Backgrounds are important no matter what you’re photographing, but especially when photographing products. Layering different elements together can help make for an interesting yet non-distracting background, and can lead to a more “complete” photograph.

When photographing any type of product, it’s important to keep in mind what you’re using for a background. I shoot a lot of my food work in its natural environment, using different textures to add interest.

On a recent food shoot, I worked with owners of an apple orchard who wanted to take advantage of their space for environmental food photography. We talked about using wood pallets to showcase apples, donuts, fudge, pies and more.

But the one thing we needed to find is a background element when shooting the food straight-on. I could’ve used the white walls in the space, or I could’ve put a bunch of apples in the background. But I wanted something with a little more height and interest.

Apples and Boxes

We found some wooden crates that used to hold apples, and set those up. I decided to go with the darkest one I could find, as not to distract from the main products I had to photograph, and to allow for some better contrast off of the wood pallet surface. I filled it with a few apples, and placed it at the very back of the pallet on an angle. This allowed me to get a shallow depth of field, making the main products super sharp and the pallet and apples blurry.

Adding this wooden box added another layer to my photographs, and made them that much more interesting. Instead of photographing with a white wall in the background, the box added to the overall look and feel of the photograph, and made it clear that this place was an apple orchard.

Fudge with boxes and apples

As I photographed different products, I traded out the apples for other food items that were more in line with the main products I was photographing. It was a subtle change, meaning all of the photographs still felt like a “set.”

As you observe the surroundings of your next photo shoot, consider which props might help create a more complete look for your photographs. A little creativity can make all the difference.