Every food shot will have some type of background that the subject sits on. A few months ago, I showed you how you can paint wooden boards to make a beautiful and versatile background system. If you don't have the storage space for a wooden board system, or are just getting started in food photography and want something a little simpler, I have a solution for you! Let me show you a background material that any level of photographer will find inexpensive, portable and versatile!
Next time that you are at your local grocery store or cooking supply, store take a trip to the baking section. There you will find two things - wax paper and parchment paper! A roll will only set you back a couple of dollars and provide you with a background that you can take anywhere! Parchment paper will be slightly thicker than wax paper and both can be used in the same manner. Here are a few ways that I use these material as a background.
Above is the easiest way to use deli style wax paper, my favorite paper background. Deli style wax paper comes in a variety of sizes and is packaged in single thin sheets that you pull out of a box. You may be able to find it at your grocery store, or you can find it here online. This wax paper is very thin and has a translucent quality to it. If you stack it in multiple layers, like above, it will create a white background for your subject. What I like about this background is texture that is there. The white color isn't distracting and the texture in the wax paper prevents the doughnut from looking like it is "floating."
Below is another example using this deli style wax paper.
In this example. I used I only used two layers of the paper. Using fewer layers allows for the color and pattern of the tablecloth below to come through. Placing the chili dog directly on the table cloth would be too distracting. Using the wax paper allowed for a more subtle transition while the color and pattern of the tablecloth is still present.
In the next example, I am using a natural brown paper background. Parchment and wax paper are available in bleached white or in natural brown colors. I keep rolls of both on hand and choose the one that best fits the look that I am going for.
Here are the results of this background shot at two different angles.
Wax paper and parchment paper will have a slightly reflective quality to it. This will vary depending on the brand that you buy, so play around while shooting. When you change your lighting or camera angle, the paper will behave differently. I have found that the reflective white highlights are more noticeable on the natural brown papers.
If you are shooting baked goods, sandwiches, fried foods, or any other foods that are meant to be hand held, a parchment or wax paper background will give a great look to your image as well as help tell a story about the dish! They are very inexpensive to purchase, take up little space, and are something that you should definitely have on hand!
For more food photography tips, tricks, and tutorials, check out Issues 1-8 of photographing FOOD. If you want to learn more about shooting backgrounds, Issue 7 is all about backgrounds!