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What To Look For In Food Photography Backdrops

To find the best backdrops for food styling and food photography you need to consider a few things.

Choosing the wrong colours or materials can cause problems in the studio or an unappealing image, so you want to avoid this where you can. 

Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash

Read on to make sure you have a solid idea of what you should consider when choosing the best backdrop or surface for your food photography.

Size

When looking for backdrops and surfaces for any type of photography you need to match your needs to the product.

As a general rule, you will want something that is big enough to be able to shoot large flat lays but small enough that it is easy to work with in a studio. 

A good size to use is 2ftx3ft (24 inches by 36 inches, 60.96cm by 91.44cm).

If you stick around this size you should be good to go for various angles. Only if you want a really large flat lay then look around for even bigger surfaces. 

Colour / Pattern

Colour is important in any type of photography and it’s even more important in food photography. At the end of the day, it’s your job to make the food look appealing. 

With a backdrop you want to make sure that it complements the food well without being too distracting. 

A safe bet is to go for muted and neutral colours at the cooler end of the colour spectrum.

By this we mean things with more of a blue tone compared to red. The reason for this is that a lot of food tends to be warmer colours.

By using cooler colours in the background, the food will stand out more and be more visually appealing. 

Other safe options are things like white and grey. 

Photo by Brenda Godinez on Unsplash

Of course there are exceptions to the rule and you will often see advertisements with bright colours in the background but for the average food blogger or food photographer going for the safer options that we mentioned above will be more versatile. 

An obvious exception to the rule is using wood as this can have more reddish and orange hues but it is still very common to use wood as a background for food photography because it can work very well with all the texture and story that it brings. 

If you do want to go for wood, try to go for muted and more de-saturated colours if possible. 

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Water Resistance

Food can be anything from a dry biscuit to a bowl of soup and there is plenty of opportunity for spillages when it comes to food photography. In fact sometimes you might WANT to purposefully spill or position liquids like sauce onto your set. 

In situations like this, you will want to consider the water resistance of the backdrop you use. If your backdrop is not water resistant then it could not only ruin the surface but it could also stain if it is hard to remove the liquid and it seeps in. 

Photo by Izzy Gerosa on Unsplash

On the other hand, if you have a wipe-able water/stain resistant surface then you can easily use liquids on your set without worry and you can easily just wipe them down when you are done. 

Examples of surfaces that can be good options for this include things like:

  • Vinyl backdrops 
  • Marble
  • Ceramic tile
  • Metal trays
  • Sealed wood
  • Other hard photo surfaces

Quality Of Image

The quality of image is important because printed surfaces can come in various qualities. Some may look too pixelated so you will want to avoid these by making sure you have considered reviews for different vendors. 

Reflection

With any surface it will have a certain amount of reflectiveness to it and you want to consider this whenever you are choosing one. 

In general, you will want to avoid surfaces that are too reflective as they can be hard to work with when it comes to glare and reflections. This can vary even within the same type of surface. For example, some photo-surfaces that have been printed may have a glossy finish whereas others may have a matte finish. 

Sturdiness vs Portability

You might have already considered the material of the surface when considering the reflectiveness or the quality of the image, but there’s more to it than that. 

Having a backdrop which is sturdy is really important but it’s also important that it is easy to work with. 

You might have a really expensive marble slab that looks beautiful, but if it takes 2 people to lift it into place every time you want to shoot then it can get a bit annoying. This is where you might instead consider a printed marble surface instead that you can carry around easily.

Vinyl options can simply be rolled up and taken with you anywhere so they can be great for the photographer who is moving around a lot. 

Try to find a balance between sturdiness and portability to match your needs. If you always shoot in your own studio and only use the same 2-3 surfaces for all of your photos then maybe portability doesn’t matter as much. But even then, the bigger more sturdy surfaces can also be a lot more expensive too.

Price

At the end of the day, this could be the most important factor for you. There’s no point spending hundreds if it is out of your budget and starting out you probably will want to go for more budget or DIY options. 

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

Over time you will accumulate more backdrops that you can use so just take your time, try things out and only spend a lot of money when you are absolutely certain. 

In rough order of ascending price backdrops tend to go as follows:

  • Paper based surfaces
  • DIY backdrops (e.g. reclaimed wood, old baking trays, painted canvas etc.)
  • Vinyl backdrops
  • Hard printed photo backdrops
  • Natural materials (e.g. bespoke hardwood, marble slabs etc.)

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