If you are like me, you probably have a closet full of random tiles, boards, and construction scraps just in the event you need an interesting surface to shoot on. These new photography surfaces by Duo Boards set out to change my messy studio, and this photography tutorial shows you how useful these backdrops can be!
As I just mentioned, one of the most embarrassing areas of my entire photography studio is the closet where I keep all my product and food photography background surfaces. I have a rat's nest of different woods like IPE, walnut, reclaimed barn slats, and driftwood. My wood collection is only rivaled by my pile of hardly moved-because-they-are-too-heavy Home Depot tile scraps. Even though I have quite the collection, in reality, most of these surfaces are too small to build anything substantial with and too shiny to give me the photographic results I desire in my head.
When V-Flat World reached out to me and asked if I had tried their new photography backgrounds, Duo Boards, I was pretty intrigued. Fstoppers has a few V-Flat World V Flats in both our Puerto Rico and stateside studios, and we use them all the time. The quality is great, and best of all, they are much easier to transport because they fold up. So, having loved their first product so much, I was excited to see how these Duo Boards looked and performed.
Now, printed or textured backdrops for food and product photography are nothing new. However, in the past, these products have either been of such low quality that you could easily tell they weren't real surfaces, or one single background was super expensive to make or buy yourself. For example, a single 24x48 inch large format tile from Home Depot is about $40 and it weighs a good 35 pounds. Not only are these tiles extremely heavy, they only have one side that you can shoot on, rectified tiles can be extremely sharp to handle, and they are so brittle that they often crack and chip.
Luckily, Duo Boards solve most if not all the problems you might find experience with other photography surfaces. If you want to see how I used a few of these boards to create the two images below, definitely watch the photography tutorial video at the top of this post. For this article, I want to outline some benefits these boards have over my DIY collection of scraps and some alternatives in the world of food photography backdrops.
The biggest problem I have with many of my tiles and wood planks in my own studio is that they are not large enough to create a usable shooting area. Duo Boards come in two different sizes, 24 x 24 inch and 30 x 40 inch. The smaller ones are great if you travel or have limited space in your studio, but for me, the big advantage is the larger boards because they are still small enough to fit in a car but large enough to shoot larger products and food setups. So for me, these are the boards I prefer in my studio.
Perhaps the closest competitor to the Duo Boards is photography backgrounds made by Replica Surfaces. These boards are a little smaller than the 24x24 inch Duo Boards (and also more expensive and only one-sided, more on that later) and are really only useful for tighter compositions and smaller products. Comparing the larger 30 x 40 inch Duo Boards to my large format tiles from the big box stores, the wider 30 inchesmay not seem like a lot, but those extra 6 inches really help when you are building a small set like I did with the cigar humidor shot above.
Another thing that impressed me with the Duo Boards was the quality of the prints themselves. I've bought photography backdrops off Amazon before and most of those cheaply made products were not very high resolution at all. Also, many of these products have repeating patterns that instantly make your wood, terrazzo, or tile look cheap and fake. I used to fix this by using Photoshop to add variety and break up repetitive patterns, but that is a huge pain and really doesn't work for video shoots at all.
The four Duo Boards I have in my studio are the Grey/Dark Chalk, Aged Cutting Board and Butcher's Block, Iced and Midnight Cement, and French and Terracotta Clay. Each of these surfaces look awesome and accurately capture the mood their names portray. You can tell these backgrounds are made for high-end photography, and since they are printed at 1,000 dpi, the quality is much better than any other surface I've used before.
When it comes to value, the Duo Boards are much better than any other surface I've used because each board gives you two completely different textures for crafting the perfect photograph. Unlike my heavy real tiles or the boards from Replica Surfaces, which only have one usable pattern, each Duo Board comes with a different variation of the main textured theme. So, if you get a subway tile board, you are going to have both white and black tile. My clay board has both an interesting green French clay as well as a strong orange Terracotta Blush clay. With the other alternatives, you will have to buy additional boards or tiles, which means the cost of the Duo Boards is literally 50% cheaper if not more.
I'm not exactly sure what type of material these Duo Boards are made of, but it appears to be some sort of laminate plastic. They are both stiff and rigid but not heavy, which is a nice break from some of the other surfaces I've accumulated over the years. The laminated surface isn't super shiny like a laminated name tag or restaurant menu but instead is similar to antiglare matte photography paper from a high-end print lab. Of course, unlike those matte prints, these boards are much more durable and scratch-resistant. While accidently spilling BBQ sauce during my own shoot, I was happy to find that the boards cleaned up easily with a wet cleaning wipe even after I let it completely dry over the weekend.
We all know most gear used for photography gets the dreaded "photography tax" added to the price. The 24x24 inch Duo Board is priced at $74.95 and the larger 30x40 inch Duo Board is $119.95. For me, this was a sigh of relief because they aren't really priced that different than my heavy real tiles or the cost of building your own after driving around town and wasting a bunch of time at the store. Also, considering you get two different surfaces in one lightweight, easy-to-transport board, buying a single Duo Board seems a lot easier to justify than some alternatives.
Now, as I mentioned, you can find cheaper backdrops on Amazon, but those are almost always smaller, and the printed pattern never looks as good as advertised in my experience at least. For comparison, Replica Surfaces only offers a 23x23 inch background, and it is priced at $77. So, with those being an inch shorter on both sides, and only having one texture to shoot on, I can't imagine why anyone would opt for the Replica Surfaces boards over the Duo Boards unless you simply like one of their designs more. Of course, I prefer the larger 30x40 inch boards, which they do not even offer.
Special Fstoppers Discount
This post is a sponsored post by V Flat World, and as part of this review and photoshoot, they have extended a special 10% discount to all our readers. Simply use the discount code "FSTOPPERS10" during the checkout process and you can save a little on your entire order. Keep in mind, even though this is a sponsored post, I 100% stand by my opinions and experiences using these boards.
All in all, while I don't shoot a ton of product and food photography, using the Duo Boards and building up these two unique images was a pretty fun experience. Like I said, I absolutely despise all the random pieces of real wood and tile I have lying around my studio, and having a few professional surfaces that take up little space is a welcome change of pace for those times I do need to build a little photography set for food, products, or still life. At this point in my photography career, I appreciate well-designed systems and ecosystems that make my life easier, more organized, and give me tried and true results every time. These Duo Boards, along with their well-designed portfolio carrying case, are an unexpected upgrade to my own food and product photography workflow, and I look forward to using these more in upcoming work. Who knows, maybe I can even use a few of these as backdrops for tight headshots!