The Best Backgrounds At Your Hardware Store

There are certain stores that I can walk into leave with a full shopping cart and wonder, "Where did the last hour and a half go?" This is what happens when I make a trip to my local hardware store. If you are interested in photographing still life, food, or any other table top project, the hardware store is full of inspiration. Let me show an aisle that is filled with amazing ready to go backgrounds.

I'm not sure what the hardware stores are like outside of the United States, but any Lowe's Home Improvement or Home Depot you will have an aisle or two that looks like this.


Above you can see box after box of stone and ceramic tile. Think these are only for your weekend home improvement project? Think again. You are looking at a huge variety of potential backgrounds! Here is the best part. They are cheap! When you are planning on redoing a room, it's a good idea to purchase a few single tiles to see how they will look with your existing kitchen cabinets or bathroom fixtures. Home improvement stores will sell you single piece of tile for anywhere from around a dollar to seven dollars a piece. The price will depend on the size and material that the tile is made of. These single tiles make for great backgrounds! Here is a look at a tile in use.


The tiling aisle is filled with a wide variety of tiles available for you to choose from! Here are a few examples of stone and tile backgrounds that I use on a consistent basis.

Here are a few pointers that will help you select the right tile.

  • I recommend tiles that are 18"x18" or larger. These will provide a large enough shooting areas for most single plate shots. If you want to place several tiles together to make a larger surface, you can usually remove the seem edge in photoshop.
  • Tiles will have either a glossy or matte surface to them. I have found that the matte surfaces are easiest to work with and yield the best results.
  • When using tiles keep in mind that some can be heavy and require a stable surface to put them on.If you can't find the tiles that you are looking for at the hardware store, you can make a trip to a specialty tile and flooring store, they sell sample sizes as well.

If you are looking for more background options for your food and tabletop photography, Issue 7 of photographing FOOD is all about backgrounds! You can buy issues 1-8 in the Fstoppers store.


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Andrew Griswold's picture

Yes! On so many levels. This is one of the best tips I have found in photography. I found a local hardware shop that sells large sheets of vinyl of various textures. So much cheaper than buying the ones at the local photography store.

Topher Kelly's picture

Great Post Taylor. Good stuff

Austin Burke's picture

Wanting to start food photography (still trying to find my niche) and thinking of starting a project taking pictures of food that I am also learning to cook (another nice skill I really need to work on). This will surely help with that project. And best of all the tiles will be easy to store.

Mbutu Namubu's picture

I assisted a food photographer for a couple of years. His entire studio was filled with hardware store supplies. Here's a few things I remember that might help folks that are starting out...

He used 2 adjustable sawhorses with various tops for every "table top" shoot. The sawhorses allowed him to adjust the size and height of every table top to match the shot. Some shoots only needed small tops, others needed larger. So instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, he made a custom sized tabletop for every shoot.

48-inch by 8foot laminate tops are excellent for sweeps. The bulk of his generic stock food photography was done on a white laminate top that was lit overhead with a softbox and then graduated to gray in the background. The way to do this is simply to clamp one side of the laminate to the front of the tabletop and then set up 2 background stands (with a pole) and clamp the other side of the laminate to the pole. Then, the laminate can be used as a sweep and it's curve will depend on how high and how far the background stands are from the table top. Personally, I loved using laminate sweeps because they were cheap, came in many colors, could easily be cut to custom sizes, were easy to clean, and they NEVER wrinkled like paper sweeps.

Hope that might help some folks

Spy Black's picture

Specialty tile shops also typically have a greater variety of tiles to choose from. Don't discount glossy tiles, they are great for jewelry, glass, etc., notably black- and white-lightly patterned gloss tiles.

Mike Newton's picture

I've made several trips to Lowes and Home Depot and picked up some great backdrops to use in my restaurant dish photography after reading your ebooks. Great suggestions as usual my friend!

Andre's picture

awesome idea! I will try it out!

Miguel El Profesor's picture

those pics are appetite killers

Jorge Martin's picture

There are various printed counter tops available in market which looks awesome for photography like Counter on top of aquarium ,Aquarium vanity ,different types of Backslashes and taps of unique designs etc .One must check out the collection of Omicron granite visit