Food photography will at times take you out of the studio and on location. It may be to a restaurant, a farm, or a bakery. If you have to travel to where the food is, then you will have to think about what background you will shoot on. When shooting at a restaurant, capturing the decor and ambiance of the dining room with the dish is preferred by the client. Capturing the tables, walls, or any other distinctive features of the restaurant in the background will enhance your image of the dish. When shooting a food product, the ambiance might not be there. What do you do if all you have are grey walls and a metal counter top?
You will have to supply the background. I had this experience when shooting at a cupcake shop. It would be ideal for the client to bring the food items to you or have a food stylist prepare the dishes you are shooting at your studio, but sometimes that just isn't possible. You may have a small budget and find it more cost effective to go to where the food is being made. In the case of the cupcakes, I was shooting production shots, portraits of the staff, and a series of final cupcakes. I did not want to risk the cupcakes being harmed in transit, so I decided to go to the bakery and shoot on location. Bakeries are not the largest places in which to shoot. Between the ovens, giant mixers, decorating stations and customers coming in throughout the day, you will not have a lot of room for your gear or backgrounds. Fortunately, the items at this cupcake shop would all fit in the palm of my hand. These small objects don't require a large set. For shooting at a location without a lot of room to work in, I have developed this 2'x 2' background system. For this system all you need are a few items from your local hardware store.
For the board to stand without tipping, make sure the bottom of one bracket is under the horizontal board, and make sure the bottom of the other bracket is behind the vertical board. The brackets should be facing opposite directions, as seen above. These wooden squares are already cut to size and found in the wood section of Lowe's or Home Depot (I am not sure about their availability internationally).
Shooting flower arrangements at a florist's shop? This system can work for that as well. Notice how a second board is used to create a "false wall" background.
If you have a small shooting space in an apartment, this background system will work perfectly in that environment. With a little bit of creativity, some wood, a few metal clamps and brackets, you can make a small and portable studio that will travel anywhere!
For more information on how shots like these were lit and other food photography tutorials, CHECK OUT issues 1-4 of photographing FOOD.