Photographing products for lifestyle images will often call for a change of photography background, backdrop or surface. Your choice of background color for product photography can alter the entire look, feel and effect a photo has on the viewer.
A background or backdrop is something used behind the product you photograph and a surface is what the product sits on to be photographed. Backgrounds and surfaces can be interchangeable.
Starting at around $1, these photography backgrounds and surfaces are affordable options for anyone looking to expand their lifestyle product photography surfaces and backgrounds.
As a professional product photographer, these are photography backgrounds and surfaces I myself have used on many occasions and continue to do so to this day. So here I wanted to share with you my top 5 cheap lifestyle product photography background and surface ideas.
#1. Coloured Cardboard
Photography background paper or cardboard is the most inexpensive background or surface at around $1 for a large sheet. It is easily accessible and easy to store when not in use.
Your choice of color is almost endless from hot pinks to trusty and reliable white.
Cost: about $1
Tip: Add some sparkle to your photography background paper surface with glitter. And using the cardboard under the glitter will make cleaning up a whole lot easier. You can get bulk silver glitter here.
Choices are many and varied for a vinyl surface, backdrop or background. They are cheap and designs come in hundreds of different options.
Vinyl is also referred to as waterproof paper or contact paper.
The better-designed vinyl surfaces can look exceptionally real and make a great addition to any product photographers collection of surfaces and backgrounds.
Best of all, they are light to lift and carry.
Some popular choices for vinyl surface designs are marble, wood and cement.
Your vinyl surface will need to be stuck onto a sheet of MDF or something similar. I find MDF works well to give a smooth finish.
Cost: usually under $10
#3. Plywood Sheeting
For a product photography wood background, plywood works very well. It creates an organic, natural look and feel for lifestyle product photography, You can find sheets of plywood in your local hardware or Home Depot store.
Sheets of plywood are sold in different thicknesses, so think about the type of products that will sit on the wood. Usually, the minimum thickness will be strong enough for most product photography.
Cost: varies by thickness of the ply sheet, 1/4 inch (6-5mm) thickness, pre-cut 2 x 3 Ft (600x900mm), about $15
#4. Tile your own surface
This homemade background for photography looks so good, no one will ever guess you make it yourself!
Pick a tile you like the look of along with a sheet of plywood. You will also need glue, tile spacers and tile grout. Glue and grout your tile onto the plywood for a stylish surface.
Some popular choices for tile designs are subway, penny and a small hexagonal.
You can also use different colored grout, such as gray or black.
Cost: depending on the tile choice, they may cost around $30+
Tiles – enough to cover the sheet of plywood
Plywood – 2 x 3 Ft (600×900 mm) sheet will be enough or else it will be too heavy
Glue – liquid nails
To recreate the look of natural marble or stone you can find an extra-large tile to give the impression of a kitchen countertop, bar, bathroom or laundry counter.
Using a large tile can be heavy and somewhat cumbersome to transport though it is far lighter than an actual kitchen bench! It also has the all-important authentic look and feel of a real kitchen bench. I have shot many products on my marble tile.
This tile is not genuine marble, rather it is a tile that looks like marble.
Look for a tile with low shine as reflective surfaces are harder to shot on.
Cost: varies, starting at around $40 and upwards of $120 as I paid for my 2 x 3 Ft (600x900mm) tile.
Why Have Different Photography Backgrounds And Surfaces?
Different background, backdrop and surface options give you the choice of changing the whole look and feel of your product photography. You can achieve a sleek and modern look with a cool tile surface or a warm and organic look and feel with plywood.
Your background, backdrop and surface all play a part in telling the story of the photo. A food item shot on a marble tile will help to create the impression of being in a kitchen. That story makes sense. But if you take that plate of delicious cupcakes and shoot them on a rustic brick vinyl surface, the story is disjointed and doesn’t complement the product being photographed. Similarly, a product that is eco-friendly would sit nicely on plywood because of the organic nature of the material.
Something to keep in mind with any product photography background and surface is how it’s going to be used. If for example, you plan on using a large tile, make sure you can comfortably lift it. Additionally, if the plywood or tiled MDF surface is to go out on shoots, make sure you can easily fit it in the trunk of your car.
Building a collection of surfaces for your lifestyle product photography does not need to be expensive. Here I’ve shown how you can achieve a variety of different photography looks with prices starting as low as $1! So why not add to your collection with one of these photography surface ideas and start expanding the type of photos you can create?