How to Choose the Background for Your Still Life Images - Part 1


I'm often asked about the backgrounds I use for my photos.

In this series, I'll share the items I use when creating my still life images.

Most of these items you might find at home. Otherwise I find stores like Kmart and Target have a great variety of products that are perfect for backgrounds.


Firstly, I always try to use what I already have on hand. Which is probably why I gravitate towards darker backgrounds - my kitchen benchtop is black.

What I love about taking my images in the kitchen is that there is a lot of space to work with when using a benchtop. The other thing I love is the reflection.


Canon 7D    |    Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro    |    f/11    |    2.5 sec    |    ISO 100

Canon 7D    |    Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro    |    f/8    |    2.5 sec    |    ISO 100

Canon 7D    |    Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro    |    f/8    |    15 sec    |    ISO 100

And depending on the time of day and where the light is coming from in relation to the subject, the glossy background can take on a completely different colour, almost like a mirror.

Canon 5D Mark III    |    Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro    |    f/2.8    |    1/30 sec    |    ISO 1600

And of course being in the kitchen means you can take those food photos, even the messy ones.

iPhone 5C    |    Snapseed


In keeping with the darker theme, another background I often use are black boards.

My favourite is actually a cupboard door that was made as a sample for our kitchen. One side is glossy, while the other is matte. The other board I use is a foam core board that I picked up at my local Officeworks store.


What I love about using these boards, is that you can get a seamless dark background in your images.  The black really brings out the colours and shadows, giving your images a dark and moody feel.

To prevent your subject from looking too dark, I recommend placing the set up near a window. You could also try using a reflector to bounce light from the window back onto your subject.


Canon 5D Mark III    |    Canon 50mm f/1.4    |    f/3.5    |    1/200 sec    |    ISO 2000

Canon 5D Mark III    |    Canon 40mm f/2.8    |    f/8    |    0.8 sec    |    ISO 200

iPhone SE    |    ProCamera

Canon 5D Mark III    |    Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L @65mm    |    f/7.1    |    1/100 sec    |    ISO 1600

A plain, black background is also handy when you want to add texture during the editing process.

iPhone 5C    |    Mextures


Of course if you prefer lighter images, you could use white boards.  I use foam core boards from Officeworks.


Canon 5D Mark III    |    Canon 50mm f/1.4    |    f/8    |    1/60 sec    |    ISO 2500

Canon 5D Mark III    |    Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro    |    f/3.2    |    1/100 sec    |    ISO 800

Canon 5D Mark III    |    Canon 50mm f/1.4    |    f/5.6    |    1/80 sec    |    ISO 400

iPhone 5C    |    Snapseed

Just like a black board, white boards are great for adding textures to your images.

iPhone SE    |    Mextures


As you can see, I always try to keep my backgrounds as simple as possible to make my subjects stand out.

I hope this post has given you some ideas for your still life photos.

In part 2, I'll be sharing more creative ways for using backgrounds in your images.

Thanks for reading and remember to make everyday beautiful.