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A few months back I posted the Food Photography Tutorial, Props Part I, which was primarily focused on how to create backgrounds using paint and various tiles to create different looks. This next installment is a continuation of that topic, using an even easier (and cheaper) resource.
When photographing food (or really anything), you can set a mood using lots of different tricks and tools, but the first place to start is with your backgrounds. Give close attention to the colors you choose, and the feelings they invoke. Will they enhance the look of the food, or distract from it? Also, should you use a patterned, textured, or solid background?
A safe choice is always simple white or black, but as you gain confidence, you will likely want to branch out and create different looks. Using color, pattern, and texture in your backdrops is a great way to achieve that. This is especially true if you don’t have a lot of other props. A simple backdrop can be enhanced with linens, flatware, and other props to create an overall mood, but if you don’t have (or don’t want) all of that stuff, there are some very easy, and inexpensive ways to create visual interest.
Which brings me to today’s tutorial. In fact it’s barely a tutorial at all, because so little actual work is required! You see, I recently discovered the joys of scrapbooking paper. It comes in 12×12 sheets that are available in every pattern, color, and texture that you can imagine, and is fairly inexpensive. There is typically an entire aisle of it at the larger craft stores, where you can buy it by the sheet, or in themed packs. I used to look at it longingly on my way by, but I never purchased any because…well…I stink at scrapbooking! I don’t have the patience for all the measuring, and cutting and gluing that’s required. Gah! But the paper is soooo pretty, that when realized I might be able to use it for photography backdrops, I was super excited and bought a few sheets to play with.
When I planned this tutorial, I intended to use spray adhesive to attach the scrapbook paper to heavy duty posterboard, or the backs of my flat wooden painted boards. And depending on what you are photographing, you may want to do this – it’s especially important if you’re shooting larger items. Sometimes if you’re shooting a cake, or a turkey, or something like that, a 12 x 12 backdrop won’t be enough – so gluing multiple sheets of your favorite color to a backdrop is a good idea in that case, as in the example below. You can always photoshop out the seam if there is one.
But while I was photographing the end result, I realized that in most cases, the scrapbook paper stock was firm enough to stand up on it’s own without gluing it to anything, and that I could rapidly create different looks, simply by switching it out. Since I try to use smaller plates anyway, I could make do with a single sheet in most cases.
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I spent the next 5 minutes, creating and photographing different looks with the same simple food props to show you how easy it is. Please note that these aren’t meant to be stellar examples of styling or composition, and that I didn’t spend a lot of time editing to make them perfect – it’s just for you to get a general idea of how to create different looks using the different craft papers.
Below are a few different looks with a simple lemon – each photo has it’s own mood. I was working with the limited paper that I had on hand, but you could do so much more (and I will in the future!) to convey different seasons and themes using a variety of colors and tones.
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Getting back to the colors and patterns issue though, not everything will work – no matter how gorgeous the paper is, so be careful with certain busy patterns or colors that will be too distracting. Yikes!!
You can also have fun with textured papers, which add visual interest. When using them, you can adjust your depth of field to focus on the foreground – this will keep the texture from being too distracting or prominent. In the example below, the first frame is focused on the background so you can see how detailed it is. The middle frame is ok, but note that the purple paper I used has a bit of texture too, and that it’s more prominent than I want it to be. In the final frame I have narrowed the depth of field so that the lemon is the primary focus, and the paper texture is not as obvious. I also darkened the highlights a bit, which made the lemon stand out against the backdrop even more.
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As you can see in the example below, you can also use the paper on the bottom of your props. Be aware that any spill will ruin it though, so be super careful when setting up. Just to be on the safe side, you may want to purchase extras of your favorites to have on hand, since these will start to show wear and tear after awhile, no matter how careful you are.
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I already can’t wait to get more varieties and colors of scrapbook paper, so I can have tons of easy looks on hand! I ordered a few packs from Amazon.com that I’m excited to receive and start using. In case you are interested in checking them out as well, I ordered the Old World Stack which I’m most excited about, (here’s just a sample of 4 different sheets, though there are 48 in total)
and also The Luxury Stack, which even though it has a few unsuitable patterns, also has a bunch that will work (like the ones below!), and in pretty colors for spring and summer.
Another bonus with the scrapbooking sheets, is that they are lightweight and take up so little room, making them easy to store! I just ordered this inexpensive expandable organizer from Amazon, which holds up to 200 sheets and comes divided and with labels – it’s a great way to protect your investment and keep the sheets looking perfect for as long as possible!
So there you have it – told you it was super easy! An infinite number of possibilities to be had, for very little investment. It’s true that they are not as durable as wood, tile, or painted finishes, but since they are so inexpensive to replace, I think it’s worth the fact that you will get a limited amount of use per sheet.
Hope you have fun picking out scrapbook paper, and experimenting with different looks in your food photography! Just keep in mind when shopping that bold patterns and colors are risky (also beware of glitter or metallic finishes, as they can cause a glare on your photos.)
If you’ve got your own tips on easy and inexpensive ways to create backdrops for photos, please do share them in the comments!
More great recipes coming next week, including another awesome low carb meatball recipe for Meatball Monday, so be sure to subscribe to IBIH and get notified whenever a new post goes live!
Have a great weekend!