Having a variety of food photography backdrops to work with is one of my favorite food photography tips to share. They help set the mood for your composition and have the power to transform an image through colors and textures. This post shares how to use backdrops for food photography, what to look for when choosing them and my all time favorite backdrops that I use for both my client and personal photo shoots.
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Backdrops vs. Surfaces for Food Photography
You may hear the terms backdrops and surfaces used a lot in food photography and there can be some confusion with what each term means. Basically, backdrops and surfaces are both boards, but are placed in different areas. Backdrops sit behind your food and surfaces sit beneath your food.
Food Photography Backdrops
Food photography backdrops sit behind your food. Having a backdrop behind your food can help eliminate busier backgrounds that would distract from the food. Notice the drink images below. We used a backdrop and a surface. It might be a little hard to see in the darker drink image, but we used a textured black surface beneath the drink and a solid black backdrop behind it.
READ MORE ABOUT: DARK & MOODY FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
Food Photography Surfaces
Food photography surfaces sit beneath the food. Notice how the salad images use a completely different surface? It’s important to have a variety of backdrops and surfaces to work with so you can create different moods for your food images.
What To Look For In A Photography Backdrop
When you are choosing your boards, you’ll get to pick two different looks, because the boards are double sided. So, when you buy one board, you’re actually getting two backdrops. Pretty awesome.
So, how do you know which ones to pick? I’ve worked with a variety of different photography backdrop vendors and I’ve even created my own. Through experience, I’ve learned what works best for me and my workflow and there are a few factors to consider. Let’s dive in!
Color is definitely something to consider when choosing a backdrop for food photography. If you’re going for a dark & moody look, you may want to choose darker options like black, gray or colors that are deeper and more rich. If you’re wanting a more light and fresh look, you could select whites, neutrals or colors that are soft and bright. Your creative vision for your food images will change, so having a variety of options on hand is helpful to help you bring those visions to life.
Texture can add such a cool rustic look to your food photography. You can also get backdrops that are solid in color with a clean look. But, having both clean and textured boards will help you create a variety of images. When thinking about textures on your backdrops consider wood, concrete, metal, marble, linen, paint, scratches and uneven color tones.
How big should your boards be? Believe it or not, you’ll need more surface and background space than you might think. My recommendation is to not go smaller than 24×36. Even though you may not be shooting a full table scape, it helps to have room to move things around. Having more space to work with also helps your images look much less crowded. You can always shoot up close and you can always crop in. But, when you don’t have enough room to work with, it can cause a lot of headaches during your shoot and during editing.
There are some gorgeous photography backdrops out there, but when you’re shooting food and drink photography, you need to work with materials that are stain resistant, water resistant and durable. Not all backdrops will play well with food and drinks, so be sure the material will be easy to clean up so you can use your backdrops over and over and over again.
Weight is important to take into consideration and sometimes it can be hard to avoid heavier backdrops and surfaces. However, the more lightweight your boards are, the better. I shoot on location a lot and, honestly, it’s exhausting to lug a bunch of heavy backdrops with me. So, how much a board weighs is a deal breaker for me. I want beautiful surfaces and backdrops that are lightweight and super easy to switch around on set.
How To Set Up Your Photography Backdrops
If you have a table that you can position next to a wall, you may not need any extra equipment at all. Simply place your surface on the table and lean the backdrop against the wall. It could work out really well, but may not be as secure.
The problem that people run into is if they want to set up next to a window, the window is usually on the wall that might need to support the backdrop. If you are using natural light to shoot your food images, you don’t want to cover the window with the backdrop, because it will block the light you need.
This is when having some extra equipment on hand comes in handy, so you’ll have more flexibility in where you can set up for your food shoot.
I recommend having the following equipment to help you.
A foldable table is great to have on hand. This is what you’ll use to place your surface on, which means you don’t have to use the nicer tables in your space. I recommend a square foldable table as opposed to rectangular one. It’s just a more convenient size to work with since one side isn’t longer than the other. I have been using one in my home studio for years and have been able to use it in different locations when needed. It’s easy to move around, durable and folds up flat for easy storage.
The next thing you’ll need are two light stands. The reason these come in handy is because they provide support for your backdrop. You place one on each side of the table and adjust to fit the width of the boards you’re using. They’re smaller light stands and aren’t as sturdy as others, but they will be perfect for lighter weight boards.
In order to support your backdrop securely, you’ll need some clamps to attach the backdrop to the light stands. I usually use one or two on each side.
Surface and Backdrop Setup Example
See an example image below that demonstrates how the setup will look. This was taken in my home studio and uses a couple of boards from Best Ever Backdrops. I have a foldable table and two light stands. The light stands are set up on each side of the table. I used three clamps to hold the backdrop in place and put the surface on top of the table. Pretty cool, right? 😉
READ MORE ABOUT: A SIMPLE OVERHEAD SETUP FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
Best Ever Backdrops
We’ve talked about what to look for in backdrops for food photography and possible equipment that you’ll need, so which vendor should you go with?
My recommendation for beautiful photography backdrops is Best Ever Backdrops. In fact, all of the images you see in this post were shot using Best Ever Backdrops. I also recently had a photo shoot in Colorado and I introduced my client to these backdrops as well. They loved how easy they were to use and will continue to use them for their restaurant photography in the future.
As a professional food photographer, I’ve definitely tried a variety of different options for backdrops and surfaces. I’ve created my own, I’ve used smaller, lightweight options and larger, heavier options. The other vendors came close to all my requirements, but couldn’t quite provide everything I was looking for. Best Ever Backdrops checks everything off of my list.
Best Ever Backdrops offers a wide variety of colors and if you don’t quite find what you’re looking for, they will create a custom color for you.
There’s a wide range of different textured looks available such as wood, brick, tile, concrete, marble, patterns, etc.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t want to get boards that are smaller than 24×36. This tends to be a good size for the variety of food photography projects that I work on. Best Ever Backdrops offers 24×36, 24×24 and 46×36.
Tip: If you need a custom color, texture or size, they can create a custom board for you.
I love the durable material that they use on their backdrops. They use a matte finish, which helps reduce any unwanted glare. The material is easy to clean up, stain resistant and water resistant which is ideal for food and drink photography. It also ensures you’ll be able to use these boards for a very long time.
As I mentioned earlier, weight is a deal breaker for me. I love lightweight surfaces and backdrops and Best Ever Backdrops provides this. Their boards only weigh about 1 lb. It’s so easy to bring them on location and switch between different options as needed. So many backdrops can be really beautiful, but they’re just too bulky and so heavy. Others may be lightweight, but may not be the quality you’re looking for. Finding boards that are beautiful AND lightweight is such a bonus.
Be sure to check out Best Ever Backdrops for your food photography backdrop needs and if you find boards you like, use my code: REGANBARONI to get 15% OFF your order. Barbara is quick to respond to any questions and requests, so tell her hi for me if you reach out to her. 😉
Happy photography backdrop shopping!
This post was not sponsored by Best Ever Backdrops, but does contain affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support for my own photography business.
All images ©Regan Baroni 2022.