How to Make Your Own Wood Backdrops for Food and Product Photography

There are lots of great options from pre-made to digitally printed backdrops available, but a lot of them are not cheap, and if you want to have a wide variety, it adds up quickly. That is why I supplement my collection with my own homemade DIY backdrops. 

I have been making my own wooden tabletop backdrops like the one in the lead image for years, and you've probably seen me use it for lots of my review articles over the years. They are great for food photography, product photography, or even just showing off your physical prints and promo materials on Instagram or Facebook. Depending on the type of wood you use, they can be either light or heavy, one or two-sided, and even made to be stain resistant. I've used free pallet wood, slat floor boarding, and even simple pine boards, all with great results. The best part is how you can custom-age them using a variety of painting techniques, but my favorite part is damaging the wood to make it look like industrial flooring. 

Joanie Simon over at The Bite Shot channel does a great job of breaking down the steps and basic tools needed to start making your own wood backdrops. There are lots of different materials, ways to paint, and methods to age the wood, but the methods used in this video are very similar to how I make my own, and you can experiment to meet your own personal needs. Your local big box hardware store is a great place to look for wood, with a wide variety of planks and even lightweight flooring that can all be bought and cut small for your needs right in the store. A quick search on YouTube for painting and staining wood flooring will give you tons of great artistic techniques to play around with. 

Another great source for backdrops is found materials. Do you have any great backdrops you either made or found that you use?

Michael DeStefano's picture

Michael DeStefano is a commercial/editorial photographer focusing on Outdoor Lifestyle and Adventure. Based in Boston, MA he combines his passion for outdoor sports like climbing and surfing into his work. When not traveling or outdoors he is often found geeking out over new tech gadgets.

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You could make just one wood backdrop and then color it to whatever is needed for the photo in Photoshop. Or if you're proficient in Photoshop, make the entire backdrop digitally saving a lot of time/money.Then layer in your product on top.

You could do both those things and depending on the job I have done both, however, the texture you get with shooting on real surfaces whether wood, metal granite, etc, is much more important to the shot than color. There is definitely a difference in quality between a real texured surface and a digital one.

Great article lot more feasible for building surfaces.

Forget the use of the background. The most IMPORTANT thing to take note is the terrible lack of safety the husband is subjecting himself to. He is the poster child example of what can go wrong from bad safety practices.

First, the blade on his radial arm saw has no protective encasement around it. Not only can the missing cover keep you from losing an arm, but it also contains the debris that is created -- dust and chips that can fly into your eyes as the blade spins. And should the bolt or nut that holds the blade on the machine comes loose or fail, the cover will contain it. As it is shown in the video, if the blade comes off it will slice thorough your head and torso like a hot knife through butter. Plus the saw tips can break off (and they do) whereupon they'll fly through the air like a bullet with you in the line of fire.

Second, he is wearing NO protective goggles -- a simple and cheap method to avoid eye injury or blindness. And third, he is not wearing a dust mask to protect his lungs. Some woods are toxic to breathe when cut and sanded.

Then to top it off, both Joanie Simon and her husband use a spinning wire wheel in a drill to remove paint and add texture for an aged effect. They are doing so WITHOUT vision and breathing protections. Not only are they releasing fine paint and wood particles into the air, but wire wheels do disintegrate, putting metal filings in the air that can enter your eyes and lungs which can create long-term health problems down the road too.

As photographers, our livelihoods are based on using our eyes and limbs with the assistance of healthy lungs. While building your own specialized backgrounds is a creative means, the way the video shows how to do it should be avoided for your own health and safety.

FYI, I've also been doing woodworking for decades and have seen numerous stories and pictures about horrific accidents from lack of safety protocols that were less than demonstrated in the video.

All good points to keep in mind for people new to DIYing with tools. Safety is very important.

I’m actually very impressed with the fact that she was able to use couple pieces of wood paint and a metal brush to get that look and feel