Inexpensive Photography Backdrops & Tips for Homestead Bloggers

Over ten years ago, I began my blogging journey. In the beginning, it was just words. I allowed words to flow out of me and used stock photos if I needed them. Sometimes, I didn’t even use photos. The people who read blogs back then were people who simply enjoyed reading—with or without photos. They were people who enjoyed connecting with pleasant words and stories, like on the pages of a novel. But fast forwarding to today, now days, you have to be a photographer in order to have a successful blog—or at least take exceptionally good cell phone photos.

Seeing as I’m a professional photographer, this isn’t an issue for me. Though sometimes, it can be frustrating to have to break out the “real” camera. Even so, I still need inexpensive ways to make my photos look great.

As a homesteader, we try to be self-sufficient and recycle whatever we can. The same goes for our blogs and photos. No one wants to see a photo of your freshly made perfect pie on a dark dirty oven top caked in flour remnants and last nights dinner. I mean, I do, because that’s real life, but if you want to get any actual “hits” on the post, you better clean up and tighten up that lighting! As a homesteader, who the heck has time to do that? You just want to throw down a backdrop over top of it all or in front of a window, and let the world think your house is in order when it’s really dirty as all get out.

Yep, you know it. I said it. Amen.
As a photographer and homesteader, I’ve found some pretty cost effective and beautiful backdrops to use over the past few years, and I decided I’d share some of them with you!

Use What You Have

One of your greatest assets is that you’re a homesteader. This means you have all kinds of junk laying around. You probably have some old barn wood pieces, some clean flour cloth dish towels, or maybe some antique wooden crates.
That’s what I used in the two photos above. Just two old wooden crates, side by side, in the first photos. The first (main) photo will actually be the photo wrap for my upcoming cookbook. In the second photo, I used two different crates, and stacked one behind the other. You can find these super cool brew or kombucha bottles here.
Here are some of the things that I typically have laying around that I use the most.
  • wooden crates
  • barn wood or wood remnants
  • Flour Sack Dish Towels
  • Vintage Dish Towels
  • antique plates (ex: blue willow)
  • my tile floor in my kitchen
  • old baking sheet
  • your own wood flooring in your home
  • my deck and/or stairs (wood)
You can spice things up by adding herbs, branches, leaves, berries, and more—scattered about.

Purchasing Inexpensive Backdrops

If what you have laying around doesn’t work for you, then you can purchase inexpensive, and multi-use, backdrops from your local hardware or specialty store. One of my favorite things to use, as seen above, are scatter rugs. You can purchase different types and colors of scatter rugs very inexpensively at your local big chain hardware store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. I purchased the above rug for less than $6 on sale. So, I bought two! They are thick and durable, and easy to clean.
Another option, along the same lines as the scatter rug, are table runners. Table runners are a dime a dozen during the holidays. You can get some pretty exceptional runners on clearance after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Actually, I bought the table runner in the photo above out of the $1 bin at Target this year. It allows you to add dimension, be it on a wooden kitchen table, or on a different kind of backdrop.
Here are some item’s I’ve purchased inexpensively to use as backdrops.
  • Burlap (from your local craft store or online)
  • Cheese cloth
  • Scatter Rugs
  • Slate pieces
  • Bricks

Lighting, Editing, and Camera Equipment

While backdrops are inexpensive and fabulous, they won’t make a bit of difference if you don’t have some knowledge of lighting. And if you’re looking for a true pro look, you may even need to invest in some camera equipment. If you already have a DSLR camera (or are thinking about investing in one), this section is for you.
When taking a photo, I always use natural light. I have never had to use artificial lighting in any of my photos. Ever. Not once.
I accomplish this by taking all of my photos next to a large window where lots of light comes through. If the light is too much, you can drape a white sheet over it, as I did in this photo above. This creates an illuminating effect, and produces beautiful shadows. There is a common misconception that your product or subject in the photo has to be fully illuminated, and that’s just not true. The best photos have depth, and shadows are necessary. In the photo above, the window is off to the side, which creates shadows for the eggs and other food. Drawing your focus in on the center of the photo.
You can also note the depth of field is very shallow. For people who aren’t photographers — “that blurry stuff there in the background.” Most people want to learn how to create a depth of field, meaning having the focus on one thing, while all other things begin to blur out. This is naturally created through the camera lens. You can manually create it while editing, but the effect is not the same, as it creates no depth, just focus.
Your next important step is editing. Many people enjoy editing through free photo editing apps and programs. But if you’re serious about your photos, I highly suggest investing into Photoshop Elements. It is not nearly as expensive as other photoshop programs, and it is a one time fee. You can even find an older version—I use version 10 often, simply because I’ve never upgraded.
I would also encourage you to shoot in RAW with your DSLR instead of jpg if you plan to edit your photos. It allows you to easily manipulate the lighting and doesn’t compress the photo as bad as a jpg. And I would also encourage you to learn out to shoot in manual mode, allowing you to focus where you want to focus, and more.
Here are some equipment recommendations.
Ultimately, making sure that your lighting is correct, and that your backdrop is pretty or interesting—creating depth with layers—are the two key components you need to a beautiful homestead blog photo. If you can nail those, you’re on a pretty good path to becoming a little more involved in your photo taking skills for your blog!
Enjoy the little things, and remember every now and then to show the real mess in the midst of the pretty. Because, while beautiful photos get lots of traffic on websites, being raw and real every now and then gets even more.

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  1. It took me a few years to learn about these little tricks! I think one of my favorite is to use pretty dish towels or flour sacks. I did find some amazing thin pieces of wood slates (for $18 bucks) at Home Depot. I bought one and polyurethaned it, and now it’s the perfect backdrop for my photos! Hoping to do something to the backside to make it a dual sided.

    Thanks for the tips!

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