When I first started food blogging I had no idea that you needed “props” or that there was so much that went into it. I remember taking my first photos in my rental condo kitchen with the overhead lights on and an ugly green counter as my background.
And I thought it was an amazing photo. Haha! Boy was I wrong.
This was also around the time I had just started to want to learn about photography.
Fast forward a few years and a few moves later and I finally started investing in all the things you need for proper food photography and food blogging. I also bought a new camera and started learning all about how to shoot properly and in manual mode.
Now, I won’t say that I’ve mastered food photography by any means but I thought I would take the time to share with you some of my favorite, budget friendly (because hello student loans and medical school debt), photography backgrounds. If you want to find budget friendly props… head over to this post.
You definitely don’t have to spend a ton of money to get great backgrounds, props, and eventually great photographs.
All the images shown are in sliders so swipe or click the arrow to see different ways that I’ve used each background. Let’s go!
Make your own backgrounds
I wrote a whole tutorial about this a couple years back when I was feeling creative. It was a super cost effective way to get the background look that I wanted because I can control the colors that I used.
The white distressed, stained, and blue backgrounds I made that day are still some of most beloved backgrounds I have and I actually use to shoot most of my recipes.
This Mexican Street Corn was shot on the blue background… how dreamy does the yellow corn look against it?
Antique and Distressed Sheet Pans
These are great backgrounds and I’m sure you already have some in your kitchen right now. The one I use in these photos you see I’ve had since moving out of my mom’s house when I was 18! The more antiqued the better as they create great dark and moody shots or you can prop them up and use them as the actual background.
If you don’t have any in your kitchen right now you, scope out local yard sales or antique shops. I’m sure you’ll find exactly what you want.
Black or White Matte Foam Core Board
Yes, the foam core board that you used (or still use if you have kids) in school for projects. These are incredibly cheap and you can find them just a couple dollars art your local craft store or Wal-Mart or Target.
They are great for the messy shots because you can just wipe them clean when you’re done. And if they get super ruined then just toss them and get a new one. Don’t go crazy with the colors, I just stick to plain black and white.
Also, the white board is great for bouncing the light to reduce shadows on your food if you’re going for the light and bright shots. The black is great for absorbing the light and creating more dramatic shadows if you’re doing for the dark and moody shots.
Brown Paper Packing Paper or Bags
Old paper grocery bags are a great and insanely cheap background to work with. When purposefully crumpled and flattened out it can add some great texture to your photos.
Unfortunately, most grocery stores don’t have paper bags anymore but if you ask you can get some. I actually found a roll of brown packing paper at the dollar store.
I love the roll much better than the actual paper bag because I can control the size that I need and don’t have to worry about the writing or logos from a bag.
This is basically the same as a brown paper bag but only white. You can use it smooth like in a cookie shoot or crumple it for a little added texture.
It’s also beautiful when you bake some bread (or other baked good) and the edges of the paper get a little brown from the heat in the oven. Makes for some gorgeous shots!
Wooden cutting boards
Ikea is a gold mine for cheap, huge cutting boards. The one I use I got there and paid $10 for and it’s about 2 feet by 2 feet which is perfect for food photography.
The great thing about these is that you can spill whatever you want on them and then just wash them off. I mean, it’s made for cutting food on, right? Why not use it for your messy photography?
Marble Slab or Marble Contact Paper
Natural looking marble makes for one of the best background for light and bright photography. It’s so versatile that you don’t just have to use it exclusively for food photography.
It usually has a dull, matte finish that is ideal for photography because it won’t create glare when you’re shooting.
Unfortunately, most marble slabs are either too small or very large and very heavy and can be very expensive. An alternative to an actual marble slab is to get some marble contact paper from your local hardware store.
I did this for the price and also mostly because I don’t have a place to store a large marble slab currently. When I got it home, I cut a piece and “contacted” it to the back of some foam core board. You can barely tell that it isn’t the real thing in photographs.
So there you have my top picks for some of my favorite food photography backgrounds that I still use today and will continue to use.
Do you have some favorites that I didn’t mention?