so choose carefully to get the most realistic looking faux marble.
Amazon is a good source for contact paper. You can also check out your local hardware store for an up close look.
Glue the contact paper to a thin piece of plywood or foam core for a light and great looking marble backdrops without the hefty price tag.
5. Paper Grocery Bags
The next time you’re asked paper or plastic at your local grocery store, choose the paper bag option and add it to your food photography arsenal.
Crumpled up paper grocery bags make attractive and textured backdrops for a variety of foods with their natural colour. .
Simply cut the bag on the sides and flatten it out for an instant photography backdrop.
Of course, paper bags stain easily and are usually only good for a single use. Since they cost almost nothing, they make a super cheap and disposable surface for capturing your delicious creations.
4. Burlap Food Photography Backgrounds
Burlap can function on its own as a backdrop or be the perfect layering piece in rustic and earthy images.
As with any backdrop, think about how it complements your food subjects and other elements in your scene. And how it will serve the story you are trying to tell through your images.
Burlap may not be the best choice alongside a delicate cake, but can look perfect with some root vegetables or in a farmhouse scene.
You can purchase burlap at some craft supply stores or fabric stores and cut it into the dimensions you need.
Having a variety of linens on hand is a must for every food photographer and blogger.
These can run the gamut, from natural fabric like linen, to lightly patterned damask tablecloths.
I have a stack of linen napkins purchased from my local home store and use them often in my food photography.
Generally, I recommend sticking to neutral colours or shades of blue. But you can also choose a brighter colour or something with a pattern, depending on your end goal and desired aesthetic.
They key is that you don’t want your food photography backgrounds competing with and drawing the eye away from your main subjects.
You can use your linen as the entire backdrop or just to cover a portion of another neutral backdrop, as depicted below.
One tip when covering your entire surface with a piece of linen or a tablecloth is to place another layer of fabric underneath. This will plump it up and make it look more attractive.
2. Wooden Cutting Boards
Depending on the size, a wooden cutting board can function as a nice backdrop or be used as a layering piece.
Look for boards with a coarse grain and be careful about purchasing any with a warm, orange or yellowish tinge, as I have mentioned above.
These tone of woods are unflattering to foods and the colour is nearly impossible to fix in post-processing.
What looks a bit warm to the eye may end up looking downright orange to your camera, so avoid this look.
If you can score one, an antique French cutting board is a perfect choice. You can find them on Etsy, but beware the price might be higher than you might want to spend.
1. Parchment Paper
Parchment paper can also be another inexpensive way to add interest to your images.
You can use natural parchment or white parchment, depending on the look that you’re after. White parchment looks great in bright and airy food imagery.
It goes without saying that parchment can be a perfect choice for photographing baked goods, but it also works well with other foods. Natural parchment can look great with meat.
You can choose to crumple it up for added texture, or you can lay it smooth and flat and layer it with other backdrops of your choice.
I sometimes also cut parchment into squares and use it under foods or in between stacks of cookies or slices.
Parchment paper can also work great when it has been in the oven and is browned or stained. It lends foods a candid, honest feel, and gives the viewer the idea that it has just been in the oven.
I save these pieces in a plastic sandwich bag whenever possible so I can reuse them at a later date.
There are so many different ways to create stunning food photography backgrounds without the expense of buying and shipping wooden backdrops from special suppliers.
Take the time to experiment with the items you already have around at home before spending any money on supplies or shelling out for other alternatives, like vinyl food photography backdrops.
You may be surprised and pleased with the results and you wallet will thank you.