Food photography has become one of the most popular types of photography, especially with the rise of Instagram and other social media platforms. How do you make your carefully styled dishes look good enough to eat? Choosing the right background to show the food off to its best advantage will go a long way towards making your images stand out – but how do you choose the right ones?

We’re going to look at the best types of food photography backdrops, what backdrops to avoid, and also DIY options for creating your own affordable backdrops in our handy guide.

Best Colors for Food Photography Backdrops

food photography backdrops - neutral.jpgFood tends to look at its freshest and most vibrant when the background colors are neutral and desaturated. Greys, whites, blacks, and browns usually work well, especially if you are using brightly colored food like fresh herbs, peppers, fruits, or veggies. Marble is a tried-and-tested favorite and comes in a variety of neutral shades.

Sometimes vibrant colors work if you are looking for a more punchy and contemporary vibe, but you have to be able to mix colors well (or use a free color wheel app to give you contrasting and complementary colors). Think of pink cupcakes on a deeper pink background or the orange of a bunch of carrots against a bright blue shade. However, the neutral look for food photography backdrops is a timeless classic and one that is worth sticking to until you have the confidence to pull off more brightly-hued setups.

Textured Food Photography Backdrops

Food photography backdrops - textured.jpgTo add more depth and interest to your backdrop without distracting the eye from your dish, look for backdrops that have textures like wood grain, rustic tiles, speckles, etc. While rustic food photography backdrops are very popular, it’s important not to go too far and use a backdrop that you wouldn’t normally see food served on. Rusty sheets of metal or bricks spring to mind here!

[Related Reading: 4 Food Photography Tips to Spice Up Your Photos]

Wooden Food Photography Backdrops

Food photography backdrops - wooden.jpgThese backdrops are a perennial choice for food photographers. Wood backdrops look rustic and textured, but they also fit with the idea of food on a wooden table. You can get wood in different shades and grains from plain pine through to walnut, and wood can be painted (and repainted) different colors or given a distressed finish.

What Materials are Best?

Food photography backdrops.jpgI have a range of food photography backdrops in different materials. I have flexible vinyl sheets with photographs of wood, tiles, etc printed on, I have rigid boards, different sized slates, and plain linens too. The material you use needs to be durable and cleanable, as you will get splashes and spills.

Vinyl backdrops are easy to wipe clean with cloth and water. Don’t use chemicals on them, as it can strip the surface image off (I found out the hard way!). Rigid printed boards can also be given a wipe-down, but beware if you are using heavily-colored foods like turmeric or chili powder, as they can stain and it’s nearly impossible to remove. Linens can be washed, but again heavy food stains may leave a mark that won’t come out.

What Size Does a Backdrop Need to be?

While you don’t need huge backdrops for food photography, it does depend on the angle you want to shoot your food from. If all you do is flat lays and shoot directly from above, you can get away with 3ft x 3ft to give you some wiggle room. If you want to shoot from the side or at an angle for a wider scene, then you’ll need a larger backdrop to make sure everything fits in. Most commercially available food backdrops are made in a variety of sizes, so having a mixture is a good idea.

Where can I get Food Photography Backdrops?

Google is your friend here. More and more food photographers and photography equipment retailers are producing food-specific backdrops. Whether that’s flexible printed vinyl or bespoke wooden backdrops, you can find a lot to choose from. Places like Etsy often sell vinyl backdrops in style packs, and I got a pack of three of mine from a seller on there. Amazon has also jumped on the food backdrop train, and there’s a large choice of packs and double-sided backdrops. Not all of the commercially-available backdrops out there are expensive, but as with most things, you get what you pay for in terms of durability and good-quality prints.

I’m on a Budget: Are There any Affordable or Free Backdrops I can Create?

Food photography backdrops - parchment paper.jpgYes! There are quite a few ingenious ways to get hold of affordable food photography backdrops. If you’re handy with a power tool then you can find offcuts of wood and create your own backdrops, but if you don’t have the time or skills to do that here are a few options:

  • Porcelain or ceramic floor tiles – find at any home improvement store for just a few dollars. Get the largest size you can, and look out for matte finishes to cut down on glare in the photos.
  • Craft and construction paper – Comes in different colors and will do well for close-up and top-down shots where you don’t need to show a lot of background.
  • Paper grocery bags – Cut them up into flat paper sheets, crumple them a bit and flatten them out. Use the side that doesn’t have text on and they make a great rustic, textured backdrop.
  • Parchment paper – again, crumple parchment and smooth it out or leave it flat to make a great backdrop.
  • Large, plain white paper sheets, white table linen, or roll of white paper – don’t dismiss the plain white backdrop for food photography, it’s an absolute classic and gives you a blank canvas to let the food take center stage.

If you’re looking for cheap ways to light your food photos, then don’t forget that natural light is completely free!

[Related Reading: Beginner Food Photography Tips|How to Take Great Food Shots with Minimal Gear]

Conclusion

food photography backdrops-1.jpg

If you want to try your hand at food photography, then having a variety of food photography backdrops is a great idea as you will want to switch them up to suit the food, and also to stop your shots looking repetitive. You’ll also need to start collecting some food photography props and must-have tools. Hopefully, I’ve given you some inspiration here for choosing your backdrops, and the realization that they don’t have to cost a fortune. Perhaps you’ll end up like me – a backdrop addict, always on the lookout for something that can be used as the background in my next shoot!