DIY Food Photography Backdrop/Surface

Backdrops/Surfaces play an important role in food photography and still-life photography. Although they are not the main focus in these genres of photography, they enhance the image in a large way.

Ideal backdrops/surfaces are expected to :

  1. Have a non-distracting texture which adds to the background
  2. Have a neutral colour that not only enhances the colours in the subject but also is not distracting
  3. Be light weight
  4. Be portable
  5. Be inexpensive
  6. Be easily available
  7. Be water proof (specially in food photography)

Some of the surfaces I’ve used over the years:

Although traditional surfaces and backdrops fulfil the first two criteria, they are seldom light or portable. Most tend to be heavy, like marble or wood. If you want to buy some custom made products you need to shell out a lot of money too. If you want to make one yourself its quite a hassle with traditional materials and needs some level of basic expertise with either paints or woodwork etc. Most of these can be made waterproof with a layer of lacquer, however that is another step to add while making them.

I found one really inexpensive, easily available, lightweight and portable alternative to these traditional items which is also water proof!

Vinyl Stickers : Ta Da

When I first saw these rolls of patterned stickers in Kmart on my trip in Sydney, I immediately felt that they had great potential as backdrop or surface. However I did not know if they would be ideal to stick on surfaces or if they would be water proof.

Once I got them home and tried different materials to stick them onto I found that they require a really clean and smooth surface to stick properly and remain flat. I looked up several videos on YouTube and found that these rolls were mostly used to camouflage surfaces like wood or stone to look like something else, eg. marble. Another common place where vinyl stickers are used are in cars to change the surface characteristics of plastic parts like the dashboard.

After a little trial and error I decided to stick it onto foam board. These have a smooth surface and are really inexpensive ( about Rs. 200 to 400 depending on thickness and length) and really light. They can also double up as white cards or reflectors on the side where there is no sticker.

Process of making the backdrop:

  1. Clean your foam board well and make sure there are no grainy particles on the surface.
  2. Measure the length of roll required to cover the board. There are helpful gridlines on the back of these rolls to easily measure the length.
  3. Peel one end of the sticker and stick along the length of the board.
  4. Slowly pull the roll away while letting the lagging end stick to the board from the far end.
  5. Use a squeegee or wrap a credit card in cloth and smooth out the edges and bubbles.
  6. I found that they can be removed and reapplied a couple of times without losing the strength of the adhesive. From most reviews I found that they can be easily removed too.

There are many patterns available from marble, wood grain, carbon fibre, blackboard etc. I got the white and the black marble. I’m yet to use the black one. I do feel the white marble has a real elegant look to it. Each roll cost me $2AUD. In India it’s available for anywhere from Rs 250 to 500 on Amazon depending on what pattern you select and which seller you buy from.

So that’s it, it’s that simple to make your unique DIY food photography/Still life photography backdrops/surfaces. Do check out the images I shot using this surface on my Instagram. Let me know what you think of this idea and if you will try it? Which is your favourite pattern among these stickers?

I will leave you with some recommendations from Amazon and some images I shot on this backdrop as a gallery below. As always if you like the idea share it with your friends. If you have any questions get into the comments section and ask away or get in touch with me on social media! Ciao!

Amazon links: Marble finish, Dark wood, Light wood grain, Carbon fibre look

Base to stick on : Foam board, Acrylic sheet, Squeegee

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