When I was just getting started on my product photography journey I wasted a lot of money on things I thought I needed, and didn’t. I am now a big believer in using what you have first before investing in expensive camera gear, backdrops, props, and lighting.
If you are in the early stages of your product photography journey or looking to improve the images you are taking of your own products, I hope this and the next few posts can help you think outside the photography backdrop box and discover a few things you likely already have around your home that you can use to style your first minimal or styled product image.
I will be transparent, my more expensive backdrops are some of my favourites and what I use consistently in my studio, but for beginners there is no need to drop $80-$120 on a high end photography backdrop if you have not yet figured out your branding strategy or have taken the time to learn photography and editing basics. Or if you are just looking to take a few cute photos to post to social media of your own products.
Before we dive into what you can use for your first backdrop, there are four things to consider when selecting a backdrops for your products. These four things should be considered if you’re backdrop shopping in your home, headed to Michael’s, or purchasing your first professional photography backdrop.
Think about the size of your product vs. the size of the backdrop you’d like to use, also think through if you’re planning to shoot the product close up, or further away.
You want to ensure you have enough space to place your product and the props you are styling with. Backdrops can be extended in Photoshop but if you are reading this post I am assuming you are not looking to learn at that skill level (yet)
My favorite backdrops that I use for the majority of my work are 2 feet by 3 feet, this size endures I have lots of room when styling supporting props, this size is also great for food photography.
Paper could easily be a one-time use backdrop, where a peel-and-stick tile or vinyl backdrop can be used again and again. I use a mix of backdrops that are single use and ones that are water resistant for those styled beauty product shots.
Matte over Shine
If you’re looking at real tiles in your kitchen, purchasing peel-and-stick tiles, tact paper etc it is better to select a matte finish. I like to avoid anything that will show glare or a reflection distracting from the hero of the shot, your product!
Simple over Busy
When it comes to backdrops think simple over a busy pattern that will distract from your product. I suggest looking at monochrome backdrops, or simple faux or real textures like marble, concrete, wood, and matte tiles.
Here are 6 product photography backdrops you likely have at home or could borrow from a friend:
Desktops: I consistently use the same white desktop and a wood desktop from IKEA for product backdrops, no need to buy the legs – lay the desktop on the floor or prop it up on two chairs or end tables. I like to use them as a starting point and layer paper or trays over them. A white desktop can be used as a backdrop for pretty much anything, and is great to capturing product listing photos for e-commerce when you’re just getting started. I use desktops as they are, to fake a desk set up, as a kitchen table, and flip them vertically to fake a wall.
Bedding: Although I do have prop bedding now, when I first started out I would simply pull the white bedding off my own bed, bleach it so it was gleaming white and use it for styled product photos! Bedding is a great backdrop for styling clothing, candles, beauty products, and any product you may use or keep near your bed. If you do use blankets remember to look for a simple pattern or no pattern at all, white bedding, a fuzzy throw blanket, or a white silk pillow case is always a safe bet.
Towels: I have used towels as a backdrop for a number of bath and beauty products – simply lay a towel down and play your product on top for a simple flatlay, I like to layer folded towels for depth before placing the product. I keep white towels in the studio just for props as you want to avoid using anything that looks like its been washed 100 times. If your product could be used in the summer or at the beach use a beach towel as the backdrop.
Table Cloths: I use a white table cloth to cover our wood kitchen table all the time for lifestyle product photos! Don’t have a table cloth? A white sheet can do the same thing. A white table cloth or white sheet can also be used to take standard product images on a white background instead of buying a white paper or vinyl backdrop too! I like to make sure my table cloth is freshly washed and ironed prior to the shoot to avoid wrinkles.
You can also use table clothes in your brand colour pallet to really enhance your branding when starting out. Use it for your flatlays, on tables, or hang it up to fake a wall or curtains.
Serving Trays: Trays are great for styling in photos and can also be used as backdrops on their own. I have used marble trays as backdrops for beauty products, jewelry, keychains, and more. They are also durable so are a great option if you want to use any kind of liquids in your image. Try to avoid trays that have too much shine and will distract from your product.
Curtains: I think I have used every single curtain in the house as some sort of backdrop, either faking a lifestyle scene for a product or using my linen curtains as a backdrop for flay lays. If you are using your own curtains make sure they are simple and in a neutral colour or a colour that works well with your brand. You can even use your curtains without taking them down by placing a side table in front of a curtain and your product on top of the table, add a few props for styling or keep it minimal.
I am sure there are more things I will think of when I publish this post or when I am working on a shoot next week but I hope this list can help to get you thinking about incorporating backdrops to your product photos. I would love to see how you are using items from around your home as backdrop so feel free to tag me on Instagram so I can cheer you on!
In the next post I’ll walk you through some very inexpensive backdrops you can purchase from the dollar store and Michaels so check back again soon.