There are a several websites that discuss choosing vinyl backdrops for food photography, but you will be sadly disappointed if you think that this is something that is a hot topic for taking pictures of your cakes and/or gumpasting projects. Therefore, I thought I would share with you what I have learned to date. Okay, it’s more like a guidance course to help you to avoid making the mistakes I’ve made along the way.
The Correct Size
As you may know if you’ve ever taken pictures of your cakes there is one big issue that food photographers usually don’t have to deal with and that is height. But I think it is safe to say most cakes are a minimum of 8” tall. Add to that a three-inch-plus cake pedestal and adorn it with a cake topper you can see what I mean about elevation being an issue. So, a small 2 feet by 2 feet vinyl backdrop is not going to work for most cake photo shoots as it might for a plated food shoot.
When I bought my first vinyl sheets I relied on the guidance that I gleaned from the food blogs. I also wanted to keep the cost down, so I opted for some smaller sheets since they were less expensive. That was my first mistake (sigh) since they do not accommodate the taller projects. The lesson here is that it is better to err purchasing a larger sized one than to try and save a few dollars trying to get by with the smaller sized sheets that will ultimately not do the job correctly.
Even though these vinyl sheets come in sizes ranging from 2 feet to 8 feet (or more) it turns out for me the perfect size is 4 feet by 4 feet. I can use it as a backdrop and/or a table drop and for smaller pieces I can even create a photography sweep. This size allows me ample room to back away and capture the whole cake/creation and still have the background completely covered with the backdrop. The only downside about this larger size is that it is heavy and quite a bit harder to maneuver than the smaller pieces.
Which Color, Texture and/or Design are Best?
I think I will start out with this pearl of wisdom: “Less is More”. I wish I had followed these sage words of advice in the beginning, but I was influenced by what I saw being used by food stylists. Here is what I suggest you do before you make your selection(s) in these very tempting backdrop candy stores. First look at some of your favorite cake designers and see what colors, designs, textures they are using. For example, it appears to me the very talented Shannon Bond uses mostly a slate grey backdrop (I’m not sure if it is vinyl), which is a fabulous and very flexible color for her very cutting-edge cakes. To see what I mean visit her wedding gallery.
Then think about what styles of cakes you make. I like to remind myself at this point that the cake should definitely be the star of the show, so maybe go easy on those backdrops with all the fancy bells and whistles (you’ll know what I mean once you visit any of these stores). Another advantage to keeping it simple is that these backdrops will just blend in which is important if you are using them on a website photo gallery. It could be overkill if you have a majority of photos with that same sweet pink bokeh background going on.
If you choose to only acquire a couple of backdrops, I would suggest you go with solid neutral colors such as: white, grey and/or a tan/beige hue. Since I lean more to the fluffier side I have realized that for me a light blue, light pink, pastel green and tan/beige gives me a very nice selection for use in a wide variety of cakes/projects. I have opted for some texture on the green and tan ones and the reason is I feel it gives them a little more character. I especially like the tan one because this grungy effect sort of gives the impression of sand or gravel. Happily, these new colors go nicely with the ones I already own.
If bling is your thing you will be dazzled by the whole array of lovely sheets with glitter and bokeh. If you want a rustic look there are bricks, wooden planks/slats, tiles, etc. There are even decorative patterns. Unfortunately, here is where I made what I consider my biggest mistake when purchasing these vinyl backdrops. I saw a damask pattern that I thought would be very attractive behind my projects. As it turned out the vendor’s photo was a bit misleading to me because it appeared that it was going to be a small, delicate pattern (see below photo)! In reality it is a very large 4” x 8” design which is quite an overpowering pattern for most of my creations and cakes. The take away from this slip-up is to always contact the vendor about the exact size of these designs/patterns, wooden planks/slats, bricks, etc. because in my estimation the scaling of these photos can be unclear if you rely solely on a website’s photo!
Square or Rectangle?
Some companies offer rectangles and they can be slightly less expensive than square ones since there is less material and cheaper to ship. If you are planning to get one with a design/pattern or wood planks/slats you will need to know in which direction (vertical or horizontal) you want them to go in the rectangle because it can impact how you set the sheet up for your photography sessions. With a square one though, this will not pose a problem as you a can use it either way. Sadly, I did order a rectangle, and as it turns out I really could have used that extra foot I forfeited by not selecting the square. So for me, the savings wasn’t really worth it in the end.
Shipping and Discounts
When pricing out these sheets also check out the shipping costs as they can add up quickly since these are relatively heavy items to ship. By all means find out if the vendor offers a discount if you are purchasing more than one at a time. Since the shipping would be less for sending multiple pieces in the same container as opposed to shipping them individually it makes more sense to order your additional backdrops at the same time, but only if you are positive you know which colors, texture, etc. you really want. Otherwise you may want to take the cautious route and buy them individually since these backdrops cannot be returned because they are considered custom orders.
Everyone likes to save money, so I suggest you be sure to check out these company’s’ Facebook pages (if they have one) and look to see if they are offering any special promotions or discounts. I personally like a straight percentage discount across the board instead of the buying four and getting one of them free offer because it can sometimes be a hassle at checkout sealing the deal. Not to mention, you may not be ready to commit to four right then.
My Closing Thought
I really hope this posting helps you select the perfect vinyl backdrop(s) for your cakes. For me writing this article has been a therapeutic experience because I wanted to kick myself whenever I thought about and/or saw my various costly mistakes. The good news is now I can feel a sense of closure knowing that by sharing the things I wished I had known ahead of time that it will maybe help you make the right choices!
Source for My Favorite Backdrops