Food photography can be an expensive hobby. We always want our photos to be perfect so we go through the effort of making sure not just the subject, but also that the backdrop is perfect.
You can spend a lot of money for high quality backdrops like marble slabs or tiles, but a lot of us don’t have that sort of budget. What happens if you spend a lot of money on a marble slab and you don’t even like it after your first shoot?
Luckily there are plenty of options for you to use as budget food photography backdrops.
1. Metal Trays Baking Trays , Roasting Trays
If you have an oven then you probably have metal trays. Whether it be a baking tray or a roasting tray these can be great backdrops to use for your food.
Especially if they have been used because it adds texture and character to the picture. Look for ones that have scratches and marks on them as it can almost add a homely feel to the shot to give that added feel of home made food.
You can even turn one over and use the back so it’s like having 2 different backdrops.
2. Baking Paper / Parchment Paper
This is a go to for many food photographers because of how easy it is to use. It’s not glossy and is a neutral colour, but best of all you can easily find it at home or get it quite easily without breaking the bank.
A lot of the time your food will already be on the baking paper so you can just leave it on there and position it on your set and shoot it fresh out of the oven.
They’re great for adding some texture and layering at a cheap cost and you can even use it as diffusion material if you haven’t got something to diffuse your lighting!
3. Wooden Chopping Boards
Wooden cutting boards can be a great backdrop for your food items if you know what to look for.
They’re great for both close ups and prep shots whether you are doing standard shots or flatlays.
Make sure you avoid boards that are really orange or yellow in colour because they tend not to go well with the food you want to photograph and can be a distraction to your subject.
In general the more old and used it looks the more rustic it will feel and these can be better for a more home cooked feel. On the other hand smoother and lighter coloured woods will give off more of a light and elegant feel.
4. Reclaimed Wood
The reason this is such a good option here is that there are people who are just trying to get rid of scrap pieces of wood and will pretty much give it away for free.
It’s also a good idea to go for reclaimed wood instead of new wood because reclaimed wood will tend to have more faded and de-saturated colours. This means they tend to work so they work better as backdrops as they are less distracting to the subject.
Play around with different types of wood as there are so many different textures and colours so some may work better than others depending on the vibe you are going for.
5. Fabric – Linen, Napkins Etc.
Everyone has some sort of fabric lying around that you could use as a backdrop or part of a backdrop.
If you do it right you can even use old clothes if you are shooting something like a close up macro shot from above.
The most important thing here is to choose colours that will go well with your subject. In general you will want to choose colours that are not distracting from your subject so going for neutral colours can be a good option.
Examples of fabrics you could use include the following:
- Tea towels
- Table cloths
- Linen cloth
- Old clothes
6. Construction /Craft Paper or Poster Paper
Craft paper and poster paper is extremely cheap and accessible. You can get it from pretty much any arts and crafts store or on online retailers like Amazon.
You will tend to get them in assorted colours and in certain fixed sizes. Make sure the size you get is big enough for what you want to use it for.
The colours will lend themselves to a more playful young and playful vibe to your pictures. Just make sure that the colours you choose go well with your subject.
If you are getting fixed sizes of paper rather than a roll, then go for larger sizes so you can cut them down to size to match your set.
Be careful with creasing and wet food too as it is just a form of paper at the end of the day.
7. Vinyl Backdrops
Vinyl backdrops have become a common and affordable option for many food photographers.
With wood, tiles, marble or other materials the backdrop can be large and heavy so they are not the best if you need to transport them around with you. Vinyl on the other hand can just be rolled up and taken around and they are lightweight.
The other benefit is the cost. A strong and well made table top or slab of wood or marble can be quite costly, but vinyl is very affordable.
It also helps that they are waterproof so you can wipe them down if there are any spills , but keep in mind that not all vinyl backdrops are created equal – you should look at reviews before you buy any.
A tip to help you is to try to go for something that has a matte finish as this will avoid any glaring reflections.
Don’t feel limited to the suggestions that we’ve included here. Look around your house to see what else you could use.
Maybe it’s a burlap sack or just some old brown paper bags. Perhaps it’s a weird piece of mesh or canvas that you have lying around. Be creative and experiment to see what looks best to you.