Hi everyone, Jason here! That’s right, I’m the guy that brings you our monthly income reports. But guess what!? This time, I’m stopping by to share a different type of insight into our blog.
Are you thinking about creating a wooden background for yourself to take food pictures on? Well, if you happen to be a DIY person (or know someone) then I highly recommend building your own reversible food photography table top. A good table combined with the right lights can dramatically increase the quality of your photos.
Let’s face it, most of us don’t have access to incredible pieces of wood. I’m talking about those wooden background boards you see in culinary magazines or on popular blogs. You know the ones that look like they were sitting outside an old barn and exposed to the elements for decades. They all seem to have an incredibly weathered patina look that’s capable of taking an ordinary bowl of mac & cheese and making it look insanely sophisticated, elegant, and even rustic.
When Jessica started this blog in 2012, we were using a simple white Ikea table top that gave off a very modern feel, but comfort food pics just didn’t look right. Then came imitation wooden porcelain tiles from HomeDepot, which served us well for over a year, and at $2 per plank these were a great deal. Although, there just wasn’t enough texture to the wood grains and sometimes a bit too much light would reflect off the porcelain that was a dead giveaway it was fake.
As my appreciation and interest in food, photography began to grow I looked for ways to get better. One thing I realized was how important the presentation of the entire picture was. That got me started on paying attention to photography backgrounds more. Have you ever gone to FoodGawker and scanned all the table tops without actually looking at the food? Yeah, I’m weird like that. It’s kinda interesting when you begin to notice all the unique backgrounds people are using.
Here’s one of the boards I created for about $25:
So of course, I turned to Google and started looking into it. I came across a few bloggers like Confections of a Foodie Bride, Love & Olive Oil and SemiSweet that were sharing how they created their own table tops. It looked fairly easy enough, so I set out and built my own but with a slight twist as I wanted a more weathered look to it.
Ready to get started? Let’s go…
Before we begin, take note of the required tools and equipment needed. This DIY project requires a trip to your local hardware store for these essential items.
At this point, you want to decide how large you want your table. I choose to make my table as close to 30″ x 30″ as possible.
- 13′ Pine Wood Planks (4″ wide x 3/4″ thick)
- 13′ Pine Wood Planks (3″ wide x 3/4″ thick)
- 6′ Pine Wood Planks (3/4″ wide x 3/4″ thick)
- Wood Glue
- Foam Brush
- Screws (1 1/4″ long)
- Stain or Paint
- Sand Paper – Medium Grit (80-120)
FYI – I created two table tops. One that was made up of all 4″ wide planks and one that was made up with a combination of 4″ & 3″ wide planks. Regardless if you are creating one table top or several, take a minute to sketch out and do the math on how many feet of wood you’re going to need.
You will also need these additional tools, but hopefully, you can find them in your garage:
- Tape Measure
- Bag of screws/sharp objects (chain link will work too)
Measure and cut the pine boards 30″ long (again, the length is adjustable to your desired size – just make sure you have enough wood!).
Using a sharp wood carving knife or chisel, scrap the corners of each plank. Don’t feel you have to make smooth edges, we’re going for that grungy, gritty worn out look.
Now take the sandpaper and lightly smooth the edges, you just want to remove any dangling pieces of wood that are about to fall off. Then scuff the surface of the planks to create a little more texture.
Now the fun part. Using a bag of screws or chain link, jump on those objects to create unique markings, scratches, and indents. I’m serious, stomp away, this will speed up the aging process and give your table top that individual character. You could even use a drill with the smallest bit and make holes in the wood that look like termites created them.
It’s best to work on all the edges and create all those surface markings before you put the table together.
Using the small 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 35″ square wooden end piece, pre-drill holes using a 1/8″ drill bit. This will prevent the screws from splitting the wood as you fasten the planks together. I typically use two screws for each board on the ends and 1 screw for the middle boards.
Screw the first board to the end piece, then use a little wood glue for extra strength on the side of the planks, so they stay together tightly. Wipe off any excess glue and just continue down the line fastening each board together.
Since I was making two photography table tops, I decided to stain two sides and paint two sides. I used the following colors:
- Varathane’s “American Walnut” wood stain
- Varathane’s Weathered Gray” wood stain
- Ralph Lauren “white” paint
- Behr’s “Sea Life” paint
Using your desired paint or stain, begin to brush the color on one plank at a time starting from one end and working your way to the other. I highly recommend you test the color on a scrap piece of wood first so you get an idea of how it will show up.
NOTE: For the stain finishes, I chose to apply the color and then wipe off the excess paint with a rag right away so that I could still see the wood pattern beneath. I went back and put a second coat on but only in select spots to give it that unique look. For the paint finishes, I chose to add a little bit of water to dilute the paint so that I could still see the wood pattern beneath.
Since your table top is reversible, allow the first side to dry completely before applying paint or stain to the opposite side.
That’s it, and now you have a food photography table top to use for your next photo shoot. I also recommend investing in a set of Lowel EGO lights. They give off a nice soft light that will elevate your photo quality even more.
No problem! You can try those porcelain tiles I mentioned above, or some of our friends on Food Blogger Pro were recommending vinyl wood backdrops from Ink & Elm and Swanky Prints. But if you decide you want real wood, then Erickson Wood Works has a collection of handmade backgrounds that are worth checking out.
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