One question I get asked time and time again is how do I get my backgrounds to look the way they do. So here is a quick summary of some of the things I use and tips to make it work for you.
If you want to have a blurred background with your subject then there needs to be a combination of things going on. Firstly it helps to be able to put some distance between your subject and the backdrop when you have a subject such as a vase of flowers. Put your still life too near the background and your macro lens will pick up every detail on the background as well as the subject. With food images your background will likely become a part of your frame so you will inevitably pick up some of its texture. Therefore it’s a good idea to find or create some interesting backgrounds.
Next choose a few aperture settings that will keep your subject crisp but also throw a blur on the background and the foreground. This choice will of course depend on the subject and the amount of detail. With a shot like the one of the raspberries for example you might choose to bracket the exposure. I took three shots at f14, f16, and f18. Lighting is the next big component that makes your shot. Use your exposure compensation dial to get the desired light on the subject and background. I often work two stops up or two stops down to get the best combination of light, tone and depth.
Backgrounds don’t have to be expensive. Check out my video and blog post about making and painting your own backgrounds here
For the raspberry shot above I used a bathroom floor tile that had a mottled effect. You can pick up sample wall and floor tiles quite cheaply at most DIY stores and they are great for close up work. I also buy plywood board at about £8.00 a board and cut it in to two and I paint on both sides using various colours. See the examples below for some effective results.
The most inexpensive way to create a background is to purchase Daler Art Board. You can buy it from most craft and art suppliers. The downside is that it will get scratched and messed up quite quickly but it is so cheap you can just replace it every few months. If you have space to keep backgrounds then I would suggest using the plywood board and painting on your own colours. The benefit with this option is that you can simply repaint over any scuffs and marks.
Post Production obviously helps too. I use a mixture of adjustments in Photoshop and I sometimes use the free filters available in the Google Nik Collection. Although Google have no plans to update this collection of filters I really do like them and they give some really fantastic results. And yes i did say they were FREE!