DIY Rustic Food Photography Backdrop

When working in food photography, there is one crucial element that can make or break your photo: the backdrop. This key ingredient can enhance a certain appeal or provide the perfect contrast from your formal dishes. In this insightful tutorial, Utah based food photographer Brooke Lark shows a fun and simple way to create a great backdrop selection without having to break the bank:

This tutorial is a must have for any food photographers on a budget. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on custom backdrops, all you need is time, a well ventilated area, and the following supplies:

  • Bleach Spray or Water. The tutorial uses a mixture of water and light bleach. However, you can also use water or a water/salt solution.
  • Crystal Clear Spray-On Varnish in Matte
  • Edging Tape. You can use electric tape, paint tape, etc. The goal is to prevent the sharp edges of the metal from cutting you.
  • Metal Cutters. To cut the sheet of steel
  • Modern Masters Aging Patina Solution. The video uses blue, but Lark also suggests green.
  • Modern Masters Oxidizing Metallic Paint – The video uses Bronze, but Lark also recommends the Copper
  • Paint Brushes
  • Plastic Drop Cloth or Sheet
  • Protective Gear. Gloves, mask, apron, etc.
  • Sheet of Galvanized Steel. This is different than the sheets of aluminum. You can purchase 3 foot by 4 foot sheets of galvanized steel, which can make two backdrops, at a building supply store like Home Depot.
  • Spray paint. The tutorial uses Espresso (brown), Gloss Navy (blue), Ocean Breeze (blue), and Turquoise (blue). You can easily switch out the colors to your personal preference.
  • Steel Wool
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Lark going over the newest layer of paint to her current backdrop creation

How to Make a Rustic Photo Backdrop

While you can make a single backdrop or an entire batch, I would recommend starting off with one and working your way up. Once you have the process down, you can easily go back and create more. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Cover your work space. Use a plastic drop cloth, a sheet, or anything else to protect your work area.
  2. Cut the galvanized steel to your desired size. Lark recommends cutting it in half to create two backdrops per 3 x 4 foot sheet.
  3. Edge the steel sheet with duct tape, electrical tape, or painter’s tape to prevent cuts.
  4. Lightly spray your sheet with the water, water/bleach, or a water/salt blended mixture, placing several uneven coats of the different blue spray paints on top. Between each coat of spray paint, make sure to spray the water or blended mixture. NOTE: You will need to work quickly to prevent the paint from drying. 
  5. Working quickly, pour between 1/2 cup to 1 cup of Modern Masters Oxidizing Metallic Paint onto the top of your new backdrop.
  6. Taking 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of Modern Masters Aging Patina Solution, drizzle it into the oxidizing paint. Once the mixture is on the sheet, using a paint brush, mix and spread the paint onto the sheet using straight lines until you have coated the entire backdrop.
  7. Spray the water or solution lightly over the top, and allow it to dry.
  8. After it has dried, take the steel wool and use it to add more of the rustic or aged look to the backdrop, or if needed, continue to coat the sheet with paint until it meets your approval.
  9. Once complete, spray the backdrop with a thick coating of Crystal Clear Spray-On Varnish in Matte. NOTE: Do not eat ANY foods that have had any direct contact with the backdrop.

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The drying process depends upon the amount of paint (and layers) used to create your backdrop.

While Lark’s simple technique may have been used to create a rustic inspired backdrop, you can easily alter it to fit a variety of purposes. Once you’ve mastered this simple approach, your backdrop possibilities will be endless.

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