Backgrounds for Food Photography: How to Choose Your First Background?

  • Blog
  • 11 min read
Backgrounds for Food Photography

In this article, we’ll discuss about the backgrounds for food photography. The choice of backgrounds for a successful start in learning food photography is very important. After all, the background determines how your photos will look. I have collected in this article all my experience of communicating with novice photographers over five years of work and tried to answer the most frequent questions. Hopefully, after reading the article, the choice of backgrounds for food photography will be a little easier.

To start, you will need 3 double-sided backgrounds, so you will get 6 different textures on which you can practice shooting in high and low key, try working with wooden and concrete backgrounds, you can put together several different scenes for shooting (table top + background). It is not necessary to buy 3 backgrounds at once, but I recommend starting to build your collection of backgrounds with them.

Most beginners are attracted by colored backgrounds, surfaces with a lot of texture. I recommend not buying blue, green, pink backgrounds yet. They work great in the frame, but initially you need to collect the base.

Let me give you an example with the choice of bags: a simple laconic black or beige bag will suit almost any image, rather than a very beautiful blue one with accent fittings.

Basic background colors are:

  • light gray
  • medium gray
  • light brown or light wood
  • dark concrete background
  • dark brown wood
Backgrounds for Food Photography
Backgrounds for Food Photography

Light background can work as a standalone mono background when shooting 90 degrees.

Note that I have not included pure white in this list. Most experienced food photographers who teach food photography courses agree that if you are just starting out in photography and are not yet very good at white balance, then replace the white background with a light gray texture.

Backgrounds for Food Photography

So, there will be much less problems with the “parasitic” shades of pink and blue in the photo. A light gray background is a more beginner-friendly analogue of white, with which you will understand whether it is interesting to work in a high key and make fewer processing errors. And the next step is to purchase white textures for the collection.

Light Gray

With light gray backgrounds in the lineup are the textures of Beijing and Lima. Beijing is more monochromatic and neutral in shade; it is neither warm nor cold. Its uniform pattern and smooth transitions form the perfect base for the shot. At the same time, Beijing is very well worked out in the drawing and will not merge with an open aperture, it also works very well in macro. Lima is a cool texture with more pronounced texture and pattern. With Lima ‘s easier to work in artificial light than Beijing.

Backgrounds for Food Photography
Backgrounds for Food Photography

Medium Gray, Sacramento, and Portland

Sacramento – a gradient texture with a beautiful color transition, it works perfectly as a single background when shooting from above and as a backdrop, it works very nicely with an open aperture, blurring into a beautiful gray haze.

Backgrounds for Food Photography
Backgrounds for Food Photography

Portland medium gray texture. Many photographers compare this backdrop to a galvanized tray from a drawing. Medium gray backgrounds are great because they fade into a very light gray under different lighting conditions, and they can also act as dark, dramatic gray backgrounds. Once you learn how to work with light, Portland will become a versatile soldier in your collection.

Light Brown or Light Wood

Light wood can be warm or cold in color. Then choose what is closer to you.

From the cold, look at Manchester, it will work well with Beijing or Sacramento as a backdrop. With Beijing there will be a brighter scene, with Sacramento a darker one.

Backgrounds for Food Photography
Backgrounds for Food Photography

Warm Light Woods Mesa and Denver. Mesa is one of the most affordable backgrounds in the line. Made on a plywood base and works great as a base. If the task is to save as much as possible, then I recommend taking von Mesa (light wood) + Reus (dark wood).

Denver light warm wood. A beautiful light oak background, it is easy to shoot kinfolk style pictures on it, it is great friends with dishes from HM home and Zara home. Please do not be intimidated by the term “warm”. Denver is absolutely not yellow in the frame and with minimal post-processing it is easy to take it into a colder shade.

Dark Concrete Background. Seville Or Metz

Seville is a cold black solid color background with a delicate texture. Works well as a dark background at a 90-degree angle, works well as a background. Will pair well with Sacramento. The background has a peculiarity – in artificial light it can give a glare. This is a feature of dark backgrounds and hard artificial light. You will need to learn how to work with flags and reflectors.

Backgrounds for Food Photography
Backgrounds for Food Photography

Dark Brown Metz. One of the most successful textures in the line. It allows you to shoot beautiful atmospheric photos for Instagram in a low key, Metz is ideal for commercial restaurant photography. Many restaurants choose Metz to shoot the main menu. If you plan to work with commerce in the future, I recommend choosing it over Seville. It will go well with dark and light warm wood as a backdrop.

Dark Brown Wood

Backgrounds for Food Photography
Backgrounds for Food Photography

Many novice photographers do not really want to invest in dark wood and choose another gray concrete background, I would recommend having a brown wooden background in natural shades in the collection, in order to at least learn how to work with it. In the future, many commercial projects will ask you to shoot on a dark tree. Since we are collecting the base, it is better to add Amsterdam or Reus to your Wishlist.

I already wrote about Reus above. We brought it to the line at one time precisely as a base. An easy-to-use and at the same time very atmospheric background, it can be very different in the frame. It will go well with Metz or Seville as a backdrop.

Amsterdam is a classic textured wood with a cold chocolate shade. Works well with Metz or Sevilla as a backdrop.

Melbourne and Rouen

Melbourne – a cool backdrop and imitation of a wall in some beautiful loft. It looks very neat and tidy in the frame, does not create a feeling of chaos in the photo and does not draw attention to itself. Works well with Manchester, Beijing.

Backgrounds for Food Photography
Backgrounds for Food Photography

Rouen – light gray-brown gradient background. Thanks to the neat gradient, you can shoot in light and dark areas and get completely different frames. Pairs well with Metz and Beijing.

How to Combine Backgrounds?

Choose a combination of textures so that there are backgrounds on the same board that you will not shoot together. The backgrounds that are least suitable for shooting with each other. It is best to combine dark + light textures, or backgrounds of different temperatures (cold + warm) on one board.

For example, in dark Amsterdam, you are more likely to use Metz as a backdrop, rather than Beijing. If you want a ready-made solution, then a good basic set with a big bias in warm shades:

  • Mesa + Reus
  • Rouen + Beijing
  • Metz + Sacramento

With a bias in cold shades:

  • Manchester + Amsterdam
  • Seville + Beijing
  • Melbourne + Portland.

About the Choice of Sizes

There are many nuances. It all depends on what and where you plan to shoot.

Decide where you plan to photograph. If you are limited by the space of a balcony, windowsill, or small kitchen, then consider the option 54×72 cm. With this background you can work with small and medium compositions. If in the future off-site commercial projects appear, then backgrounds of this size will be convenient to carry with you. The weight of one double-sided background is 3-3.5 kg. Size is preferred by photographers who go out and need to shoot 1 plate from above with a minimum of props in the frame. This is often the case when shooting a menu for a restaurant.

We consider the sizes 60×90 and 72×72 cm to be optimal for the start. Here everyone chooses for himself what is more convenient to work with – with a square or a rectangle. Most of the photos for our site were taken on backgrounds of exactly these sizes.

Many food photographers advise to take backgrounds right away “for growth”, this is 72x 90 cm. They recommend that their students take backgrounds of large rectangular shapes. This is the optimal size for shooting large-scale compositions in a home studio environment.

Advantages

No need to think about how to fit everything into the frame, often when shooting at an angle of 30-45 degrees, one background is enough and you don’t need a backdrop to cover unnecessary objects in the frame, for example, a floral wallpaper in the kitchen, which does not match the intended your composition.

In the future, when you have already learned how to build large compositions with several cymbals in the frame, you will not need to buy a larger background, you already have it.

Disadvantages

A rather high cost compared to other sizes, and a large weight of backgrounds (from 5.5 to 6 kg). With such backgrounds it is quite difficult to travel and work in confined spaces.

The cost of backgrounds 72×72 cm is on average 20-30 dollars, lower than 72×90 cm. The weight of the 72×72 cm background ranges from 4 to 5 kg.

There are three different sizes you can choose to start: small, medium, large. This will help you understand how the background size is optimal for you. To save money at the start, choose a background of a small size, as a rule, for low compositions, a height of 72 cm is more than enough.

How to Save Money on Backgrounds?

The passion for food photography, unfortunately, is not cheap. Often, especially at the start, the question is what to choose: a tripod or background, props, or training. I will share some tips on how you can save money.

If there is a need to optimize the budget even more strictly, then you can look towards printed backgrounds as backdrops. The print reflects light differently than the painted texture, and with the print there are many features in shooting. The darker the printed background, the more it glares and reflects and side light. If you are ready to consider alternatives to handmade backgrounds, not only as a background, but also as the main one, then choose light printed textures and be prepared that the best angle for shooting is 90 degrees. You can save money and start with printed backdrops, but if you have the means, get a good handmade backdrop right away. It will be easier for a beginner with it, because unlike vinyl, it does not have to constantly think about glare and how natural the plastic looks in the frame.

I hope this article has answered many questions about choosing the first backgrounds, if you still have questions, write to us. We will select the option that will be optimal for you.

You may also like to read: Fashion Photography: Discover the Secrets to Success in Fashion Photography

Note: All backgrounds can be categorized as warm, cool, and neutral. The background temperature depends on the main background color and its sub tone, it is indicated in each product card.