This blog post is sponsored by Farrow & Ball.
Being picky with styling my food I used to struggle finding the right backdrop. A good backdrop should look real and not vinyl-like. I wanted my backdrop to preferably have texture, but still look minimalistic and clean. The thought of making my own backdrop was just too intimidating for me. I’d rather go through the dump (true story) to look for that abandoned piece of wood or marble, than try my own luck with some paint and a wooden board.
The technique that I’ll show you today to make your own backdrop is a game changer for me. I’m able to create my own professional looking backdrop with texture. I only need some cheap putty, a wooden board, a sponge and a good quality matte paint that I found at Farrow & Ball.
Why are backdrops important in food photography?
A backdrop is the base of your food scene. A good story telling photo starts with your backdrop.
Of course as a food photographer you don’t need hundreds of backdrop, but having a few good options that match your style of photography is key. I used to stick to only one backdrop (a real piece of marble, 60x60cm), but I noticed that having only one backdrop to work with had an impeded effect on my creativity. Luckily, since then I have added many more different backdrops to my collection and it truly makes a big difference.
How to pick your color or style backdrop?
I believe it’s important to go for a backdrop that is subtle and that adds an element of styling to the overall photo and storytelling aspect of the food scene. A backdrop shouldn’t compete with the food or the food props. It should give your food scene a sense of atmosphere (light, dark, moody), but never be overruling. Prints are for example often too overruling, even if they are minimal and in one color.
A backdrop with a texture is amazing for food photography. A neutral color palate is best for (textured) backdrops otherwise the backdrop can become too busy. Whites, blues, greys and light browns are in my opinion best and then preferable desaturated.
Having that said, in food styling and food photography there are really no rules. If you think a color is beautiful, by all means go for it. I personally like light and cool pictures as this make my food stand out and look fresh. As such I stay away from warm colors such as red and orange tones. However, there is also certainly a place for bright red/orange/yellow backdrops for a specific scene.
Ok, now we know why a good backdrop is important, let’s dive into the how to!
You can make this backdrop in just 3 easy steps and less than 15 minutes!
To make your own textured food photography backdrop you really don’t need a lot of time or stuff.
I went for a high quality paint in a gorgeous shade from Farrow & Ball. This color is matt, is suitable to use inside without having to open all your windows for three days to get rid of the smell and this paint dries up super-fast.
Buy a wooden board and paint
You want to use a sturdy wooden board such as plywood. I used a wooden board that I once received with a backdrop order. It was in the package as a protection and I’m using it now to make my own double-sided backdrop.
I normally will go for a surface of 60x60cm, but 80x60cm or bigger is also a great dimension to use in food photography. I noticed that it’s not a good idea to go for a wooden board that is too thin. It will bend and look unnatural when shooting. I would recommend to go for minimum 5mm or thicker.
With an old business card and a paint filler/putty I created texture. Just be creative and don’t overthink this process. Give it a minute and then let it dry. If you are working on this too long it will look unnatural as it will dry up in between.
Paint your surface after the putty has dried up. In my case the putty dried up in like 10 minutes.
Since you have so much texture going on, you want to keep the color simple and matt. So I went for the color Jitney no 293 from Farrow & Ball (Estate Emulsion). I applied it with a washing up sponge. The reason is that I don’t want to fully cover the entire surface. Simply ”stamp” the paint on and make sure to skip a few spots. You are creating darker and lighter spots with one color of paint. The texture also helps in adding shades.
The paint dries up pretty quickly, but if you want to be sure give it at least 12 hours to dry up completely. I didn’t use any sealant on top. After using this backdrop for a foodscene I just wipe any food stains with a damp cloth. Just be super careful with food such as turmeric and red beets… Those might ruin your backdrop. If that happens to you it can be easily fixed if you keep any leftover paint somewhere in the house.
✓ Keep it simple. It’s easy to go overboard, but keep your food scene and your editing in mind. You really don’t have to think about this seriously, just keep it simple. A good textured backdrop is done in 15 minutes.
✓ Of course, use both sides of your wooden board. You can make one side textured and the other side less- or not textured.
✓ A backdrop can also be used as a background when you shoot head on.
✓ If you don’t know which color to choose try to go for pastel or desaturated hues of the color you like. Something to keep in mind is that a color will always tend to dry darker than you might have expected. Try a couple of shades lighter and desaturated than what you have in mind.
✓ If you don’t want to make a backdrop with texture and skip the putty, make sure to use more than one color of paint. My tip would be to go for a shade of white. You can mix it with your main color or add it to certain spots only.
Now it’s your turn to start getting creative. I hope after reading this post making your won backdrop is less intimidating. You only need 1 good color of paint. Let me know what you think of this tutorial. Maybe you have some tips to share as well? Don’t forget to tag me in your creations. I’d love to see your backdrops!