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DIY Food Photography Background For Under $50

By Anthony Thurston on December 4th 2013

One item that you need to really take your food photography to another level is a quality background. A popular choice is to shoot on large wood cutting boards or similar objects because wood can go with almost any food and add character to the shot. Today I am going to show you how to make your own quality double sided wood background for under $50.

What You Need


This is a really simple build, just a quick trip to the home improvement store and you will be good to go. Many of you might have some of these items already so you can do this for even cheaper.

  • Wood Glue $3-5
  • 8 oz Wood Stain $5.48/each (1 Color, or Two if you want a 2-in-1 background)
  • Paint/Stain Brush $3 (1 if single color, 2 if 2-in-1)
  • 1/2 x 3 x 24 inch Select Pine – 9 Boards – $1.73/each (I found mine at Lowes)
  • 1/2 x 4 x 24 inch Select Pine – 7 Boards – $2.56/each (Also found at Lowes)
  • 1/2 x 2 x 24 inch Select Pine – 1 Board – $1.29

Before I get into how to build the background I wanted to explain the thoughts behind the design. It was important to me to have a 2-in-1 design so I could get the most use out of the background. You could make this using all the same type of board, but again I wanted to have some variation so I decided to use the different sized boards so that both sides of by background are unique from each other.

You can do this for much much cheaper if you go out and find old or discarded wood pallets. If you go this route make sure that you have permission to take the wood and that you are not stealing. The other step that this adds is that you will need to sand the wood before you stain it. 

How To Build It

As I said, this is a really simple build. But it does take a bit of time because the wood and stain take time to dry so this is a good 4-5 hour project at a minimum. After you are done you will have a 2ft x 2ft square background that is perfect for food photography.

Step One: Glue the wood together using the wood glue that you purchased. What I did was place the larger 4 inch wide boards down first and then glued the smaller 3 inch wide boards down over the top.


Step Two: After you have the wood all glued together place a few large objects on top of the wood to act as a weight to press the boards together. I used a big pot full of water and placed that on top of the background for 1.5 hours while the glue dried.

(You could technically stop here if you do not want to stain the wood. Its all about your personal taste and what you think will make your food images turn out the best)

Step Three: Begin to stain your background. You can only do one side at a time, I stained the 4 inch wide board side first. Since I wanted a 2-in-1 background I picked one of the stains that I purchased and started to stain the background.

*Make sure to follow the directions of the stain that you purchase so that you get the best effect. Some stains may require multiple coats.


Step Four: Let the stain dry. The stain that I purchased is 1 hour stain, so I needed to wait only one hour. But just to be safe I waited 1.5 hours.

Step Five: After you have confirmed that your stain is dry on the one side of your background now you flip it over and begin to stain the other side. If you have a single stain color you can use what you have otherwise now is the time to open your second stain.


Step Six: Let your second side dry. Again, I waited 1.5 hours just to be safe.


Step 7: Confirm that your second side is dry. If it is then you are done and you now have your own DIY Wood Food Photography Background. All for under $55.


You will notice that there is a slight overhang on one side. This is due to using the two different sized boards, while technically they should fit perfectly there seemed to be a slight difference with the boards that I purchased. Not a big deal to me, but if you are OCD and need everything to fit perfectly you may need to use a saw or double check all lengths before purchase your boards.

Example Shot

Here is an example shot that I put together using the wood background that I put made.


It was a simple shot. Just window light from camera right and a white reflector from camera left. Nothing special, but it shows you what you can get with a background like this.

If you make your own DIY Wood Food Photography Background similar to the one I made in this tutorial please share an image of it or an example shot done with it below. I would love to see what you guys come up with.

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Nice article.

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  2. giles farrngton

    I use wallpaper with wood patterns on, you can get testers from amazon etc with lots of different looks.

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  3. Jason

    Why glue it together? It stores much easier in pieces and gluing it did not eliminate spaces between the wood. With a clearer stain you would also have more control over where grain patterns land if it were in pieces.

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  4. Scott

    Hmm i wonder how much wood floor is to build a 2X2 square. I see it normally listed as $2 per sq ft pre stained.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I know a few people that said it doesn’t work quite a well. Plus I would like to chose my stain. But if you are on a cheap budget those might work.

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    • Chris Kimball

      If you use a laminate flooring or something similar, you can get a nice look but most of them have a shinny finish so watch out for that. The lights can create a terrible glare on the wood.

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  5. Miroslav Jesensky

    Nice one, but if you get the timber from pallet you can find for free and just take it apart and sand it down, glue it together and then stain it with vinegar(with dissolved steel wool) it will be even cheaper then $50 ;) you can have a look on my pictures to see my DIY background :)

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    • Anthony Thurston

      That is a great suggestion as well. I wanted to have some “nicer wood” so I went with purchasing it from a store. That said, re-purposed wood like you mentioned, has a ton of character and as is evident in your shots makes for great backgrounds as well.

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