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How to Change a Background in Photoshop for Still Life or Food Photography

Food photography is all about communicating an ambiance or mood. Plating, styling, and props will help, and using the right backdrop can go a long way to tie everything together. Learn how to use Photoshop to change the background without having to buy new ones.

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To have the right background for every shot means having a lot of tabletops, pieces of wood, linen, etc. These things cost and take a lot of space. If you don’t have the budget or storage capacity for it, this article can help you out. By doing a good selection and using layers, I’ll show you how to change your background in Photoshop.

A precise selection is key to change your background

First, you need to be able to work separately on your background, for this, you have to select it. There are many selection tools in Photoshop, feel free to choose the one you want. However, I recommend the pen tool for more advanced selections. If you need some help with it check out: Why Learning the Pen Tool in Photoshop is Worth the Effort.

Image: Use Photoshop selection tools to change your backdrop without affecting your subject

Use Photoshop selection tools to change your backdrop without affecting your subject

Once you’re satisfied you can duplicate the layer by going to Menu-> Layer->Duplicate layer.

Now add a mask by clicking on the Create Mask button from the bottom of the panel. Because you had your subject already selected, it will create the mask with that shape.

From now on, your changes will only be seen on the background that you had selected.

If you would like to understand masks better, check out Photoshop Masks 101.

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Photoshop layers mask help you change the appearance of your background for food photography

Modify the colors to simulate a different background

Now you can freely modify the backdrop using any adjustment layers that control color, brightness, hue, saturation etc.

Just click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer button from the bottom of the Layers panel to see all the choices.

Since you are working on separate layers, your original remains untouched and you can always go back to it if you do something you are not happy with.

Image: Photoshop have many adjustment layers to choose how you want to change your backdrop in food...

Photoshop have many adjustment layers to choose how you want to change your backdrop in food photography

You can add as many layers as you want. For example, I modified the hue and saturation, then added a warming photo filter. Just be sure to always apply the mask to the layer (not the background) or the adjustments will show in the entire image.

A white background is easier to change

For this option, you need to have a texture ready before you start. You can buy them on stock photography websites, or you can make your own. I find it useful to photograph fabrics, wood, stones or anything I can use later so that I have many options available. For inspiration and details, you can read How to Create Your Own Unique Textures and Apply Them To Your Photography.

Image: A white background allows you to incorporate textures and change the background of your food...

A white background allows you to incorporate textures and change the background of your food photography

Select the background like in the other example, only this time it might be easier because of the contrast created by the white background.

Easy to use selection tools like Quick Selection or Color Range can save you a lot of time, just pay attention to the edges and details.

Always zoom in to fine-tune your selection. Then save it by going to the menu Selection->Save Selection.

change-background-in-photoshop

A good selection helps you change only the backdrop with Photoshop tools

Apply your texture as the new backdrop

Now add the texture you chose for your new background. You can do this by going to Edit->Place if you want it as a Smart Object. However, if you don’t plan to modify it then just paste it on top. Either way, it will create a new layer on top that will cover your original image.

Place or paste a texture in Photoshop to use as a new background in your food photography

To give visibility to your subject, load the selection you saved by going to the menu Selection->Load Selection. Then click the Add Mask button like in the first example.

Load a selection and add a mask to see the food on top of the background

Integrate your new background

Now you can see the cherries but they look a bit fake. To improve this, change the layer blending mode. I find Multiply does a very good job for this.

If you want to know more about blending layers watch this Comprehensive Guide to Photoshop Blend Modes.

Once you have done that, you can also adjust the opacity. The shadows now make the photo feel natural.

Use blending modes to incorporate the background and make it more realistic

And you’re done.

It’s that easy to change your background in Photoshop!

If you want you can keep on working on it to make it more dramatic or moody. Make use of adjustment layers, filters, and even more textures until you get the effect that you want.

change-background-in-photoshop

Photoshop allows you to use layers, filters and textures to create special moods in food photography

I hope you liked these ideas and found inspiration to keep on trying different things.

Go out and give it a try, and share your images with us in the comments section!

And to further improve your food photography, I’ll leave you here a list with some great articles.

Recommended readings

 

change-background-in-photoshop

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Ana Mireles

Ana Mireles is a photographer and artistic researcher. She has been awarded and exhibited in Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands. Through theory and practice, she explores the cultural aspect of photography, how it helps us relate to each other, the world, and ourselves. She has also a passion for teaching, communication, and social media. You can find more about her and her work at her website or acquire some of her works here.