Today I'm sharing my super simple three step guide teaching you how to make food photography background boards in different colors and textures.
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Food photography real talk
Taking pictures of your food is all fun and games until you realize there is actually a lot of skill and thought that goes into doing it "correctly".
I remember when I first started documenting my creations in my parents' kitchen:
I would finish a dish and frantically run with it out into the direct sunlight to capture it's details with my iPhone 6s. Holding my food with one hand over a flower bush or brick walkway, I quickly took unfocused pictures with my other shaking hand.
Since then, it's been a steep learning curve about what feels like every photography trick in the book... and I still have a LOT to learn!
That said, there are a few major game changers that have helped my food photography in a big way and the use of background boards is absolutely one of them.
Background boards = game changer
You may be asking yourself, what is a background board? The funny thing about these boards is how subtle and overall unnoticeable a successful one can be.
A well made background board blends in. It appears to be a natural element of the photograph. Maybe a table in your kitchen, or a smooth wooden bench in your dining room.
The best food photography background boards add a bit of texture, color, and a "lived in", real life element to your shots.
Sure, you could use your actual kitchen counter or dining room table. Trouble is, the lighting is difficult to control in those areas. With a background board, the set of your food photography is now portable.
Before I started making my own, I tested out almost any flat surface you could think of. Hard tile flooring samples from Home Depot, poster board from FedEx, the literal floor by a well lit window in my living room.
The result was lots of little messes from tile flooring, stained poster boards, and virtually none of the surfaces had quite the look I was going for.
Finally one day I felt ambitious, I went to Home Depot and I did the damn thing. I made my own background board. And then, I made another. And the next week, another. In under an hour. And it turns out, it's not so difficult.
So here I am, the proud owner of several different colors and textures of food photography background boards, sharing my method with you!
Map it out
As is with most successful projects, it's helpful to map out a plan prior to embarking on your task list.
For background board making, that means picking the color of paint you'd like to go with, thinking briefly about what kind of texture you'd like to see on your board (smooth, bumpy, etc.), and estimating your budget.
Take a couple minutes to think about these elements before getting started.
Supplies You'll Need
Once you figure out what you'd like your board to look like at the end of all this, head to the nearest home renovation store (it's Home Depot for me, and no, I'm definitely not sponsored, but how cool would that be?) and find the following:
Hopefully at this point, you know exactly what color you want to start with. I've done traditional oil based paint and I've also had success with spray paint. Here are some great options:
In my garage I have a can of white paint and a can of black chalkboard paint. They are very random and not intended for mixing, but these are background boards, not my dining room table, so mix I shall.
Plus I'm on a budget that requires me to not buy more s*** I already own. So if you have a can of paint in a color you don't hate lying around, feel free to experiment with using that.
That said, I have also had a ton of success using spray paint, which is also way cheaper than buying an entire can of paint.
Next up on our list...
Alright friends, at this point you can see we are not trying to break the bank with this project.
DO NOT BUY FANCY BRUSHES! You will probably end up letting them dry with paint remnants rendering them useless and yourself not worthy of nice things.
If you already own some and don't feel like going to the store, you do you. But I usually buy the 97 cent ones pictured above and call it a day.
Spray paint gets even more bonus points here as you don't need a brush when you're using it!
A wooden board of some sort
Shocker, you will be needing a background board with which to paint on. I swear every time I go to Home Depot I get totally lost and end up finding a new isle full of random wooden boards. I never find the same one twice which is equal parts exciting and frustrating.
Anyway, this time I went with this one:
It's plywood so it's not my favorite as far as the feel and clean up as it's just not very smooth. What I do love about it is the size and how light it is to move around.
Feel the wood before you buy it (no pun intended here folks). Make sure you will be able to carry it around your kitchen easily. Make sure it's wipeable with cleaning wipes (if that kind of stuff is important to you).
Who doesn't love a good texture? Sure, you could paint your board and call it good there. But using texture tools give your background boards an added dimension. Your photography will have another level of depth as opposed to a smooth plain background.
A couple go-to texture tools you might already have in your home: a steel sponge, a normal sponge, a piece of flat plastic.
If you want to get really fancy, you can buy some Spackling paste (also available for cheap at your local home renovation store) to add another dimension of texture.
Here's the texture tools I bought at the Depot:
Setting up your paint station
Now that you've got all your supplies accounted for, it's time to set up your paint station!
At first this can seem intimidating but because we're just painting a reasonably sized flat board, it doesn't get too messy.
If you think you'll need it, lay some newspaper or cardboard down. Mix your paint. If you're using two different colors like me, make sure they have the same base.
*If you're opting to use Spackle for extra texture, you will need to apply it at this stage with your putty tool. Wait for this to fully dry before painting over it.*
Then, it's time to paint your heart out!
Let your paint dry for 5 ish minutes before going in with your texture tools. This step is 100% my favorite! It's like finger painting with a sponge; you really can't mess it up.
Have fun with this step, moving the paint around with your tools to create different textures.
Give your paint 4-6 hours to dry. Flip the board over and create an entirely different colored/textured board on the back!
Here's today's finished board in action:
The 3 step guide + shopping list
Looking for a quick shopping list of what you'll need so you don't have to keep this blog post open on your phone for a month? I've got just the thing for you.
I've created a super simple 3 step guide + shopping list to glance at and immediately know what you need to get started on your very own background board!
Interested in learning more about food photography? Subscribe to Salima's Kitchen and get a FREE copy of my eBook, Intro to iPhone Photography.