Last week we talked about how to make your own dark wood stained food photography background/faux table. Last night I finished painting and distressing the other side of these boards – white! – I’ll give you a quick run down of how to get this look on a budget, and talk a bit about my 5 favourite food photography backgrounds: why you need them as a food blogger, and how to DIY!

How to make a distressed white wood photography background:

If you were following along last weekend you’ll remember that we used a dark stain on both sides of some three-foot-long pine boards. Four boards to be exact. Now to make the white distressed wood look you’ll need to first be sure your dark stain has dried 24 hours, and then you’ll simply add a thin layer of white latex indoor paint. I used an eggshell finish because it’s slightly more wipeable than a flat paint. You don’t want any paint with a gloss- no semi-gloss, no high-gloss. Any sort of real sheen on the paint and it may reflect light in your images and distract from the food.

By doing the white distressed paint on the opposite side of last week’s boards: you’ll have two food photography surfaces in one- dark stain on one side, and white distressed paint on the other. All you need to do is lay the boards down and shove them together, and you’ve got yourself faux table tops. As I mentioned in the previous post I’ve opted not to glue or nail these boards together because I’d rather be able to stack them up and store them more easily. This process also makes your DIY project a few bucks cheaper.

4 pine boards, 1 inch thick, 3 feet long (preferably stained from last week) = $10-12 for the wood

sample tin of white paint = free-$5

sandpaper (coarse!) = $2-3

paint brush (dollar store!) = $2-5

shitty old rag = free!

Lay out your stained wood boards on a drop cloth or on the lawn outside, and begin brushing on a thin layer of the white paint. Remember you’re going to sand and scrub a good deal of this paint off again, so there’s no need to be a perfectionist with the paint coat. Another tip to consider: add white paint to the sides of the stained boards you like the least. Take a look at how the dark stain turned out with the wood grain, and make sure that whichever side of the boards had the most character are the sides you don’t paint white.

Allow the paint to dry for a few hours, maybe 3 or 4, and then grab your sandpaper and begin sanding lightly across each board. Once you can start to see the wood grain and imperfections showing through the paint: focus on these areas for a little extra distressing. I really loved the cracks and whirls in the wood, and made sure to expose those areas more with sanding.

Wipe the boards down regularly during sanding with a clean cloth, to remove the excess dust so that you can see how the wood is looking underneath the debris. Once the distressing is to your liking you can give them one last wipe with a clean rag and set them aside until ready to use!

food photography background

The best part of making your own backgrounds like this is that you get to choose exactly how you want it to look. You can keep a nice thick white coating on there with just a few spots sanded, or you can really go to town on it and give it a really rough look. It’s really up to you. You can also go back and sand more off or add more paint back on… you really can change your mind over and over again if you like. Same goes for the dark stain on the back side: go ahead and sand some off or add another layer of stain to darken it up.

You can also choose bright colors in the summertime which can look interesting. Instead of having dark stain underneath the white paint, paint a nice bright teal color, let it dry, then paint white overtop and begin distressing with sand paper. You have an opportunity to get really creative. And if you screw it up and don’t like it – paint over it again! The more layers = the better!

And now for other fun stuff. The easier stuff.

What you want when it comes to photographing food and food blogging is a range of light and dark backgrounds, with different textural contrasts. You’re also looking for neutral tones, which means no wood stains with very yellow or reddish color, just a simple muted color palette. You want the colors of the food to shine with a little hint of background interest. A little bit of rust, paint peel, and anything else that can add texture is always good. Think ‘beat up’, it’s a very trendy look right now. Old baking trays and dishes you might have otherwise traded in for new: keep them! Camping plateware, barn wood from the old shed, chipped mugs – try photographing your old junk styled with beautiful food before you decide to pitch them into the trash!

My Top 5 Food Photography Backgrounds:


#1)  Your Shitty Looking Baking Sheet.

You scrub and you scrub but those stains never seem to want to budge. Your shitty looking old baking trays are perfect for food photography, with just a hint of color and some beautiful texture – this background is something you probably already have kicking around the house, and looks great when styled with pretty much any food, from sandwiches to donuts, to that avocado toast you seem so addicted to posting all over Instagram.

Coming next week: a post on our top ten most hated #foodpic offenders, including the dreaded avo-toast, those damned ‘popsicle recipes’, and your pics of coffee-in-hand with wrist watch neatly positioned and shoes in the background. Oi! Make it stop!

#2)  White Marble.

You assume it’s expensive, but it’s not really. You can find small peices of marble left as scraps at home design stores, or you can opt for the ‘cheese board’ style marble most commonly found in discount home decor stores. Try HomeSense, Winners, Marshalls, and even Chapters/Indigo. Check for sales. When photographing food, especially the aerial style images, you can mix and match your background pieces to create a more interesting, layered shot. Try using your distressed white boards as the main background in your shot, with the food placed on top of the small marble plate, and garnish and props surrounding. Check out the header image for this post to see how marble looks when placed on top of a white wood background. Get creative.

#3)  White Distressed Wood.

This one doesn’t need much explanation, as we’ve already talked extensively of it and you’ve seen some sample photos (above). The best part of a white background is that the food has a chance to really stand out. White never competes with the subject matter, and can be easily styled to look seasonal. Add bright colored props for summer, and use lots of neutral tones for fall and winter. The texture white background: always a winner.

#4)  Black Slate.

Another small-plate type of background. A piece of black slate works well in the same way marble does for layering backgrounds. A nice shot of black stone can help those colors really pop, and it won’t pick up too much of a color cast from the subject matter. Check out this link here to get slate-inspired. Works best for darker lit images with light source from the side. You can find chunks or plates of slate in many of the same places listed above for marble. Smallwares home decor shops and scraps at the home design store…

#5)  Dark Stained Wood.

Last but not least- dark stained wood. Probably the most commonly used and trending food photography background today. Dark stained wood, the faux wood bench table, is a look that is not going anywhere anytime soon. It gives depth and texture to your food photography images with very little extra effort and styling. With the sheer number of stain colors and types out there – you’re sure to never run out of ideas and inspiration for dark wood backgrounds. The easiest DIY background, just get yourself some pine boards, a shitty old rag, brush, and a little tin of wood stain. Brush on, wipe off, let dry. DONE. You can check out my post from last week which explains this procedure in more detail.

So that’s all for today folks! Grab yourselves a Cup’a Joe and for those of you up here in Canada – kick back and enjoy your Thanksgiving long weekend!

Ciao for now!

food photography background

Posted by:Ashley

9 replies on “Top 5 Food Photography Backgrounds

    1. Amazing!! Thank you so much for following along and for trying out the project! I really appreciate the feedback 🙂 I’ve been shooting on my new backgrounds again this morning and am really glad I put in the effort to make them!

  1. Great ideas! I’ve been working on improving my photography more over the past month or so and really need to create some better backgrounds.

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