Imagine a kitchen with oodles of marble countertops, thick butcher blocks, custom glazed tile, killer bluestone slabs and plenty of large windows for natural light. Sounds dreamy, right? Definitely a food photographer’s haven. Since it’s not reality for most of us, my secret is all about faking it to get that perfect shot. Are you ready for the CHEAPEST EVER BACKDROP HACK? My humans, if you need backdrops, but you're out of space, or on a budget, BEHOLD.
STEP 1: Grab an Image
Go to Unsplash.com (for free images) or hit shutterstock.com (for low-cost downloads) and search for images such as “blue, gray, and rust”, or whatever else suits your fancy. Add the ones you like to your cart. I purchased 5 downloads for about $100, which works out to $25 each (such a bargain!)
Download each image to your computer. If you don’t want to buy a backdrop image, take a field trip to the state capitol, art museum, or wherever you’re inspired by the texture and color of a surface. Snap away!
- Image Suggestions: go for minimalist natural colors and textures. Cement, white brick and white or white tile textures are my favorite light photography options. For beautiful dark photography backdrops, try a dark grey cement or rustic wood grain. (You can see a few of the vinyl backdrops I've created in the slideshow below.)
STEP 2: Banner Up
With background texture selected, it's time to turn that image into a tangible backdrop. There are several ways to do this, but the cheapest I've found is Vistaprint. Follow these easy steps to create your own gorgeous photo backdrop:
- Go to Vistaprint.com and click on signs and posters, then select vinyl banner from the drop down menu.
- Click Get Started and select the 2.5’ X 4’ size banner, making sure the indoor and horizontal options are also selected. Click on Upload Your Complete Design. You will be directed to an Upload Your Design screen.
- Click on Image from the menu, and navigate to find the image you want from your computer. Find the file with the jpg image you downloaded previously from shutterstock and open it. Drag the image into the frame, check that the resolution looks good, and click the next button.
- Check the "I have reviewed and approve design" box, and click the next button. At checkout, you’ll notice that this order comes out to under $20 per image, and it usually ships in a week. Look for coupons online for even cheaper deals.
Once your backdrop arrives, hang it from a low-cost backdrop stand like this one from Amazon.
Can you shoot on top of these backdrops? Though you can certainly shoot on TOP of these vinyl backdrops (they're easy to clean and incredibly durable), I find that they are far more useful as a background, than as a tabletop. The vinyl throws off the slightest bit of sheen, which loses some of the beautiful, natural qualities that a highly textured real tabletop surface lends to photos. So I recommend using these to lend a lifestyle look to your photos, or to build a large, low-cost collections of backdrops with beautiful variety.
There you have it – an inexpensive photo backdrop that’s easy to clean, takes no paint skills, changes out quick ly and looks like the real deal!
FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY GEEK-OUT MOMENT
These images were shot with a Canon 5D Mk III paired with a SigmaArt 35mm f/1.4 lens. I love that lens. A lifestyle photog friend mentioned it was her go-to lens for family and portrait shoots, so I figured I'd give it a try. It's gorgeous. As with all the SigmaArt lenses, it's just a dream to have in your arsenal.
See my camera setup and discover even more tricks with my 90-Minute Food Photography Crash Course.
The yellow backdrop is a $12 piece of precut whiteboard (from Home Depot), painted with 5 different yellow & gold tones (acrylic paint from Michaels crafts) then sprayed with a semigloss polyurethane for easy washability.
DID YOU KNOW I JUST LAUNCHED AN ALL NEW DocuVlog?
Discover what A Day in the Life of A Food Photographer is like. Go inside my studio, visit me behind-the-scenes and see what I've got cookin' up. WATCH SEASON 1 of LOVE, LARK NOW.
Wanna nerd out even more? Find tricks, tips and answers 24/7 in my Food Blogging, Photography & Videography Facebook Group. It's free to join!