1 subject shot 5 ways - using colour theory in food photography through backdrops

1 subject shot 5 ways - using colour theory in food photography through backdrops


Hey hey, thanks for stopping by! Sophie here and a really quick post today to share some recent shots I created, testing out colour theory through backdrop choices and some neat tricks I notice many food photographers and bloggers use to make their food POP!

Basically, I felt inspired and had a play! It's not often that inspiration and time align for me around client work and thinking about their projects - often using my creative juices up - so this little pocket of time, shooting purely for pleasure and to experiment felt like a real luxury.  (I did wonder a few times though if ice cream wasn't perhaps the best subject to try to shoot for an entire afternoon! Queue a rummage through our cupboards and some shop-bought mini meringues to rescue my last set-ups with an ad-hoc Eaton Mess dessert. Still tasty though, hey?!)


So my first set up and colour technique was to use monochromatic colours - keeping all colour the same, led by the hero colour - the deep pink of the raspberries.

This meant staying in the same (or very similar) hue or tone, and keeping it all either pink (like the backdrop) or neutral (almost a non-colour - think wood, metal, whites and soft sands). like the props.

This is a very classy trick used over and over again by both food bloggers and brands - keeping everything aligned in the same but softer colours to support the hero which will always be the strongest saturation of the colour you're working with. And it works don't you think?

When using this colour theory you can also afford to tint the entire image towards your hero colour - you may notice the white plate looks warmer in this shot than the one below? That's because I have tweaked the 'tint' and 'temp' a little to allow a slightly warm,  pink hue across the entire image, pulling it all together more.


food styling colour theory product photography backdrop background hintergrund fond studio stand photographer stylist

Shot on the 'PUGLIA' mixed pink painted wood effect backdrop available in eco-friendly paper and waterproof vinyl



For my second idea, I wanted to use complementary colour in the backdrop, so looked at opposite colours to my deep pink hero - and that was greens and turquoise blues

I went for a slightly cooler colour, maybe a little more icy blue as I just love that contrast with the raspberries.  I also made the pink slightly more purple to feel a bit more modern and edgy - I don'd mind an obviously edited look sometimes, especially when the aesthetic is modern and poppy which I think a plain colour backdrop really brings.

So here we have pretty much the same set up, just on a different backdrop and the hero colour edited too - a completely different vibe right?!


Shot on a 206. CUSTOM COLOUR backdrop available in eco-friendly paper and waterproof vinyl



For the third look I went for analogous - or similar - colours by choosing a deep pink/purple backdrop and then used another food blogger trick of making all the props black or grey

This means that all the colour is in either the subject or the backdrop and they REALLY stand out in the image and grab your attention.  The trick is to make the backdrop colour slightly softer/darker and ensure the highest contrast is in the areas you want people to focus on - the food!  

A good test for any image - to see where the attention will go first - is to squint at it and note what still stands out to you.  This will be the areas of highest contrast and sharpest focus - that's where your hero should be!

Another editing tip! Clean up your cutlery from reflected colour by using a brush mask and desaturating it - makes such a difference to elevate your images and only takes a few seconds.


Shot on the 'BRAY' deep pink/purple hand-painted effect backdrop available in eco-friendly paper and waterproof vinyl



For my 4th look, I just wanted to take this set up one step further by editing the backdrop to match the hero colour of the raspberries closer - so going back to a monochromatic look rather than analogous. 

This trick of using similar colours, a dark backdrop and grey/black props is very popular with top foodie photographers and actually quite easy to achieve - just make sure your light is coming in low from any side (not high, over your set) so you get lots of long, deep shadows and contrasting highlights on the tallest bits.

Blocking light coming onto the backdrop next to your light (or window) or positioning the light to come up slightly from below your set level will also leave the base backdrop looking softer and darker.

This is perhaps my fave version of all 5! What do you think? 


Shot on the 'BRAY' deep pink/purple hand-painted effect backdrop available in eco-friendly paper and waterproof vinyl and edited to make more red!



And finally, for version 5 we've switched the same set up over to a black backdrop so now the ONLY colour is in the food - bold but effective no?!

This is another classic styling move to make the hero immediately pop and really celebrate its colours - one for beautiful and rare produce for sure!

Does this approach to colour have its limitations? Maybe, but for making a big and instant impact on social media where graphic images of only a few colours do best (statistically, not just my opinion!) this is a winning strategy.



Shot on the 'KYOTO' black hand-painted effect backdrop available in eco-friendly paper and waterproof vinyl 



Another thing to mention is that of course you can now have all of our designs created in ANY colour you like - so there are no limits on how far you can take your colour theory - make your backdrops matchy-matchy or contrast as much as you like!

You can find our custom backdrop options here - there are flat colours, 3D effects and more.


I hope you've enjoyed seeing the results of my little experiment and find the tips useful! Comment below if you have any questions :)

Happy styling,



Like my styling and photography work? You can book me here or learn with me here!



Gorgeous photos Sophie and lots of wonderful tips . Thank you 😊

Jane H
Jane H

very inspiring and have bookmarked it for future reference! Thank you Sophie for the excellent tips and ideas, I always love reading your posts.

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