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How to choose the first backdrop for food or product photography.

Hey! My name is Kate, I am a creative director in Woodville - and one of the founders. Since 2015 I’ve been in charge of various parts of business and one of the key things is developing our collections. I test and photograph various combinations of the colours, search for intriguing textures and bring ideas to life with a team of professional designers. Within the past years our collection has been transforming several times to become really versatile, currently we could offer you the backdrop for almost any purpose. I hope this article will give you a better idea on our surfaces and will help to make your choice following your photography style and goals. 

 

When you only start your photography path, It’s very important what backdrops you select as they would be defining your style in a great degree. In this article we have gathered all our experience of working with photographers and tried to answer all the frequently raised questions. Hopefully, after going through our recommendations your would have no difficulties with making the choice (though if there are any questions left, just contact us on Instagram and we will be happy to help!).

 

We recommend starting with 3 double-sided backdrops that will give you 6 different finishes in total and allow to experiment with light & airy or dark & moody photos, to work with wooden and concrete surfaces, create various scenes using 2 backdrops (one as a tabletop and one as the background). No need to purchase 3 boards at once, but we recommend to start your collection of the backdrops with them.   

 

Quite often new photographers are being attracted by various coloured backgrounds with pronounced texture, but I recommend to put the idea of purchasing them aside for a while. I suggest not getting pink, blue, green surfaces in the very beginning but start with basic options. It’s just like with a purse - a black or beige color and simple design will fit almost any look, opposite, say, to a bright blue bag with catchy accessories.

Basic colours and design of the finishes:

Concrete-like or stone-like surfaces. 

Light grey: Beijing, Lima, Linz

Medium-grey: Boston, Portland, Calgary, Valencia 

Dark grey: Busan, Sacramento

Black: Seville and Chicago

Beige and brown concrete backdrops: Budapest, Ghent, Seoul, Rome, Metz

Light brown, beige, white wood: Mesa, Denver, Delhi, Warsaw, Sofia, Cancun

Dark brown wood: Dublin, Innsbruck, Reus, Amsterdam, Mexico

Basic surfaces that perfectly work in the background for 45 degrees shots and you could easily use them for the overhead shots: Kotor, Bologna, tiled surfaces Vigo and Granada, Rouen, Cardiff, Tivat and Calcutta.

You’ve probably noticed that there’s no pure white colour included. The majority of advanced photographers who host various photography courses and workshops agree that it’s better to replace white surface with light grey if you’re yet not good enough in setting the white balance. This will help you to avoid unwanted hues in the photo, say pink or green.

 

Light grey finish is a more friendly alternative for a new photographer - it will help you to understand whether you tend to light and airy style and, at the same time it will minimise the amount of problems you could face in the beginning of your photography path. 

 

White backdrops are very versatile but it takes some time to learn how to work with them efficiently. However if you are confident you want to get a white surface, it’s worth to mention that our white finishes have a tad of grey color added that protects them from getting overexposed - this is what will help you a lot while the surfaces will still shot white.

Grey finishes are generally the best choice to start your collection with. We divide them into 3 categories: light, medium and dark.

Light grey finishes that we suggest you to check out are Beijing, Lima and Linz. 

 

Beijing is very neutral, it’s neither warm nor cold. A uniform design makes it a perfect choice for food photography. At the same time Beijing has quite a pronounced painting thus it won’t turn a monochrome stain when you photograph it with a widely open aperture. This finish is also very good for close ups. 

 

Lima is a cool grey finish with a stronger yet delicate texture and lovely pale stains. If you shoot with artificial light, it would be easier to work with Lima rather than with Beijing.  

 

Linz has an amazing texture! It’s purely grey versus its olive-grey version Angers and it will be a wonderful choice for any scene, you could use it as a tabletop or put it in the background.

Basic medium grey finishes are Portland, Boston and Calgary.

 

Portland is entirely matte, with cool undertones and slight gradient. We were inspired by those beautiful metal tins, and many photographers agree this surface reminds them. Portland’s shade of grey is very versatile - depending on editing style you could make it cooler or warmer, it’s easy to create light and airy shots with Portland as well as moody scenes, adjusting its tone to a darker one. 

 

Boston is one of our bestsellers - a uniform grey backdrop with strong texture (small holes).

 

Another medium grey finish we suggest you to consider is Calgary. This surface has a beautiful texture and warm undertones that make it look neutral grey in the photos, without getting a frustrating blueish tint. Calgary will go well with tiled surfaces like Vigo, Granada or Bergen, or with any of our white finishes like Tampa, Ankara, Alicante, Mumbai - in case you decide to include them in your list. 

 

Check out monochrome grey Valencia - an entirely smooth surface with a detailed painting. It’s both basic and very trendy.

 

Dark grey finishes: 

 

Busan - a smooth finish with a detailed painting, works great for closeups. Dark but not black, Busan has dark-brown inclusions that aren’t really visible in frame but protect the surface from getting a blueish tint.

 

Sacramento is closer to medium grey and its gradient painting is so good both to be used as the table surface for overhead shots and as the background - with widely open aperture blurred Sacramento will look as beautiful grey haze.

Black finishes: 

 

In this category we suggest you considering 2 finishes that are entirely black but still differ from each other in term of the texture and color aspects. 

The basic colors of Seville are black and grey, and it shots quite cold in terms of color temperature, getting a lightest blueish tint on some photos depending on your post-editing style.

For Chicago we add a tad of olive color which makes the overall color warmer. This allows to avoid blueish tint - that’s important if you tend to warm tones.

These boards also differ in texture - while Chicago has both the areas with pronounced texture and smooth areas, Seville is evenly (and a bit less) textured.

Another group of backdrops that we consider to be basic and therefore recommend for the new photographers are brown and beige stone-like finishes: Budapest, Orlando, Seoul, Rome. 

Budapest is a monochrome brown finish, entirely matte and smooth. Its vintage look  makes it a wonderful background for moody scenes.

 

Ghent - a textured brown finish with beautiful dark chocolate shade. If you’re going to use it as the background surface for 45 degrees angle scenes, Amsterdam, Berlin or Innsbruck will complement it ideally. 

 

Seoul - a sandy-beige version of Lima with the same pale splashes and delicate texture. This backdrop will perfectly complement your photos as a tabletop and will create a beautiful background in 45 degrees scenes. 

 

Rome is the most versatile concrete surface among the other beige backgrounds, entirely smooth. This backdrop works great with flash and natural light. You could easily pair it with any light finishes from our collection. 

 

Metz - it’s actually one of our oldest finishes but it’s still popular among our clients and it’s one of the simplest surfaces to start with if you’re new to food photography. Metz is smooth rusty-brown backdrop with reddish and yellowish undertones.

 

Light brown and white wooden backgrounds are easy to work with and would suit the majority of your photoshoots, regardless of whether you create images for your own food blog or for a client. They set a cozy, warm atmosphere in frame easily.

Here are some basic wooden backdrops we suggest you to consider for food photography:

Mesa - the most affordable wooden backdrop made of solid plywood sheet, one of the best options if you want to have a basic wooden backdrop but are limited in terms of budget. Mesa usually goes along with Reus (dark brown finish) on the other side and it’s a great pair of affordable wooden backgrounds.

 

Delhi - a wooden background produced from beige planks with a very light reddish hue. Despite it is made of new wood, Delhi’s vintage look is great for rustic style. Homemade pies will go so well with this backdrop! It’s easy to work with this surface both using natural light and flash. And it’s worth to mention that you could set different atmosphere pairing it with various back surfaces - any from our light or dark finishes will match it perfectly. 

 

If you tend to cooler tones, check out the grey version of Delhi - Cancun. It has no brown color added and imitates the sun faded old wooden planks.

 

Denver - another neutral wooden backdrop made of narrow oak planks, beige with a lovely sandy shade. If you tend to Kinfolk style or love the recent shoots by HM Home and Zara Home, this is a perfect choice for you! This background works great with light finishes like Tampa, Alicante, Rome.

 

Baltimore - oak beige backdrop that mimics old shabby table.

 

Warsaw - a classic vintage wooden surface, white with beautiful beige undertones. A crackle painting technique makes this background look like an old shabby tabletop. It’s not getting overexposed and doesn’t lose its texture even in the shots full of light and air. 

 

Sofia - a basic light backdrop with a pronounced wooden texture, a good choice for the beginners. 

Dark brown wood:

Dublin - one of our very first oak surfaces, a wonderful imitation of old dark table just like Baltimore

 

Innsbruck - one of our recent oak finishes, cool dark brown with smooth herringbone design. 

 

Oak is quite an expensive material but it’s ideal for food photography: opposite to pine, this wood has almost no yellowish tint (with the pine surfaces we have to remove it by toning them), and its texture is simply gorgeous. A significant advantage of oak surfaces is that this wood is very durable so the oak backdrops will serve you for years.

 

Reus - this surface is made of plywood and it’s one of the most affordable options if you tend to wooden surfaces. Vintage, dark brown with scratches and black stains that make it look like an old wooden table. 

 

Amsterdam - cool chocolate-brown backdrop made of separate planks with a pronounced wooden texture. 

 

Mexico - close to Amsterdam in terms of the design, but this backdrop has a warmer tint.

Surfaces to create a perfect background. 

Tivat and Calcutta - 2 surfaces that we do especially recommend for creating a beautiful background in your compositions. Calcutta has a more colorful design, Tivat is calmer in terms of color solution but they both will immediately add the atmosphere to your images. Both finishes have delicate texture with changing pattern.

 

Rouen - light grey finish with brownish undertones. If you use it as a tabletop, thanks to its gradient painting you could get absolutely different pictures by photographing on lighter and darker areas. 

 

Cardiff - a creamy white texture that mimics a plastered wall. 

 

Kotor and Bologna - our bestsellers, plain white backdrops for kitchen scenes that imitate bricks and tiles. They look amazingly natural thanks to the real saw cuts between the bricks/tiles.

 

Granada - beige tiled surface with beautiful pinkish shade and interesting texture.

 

Initially the tiled surfaces were mostly used as the background for the eye/table level images, though it seems to be a trend using them as the tabletop - and it works pretty cool, would you agree?

How to pair the backdrops. 

Since all our backdrops are double-sided, we recommend you to pair 2 finishes that you are not going to use together in one scene. 

It’s better to combine light and dark surfaces on one board, or the finishes of different temperature (cool + warm). 

Say, for the scene with dark Amsterdam you would most likely pick Metz as the background rather than light grey Beijing.

 

Here are some ready-to-go combinations for your first order:

 

Warm tones:

 

Mesa + Reus

Delhi + Budapest, Rome or Seoul

Rouen + Beijing or Portland

Metz + Sacramento

Budapest + Seoul

Cardiff + Calgary

Baltimore + Granada

 

Cool tones:

 

Cancun + Valencia

Seville + Beijing

Boston + Portland 

Amsterdam or Innsbruck + Ghent

 

As for the sizes, there are many nuances since it all depends on where you plan to shoot. 

If you’re limited in terms of space (say, you photograph in a small kitchen or use windowsill as the working surface), it’s better to go with 54x72 cm. This size is great for closeups, small, minimalistic compositions. It’s convenient to transport this type of backdrops too as they are quite light, just 3-3.5 kilo per double sided board. As for commercial shoots, this size is usually picked by the food photographers to create minimalistic shots for restaurants, when you typically only need to capture a plate with a dish. 

 

We consider 60x90 cm and 72x72 cm one of the most versatile dimensions for food photography. The majority of the photos you see on our website are captured with the backdrops of these sizes.

 

If you tend to the large, multi-component compositions and still life photography, say, you want to capture the scene with a table served for dinner, or want to add human in frame, it’s better to go with 72x90 cm. With this size you won’t need to think how to include all the required elements in frame, and if you shoot with up to 30-45 degrees photography angle you could use only one backdrop without a background - 72x90 cm surface will typically fit all the scene.

 

Just bear in mind that this backdrop is heavier in comparison with the smaller options - it weighs around 5.5-6 kilos thus if you mostly work with the outside commercial projects, it may be more difficult to transport these photography surfaces or use them in a small space.

 

I do really hope that this was helpful. We are happy to answer any questions so that you are 100% sure in your decision before placing the order - in case of any doubts just DM us on Instagram, and we will be happy to assist!