Pretty Dishes

Poster Board Photo Setup
April 2, 2010, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Photography

I’m back at it again after a short break focusing my attention elsewhere (apologies). To lead things off I thought I’d share an inexpensive “studio” setup that I’ve used for a number of recent shots. Professional photographers will have a studio space of some kind that involves light boxes, white or color backdrops (image below), reflectors, and other props to enhance any natural light they may be using in order to get a nice shot. Some photographers go for intentional shadows and bold backdrops, but a majority of food photos showcase even lighting and pale backgrounds to really showcase the prepared dish and keep the eye focused.

To that end, as I don’t have an official area I can set aside to use as my “studio,” I typically shoot on my dining room table, which gets lovely natural light via a street-facing picture window. Otherwise I am documenting as I cook in the kitchen (high ceiling with recessed can light fixtures), though the dishes appear as though below a harsh spotlight. In both cases I haven’t had much available to reflect the light sources from other directions, which has made for uneven shadows in photos.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I had the tools to create a small impromptu white “studio” backdrop. I have some large pieces of flexible white poster board, so I taped them together at the back, propped one up perpendicular to the other, and used painter’s tape (since it is removable without tearing the paper) to position the sides to be as flat or rounded as I need. I can use the poster setup as my actual backdrop similar to that used in a studio (directly underneath and behind), or I can simply position it at a distance behind what I’m shooting to act as a reflector for more even light. When I’m done shooting, I just fold the posters flat again and store in the closet.

I love using my old wood kitchen table, which has been passed down through a few generations, and it lends a nice warm and rustic feel to the photos. That being said, featuring the table in every single photo can get tired, so I try to play around with various cutting boards, linens, etc. in its place at times. This poster setup offers yet another alternative. You could also use bedsheets, tablecloths, or other large pieces of (ironed!) fabric to create a seamless backdrop by draping over a chair and setting the finished dish on the seat. (Sheets were my go-to backdrop for dreadfully embarrassing home Glamour Shots of my sister when we were young, naturally.)

Someday I hope I’ll have a space all my own for a permanent studio setup (with all the goodies), but until then, I’ll look for creative, inexpensive solutions that offer variety. Do you have other ideas?


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I am so copying your poster board idea. Brilliant! Did you study photography?

Comment by Christi

Yes, sort of. I took several classes in college and then continued learning on my own over the years. There’s always more to know though!

Comment by prettydishes

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