behind the scenes – a bit on backgrounds

Today I thought I would share my journey on trying to find the perfect backgrounds for my still life photography.

There are so many choices on what to use as a background available to photographers and what you use really depends on two things. What effect you are after and what your budget is.

Over the years I have tried many budget options, so I thought it would be fun to share what I have used and how they look.

The important thing about a backdrop is that it has to be clean, simple and to add to the mood you are trying to create.

Using your furniture

The most cost-effective solution to creating a background for your photography is to take a look around your home. Look at all your furniture and fittings – don’t just think it has to be a table top. Chairs, carpets and clothing can all make for an interesting backdrop.

In this example I used a scuffed up work bench to show this “real” science.

Paper Backgrounds

Another simple and cheap option is to use coloured paper from your local stationery shop. this can be bought in sheets or on a roll if you are looking to create a seamless backdrop.

There are a couple of downsides to this method. The paper can get dirty and torn very easily. Also if you are using any liquids, you will probably make a mess. However, at the price you are paying you can easily replace it.

Another thing to be aware of is the colour tones may not be exactly as you want, and you may see grain on the paper. This could, however, be the effect you are looking for!

In this image I used a roll of paper to create a seamless background. I didn’t want the white box to get lost on the white paper so I created a gradient using my light pad under the paper. A similar effect could be achieved by playing around with a desklamp!

Material Backgrounds

I have used a range of cloth backgrounds over the years. The wonderful thing about material is that it comes in a range of colours, textures and pattern, so you are going to be able to find something to suit your style.

I have got hold of some great cheap samples in the off-cut boxes in material shops. I have also cut up old clothes that were too worn to pass on to charity. The options here are endless!

Another positive aspect is that the material is often non-reflective which means you don’t have any issues with reflections. For example a black velvet can create beautiful low key images.

On the downside, material picks up every speck of dust or hair! It can also crease easily – so you will find yourself doing a lot of ironing.

Here I used a yellow and white checked gingham to complement the yellow of the daffodils.

Reflective backgrounds

Sometimes you will want to create a reflection in your still life photography. This can be created in a number of different ways.

A budget option is to pop down to a hardware shop and pick up some glazed tiles. These can work really well.

Alternative you can pick up acrylic sheets which will do the same job. You have to be careful with these as they will scratch easily. They will also show the dirt and dust, so give them a good clean before you start your photography.

I photographed a close up of a fossil using acrylic sheets as my background. I loved the textures and wanted to show more of them!

Contact Paper

My latest discovery has been the use of contact paper! And I love it! If you search the internet for backgrounds you will be given a long list of expensive still life tables, vinyl backdrops and seamless paper. All will do an amazing job, but are not cheap.

Using the contact paper is a great alternative. It is essential a sticky backed plastic which is available in a wide range of colours and patterns. I cut out the size I wanted and carefully stuck it onto a piece of mountboard. On one side I have a marble effect, on the other a woodgrain effect. I think these designs are really realistic, and they are not too reflective!

Being a plastic material also means they are wipe clean.

Obviously, these can only be used for flatlay photography or as a “tabletop” to stand your objects on for more traditional angles. You would need to consider another option for your wall covering in this scenario.

Here is an example of the marble effect contact paper background.

In conclusion….

So as you can see, with a little imagination and a small budget you can create some fun still life images.

To see more of my still life photographs visit my Alamy portfolio:

Alamy Portfolio
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