I've got a LOT of different food photography backdrops and am always on the lookout for more! They make or break an image, so they are vitally important. This is what I'm looking for:
- A matt surface. Any shine or lustre is incredibly difficult to work with.
- An interesting texture or pattern but without really strong and dominant marks or areas that would draw the eye away from the food.
- It needs to be large enough to be used in lots of different set ups - 60cm X 60cm is very versatile. Anything less can restrict the angles you can shoot with but can be handy for smaller overhead shots.
- Lightweight. I have some gorgeous old French shutters and also several backdrops made from pallets. They are beautiful but quite heavy and bulky to store.
I'm often asked by students where I get my food photography backdrops from so here are my main sources:
- Wallpaper samples from DIY stores. These are free, just ask for a sample. There are lots of textures and patterns that mimic floorboards, stone etc. If you want them to last, mount them onto foam board or similar.
- Floor tile samples, again from a DIY store. The bigger the better. These may cost a small amount.
- Textured gift wrapping paper or newspaper etc. Again it's handy to mount nice papers onto board to make them last longer.
- Fabrics, especially hessian and linen. Large pieces of hessian can be glued onto MDF boards but be careful to use glue that dries invisible.
- Pallets broken up into planks. Fix them together using batons on the back, then stain them with chalk paints and similar. There are tutorials on Pinterest on how to do this.
- Tongue and groove panelling from a DIY store. Slot them together, use batons on the back to hold them in place and then stain them.
- Table tops, cupboard doors etc. Some will be amazing as they are - old and weathered with use over many years. If they're not, sand them down and stain them but don't do anything that makes them shiny. I have some beautiful old green shutters bought at a salvage show, but they were quite expensive.
- Old trays, like large baking trays. The older the better, as the staining and discolouration looks great.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should get you thinking about all sorts of household and other items that could be suitable.
I also have a wide selection of printed textures on lightweight boards which work really well for dry or plated foods. I buy these online and it's obviously more expensive than making something yourself, but they are very convenient: easy to store, beautiful printed textures that look real, they're wipe clean and very versatile.
Here's one of them in use for one of my food photos.
You can buy these boards from www.photoboards.org and also another of my favourite suppliers Black Velvet Styling.
I hope this has got your minds whirring about potential food photography backdrops and has inspired you to get shooting some awesome images.
Take a look at my online Food Styling and Photography Group Cook Shoot Eat for oodles more information on how to style and photograph food like a professional.