The background you use for photography plays a huge role in the overall look and feel of your photo. Just as much as any other prop you use, your background contributes to your story giving context and purpose to your photo.
But how do you go about finding the perfect food photography background, without breaking the bank? In today’s post, I’m sharing my top tips for choosing the right background, and I’m sharing my secret to the best, most affordable food photography backgrounds I’ve ever used, so keep reading!
Throughout my years as a food photographer, I’ve gone through many different backgrounds. Not only has my own style and taste developed, but what’s “fashionable” in food photography has changed too. We’ve gone from marble to textured concrete amongst other things, and keeping your work fresh can be tiresome (and expensive).
I needed to find a way to expand my collection of backgrounds to keep a fresh feel in my work, and give me more options to shoot in a diverse range of moods, but they needed to be affordable and practical.
Before I jump into showing you the backgrounds I discovered, here are my top tips for choosing a food photography background.
- Keep the colour neutral. You don’t want a background that’s going to distract from your food, so choose something that still allows your food to stand out as the hero. My go-to’s are grey toned backgrounds, as nearly everything looks good against them.
- Avoid bold, bright colours that will steal focus from your main subject. Super bright, bold, statement backgrounds can work, but the majority of the time, you’ll notice the background before you notice the food. So stick to slightly more muted, gentle colours.
- Use cool toned backgrounds. This is where a little bit of colour theory comes in! The vast majority of food is warm toned, so using a cool toned background (think grey, blue, purple tones), will act as a complementary colour, allowing your food to pop right off the background.
- Make sure your background is big enough… to accommodate the shots you want to take. The last thing you want is the edge of your photo becoming an awkward cut off where you were trying to do that full “tablescape” photo, but your background didn’t quite reach. I always go for at least 2 foot x 3 foot for my backgrounds.
- Avoid shiny materials. If you shoot on a reflective surface, you might end up with bright spots or ugly reflections in your photos which can distract from your main subject, your food! Choose backgrounds with a matte finish to avoid this problem and give yourself the most flexibility with lighting.
So in my quest for some new backgrounds, I started looking around on Instagram and found some absolutely INCREDIBLE images from some of my favourite photographers, using vinyl food photography backgrounds, I was seriously blown away at the food photos produced on these backgrounds. I spent a good amount of time researching different brands and decided to order some backgrounds from Capture by Lucy.
Note: This post is not sponsored in any way. I purchased all of these backgrounds myself, and this is my honest review!
Capture by Lucy is a vinyl background store, based in the UK (shipping is available internationally!). The backgrounds are printed on both vinyl and PET, and are scaled up versions of an original photo taken by Lucy. This adds a “realness” to the backgrounds, giving them a really authentic feel.
There are SO many different options to choose from, you’ll have a hard time narrowing down your order!
I ordered about ten different backdrops, as I wanted to test out a variety of different materials and colours. I have some in a grey concrete style, some blue toned colourful backgrounds and some wood effect backgrounds.
When I took the backgrounds out of the cardboard tube they were delivered in, the first thing I noticed was that they laid flat immediately. This has not been the case with vinyl backgrounds I have tried in the past, and makes these super convenient, because you can get on with shooting straight away, without worrying about having to weight down the corners to unfold them.
They are also super tough and durable. Of course, you still want to apply common sense and look after your vinyl background (like you would with any other background), but these aren’t going to easily tear, crinkle, or look worn.
They are waterproof and wipeable. This is probably one of my favourite things about these backgrounds. In food photography, we’re often working with spills, liquids, melting ice, or any number of wet things, so having a surface you can wipe clean and dry at the end is dreamy. Of course, again common sense applies. If you drop some beetroot on it and leave it hours before you clean it, it probably will stain, but in general terms, for normal use with food photography, these backgrounds provide a great amount of practicality.
But ultimately… how do they look?
Something to bear in mind. When I first got the backgrounds, I was a little skeptical of how they would actually look in a photo. When you look at the background close up in real life, you can kind of tell they are printed, however, from my experience shooting on them so far, this does not translate into the photos at all. So like with any other food photography background, you have to give it a test run in the studio to see how it really performs.
In order to test these backgrounds out, I shot the same noodle soup on three different backgrounds, Concrete Floor, Azure, and Grey Stone Walls. All three photos are shot in my usual artificial light setup.
This background is probably the closest to what I’d normally gravitate towards in my own food photography, but I’ve never been able to find that “perfect” concrete before. I am absolutely thrilled with this backdrop, the texture on the concrete is just enough to look realistic, without being overpowering. The shade of grey is pale and cool without any green cast (which I have experienced with concrete backgrounds in the past).
The background is not shiny, so it doesn’t create any unrealistic bright spots or glare that would suggest this wasn’t shot on a piece of concrete.
Out of the three backgrounds I tested, this one is the most different from my usual style, and a little out of my comfort zone! One of my goals is to broaden the range of styles I shoot in, pushing myself out of that comfortable space and working with more colour!
I love the bright, bold feel this background gives the photo. It adds a nice, fresh pop of colour without overpowering the food. By keeping it in a cool tone, it complements the majority of the food (which is largely warm toned), but keeps the greens looking fresh and crisp.
I generally plan to use this one more as a backdrop, so I can blur out a little bit of the texture with my depth of field, creating a fun backdrop for more warm/red toned food.
This is one of the most heavily textured backgrounds I ordered, and I absolutely LOVE it. My food photography style is pretty minimal, I don’t shoot with a ton of props, so incorporating texture and interest in the background I use is a great way to add life to my photos.
This is quite a rustic style background, adding a roughness and imperfectness to photography. That’s a style that’s really “in” right now, so this is a great one to have in your collection!
Discovering vinyl backgrounds has been a total game changer in my quest for amazing food photography backgrounds on a budget! Definitely check out Capture by Lucy if you’re interested in giving these a go.
What is your favourite background for your food photography? Let me know in the comments!