How to make a photography board

Learn how to make a photography board in these easy steps. 

You may have noticed my recent background board considering it’s been in the last three posts. I’m only slightly obsessed with it. Last week, I alluded to manipulating my husband with mac ‘n cheese to help me out with something. These were that something.

I’ve been wanting more backgrounds forever. I’ve seen and heard about many others make them, I knew it was something I could tackle (with a little help), it was just a matter of actually doing it. Long weekend with a husband off for more than 1 day finally meant it was going to happen.

I won’t pretend to have created this method. I owe pretty much all of the success of these to Lindsay and her awesome post about it but I’m going to detail the process I went through anyway since there were a few tweaks.

First, the materials:

How to make a photography board

There was also some wood glue purchased that went undocumented. I think you know what that looks like though. We went to Lowes and found tongue & groove plank paneling somewhere around the lumber section among a bunch of bead board. I didn’t want traditional bead board because the lines are too close together on it and seem distracting. Planks were perfect. They are about 3 1/2 inches wide and 5/16 inches thick. But, they were 8 feet long. We simply asked the guy in lumber if he’d use the fancy cutting machine to cut it up (while still in the package) since I definitely didn’t need 8 foot long photo boards! I decided on two 2 1/2 foot sections and then one remaining section of 3 feet. The planks cost $15.

For the paint, I just grabbed a few from the sample section of the paint department. The brown is for the undercoat to help make the boards look distressed and the white and turquoise were the two colors I wanted. Pick whatever color you want for your boards just make sure to grab the brown for the base as well. Each paint sample was $2.97.

Making the board:

How to make a photography board at home

This part couldn’t be simpler since the planks were tongue and groove. In theory, you don’t even need glue, but I wanted it for that added support since this wasn’t being nailed to a wall and would be picked up and moved around quite a bit during photography. All I did was spread a thin layer of wood glue on the “tongue” part of each plank before inserting it into the “groove” of the other plank. Make sure you wipe off any excess glue that comes to the surface when inserting them because it will not allow the paint to adhere well in that spot otherwise. I just let it dry for a few hours outside in the sun and it set perfectly.

Base coat:

How to make a photography board at home

The planks were great in every aspect except they looked brand spankin’ new (which they were, duh) so the brown paint goes on first to help get that “distressed” look. I mixed the brown paint with water in about a 50/50 ratio like Lindsay suggested and painted it on one board at a time. With a bunch of paper towels nearby, I just wiped off the brown plank by plank. You can see the difference from the first picture which is pre-wiping and the second which is post-wiping. It goes from looking painted to looking stained. Perfect. I did this for all the planks and then let it dry. Since it’s such a thin layer, it dries very quickly (15-20 minutes).

Top coat in turquoise:

How to make a photography board look distressed

Now the fun part, color! This part also scared the heck out of me because you want a distressed look and it takes careful effort to make it look that way. This time, I poured the paint (no diluting with water) into the tray, took my brush and quickly, without too much paint on the brush, spread the paint in uneven brush strokes up and down each panel. Like Lindsay says in her post, you can always add more paint but you can’t take it off so start with less and then decide if you want more.

Top coat in white:

DIY photography board

I did the same thing with the white board. Here you can see on the left my method a little more clearly. I put just a touch of paint on the tip of the brush, dotted it on the plank and then brushed it together. This helps the first area that your brush hits not to be completely coated.

And that’s it! It was way easier than I thought it would be and truth be told, I didn’t really need Ulysses’ help too much so he’s lucky he got mac ‘n cheese out of the whole ordeal. Once we figured out the right planks in Lowes I was able to do this by myself.

Here’s some behind the scenes of where I shoot:

DIY photography board

People ask me all the time if I have a light box, where I shoot, how I shoot… Here it is folks. My dining room table. A white tablecloth, 2 white foam boards from CVS as a light bounce held up by the HP box my laptop came in, towels, photo boards and props scattered about and the piece de resistance…a nice big window that gets light from about 9-6pm. This room is in a constant state of disarray with the curtain always pulled back, the chairs away from the table and crumbs from shoots all over the floor. Ginger likes it in there.

And the finished product being used:

DIY photography board

Funny how much the color of that smoothie changes when I switch the side of the table I’m taking the picture from, isn’t it? Independently you would probably never notice, but side by side it’s quite apparent. And that’s why I end up with 45 pictures of the same thing and eyes bugging out of my head while editing at 9pm every night.


  1. Katie @ Nutrition in a Peanut Shell

    I love this SO very much. I am {almost} obsessed with seeing how people set up their food shots, because I can never seem to get it right! If I get light to come through my windows at a strong enough interval, it’s always too harsh and creates shadows on my food. After seeing this, I think I might finally go out and purchase those foam boards instead of using the poster I have. Thanks Gina!

  2. katie @KatieDid

    Like you I’ve been wanting and meaning to do this for so long! I’ve sort of used my one distressed wood board for WAY too many pictures at this point. I’ve never read through a whole post about this technique though and now it looks so easy. This week it has to happen! Now I just have to pick the colors.

  3. Margarita

    Nice tutorial Gina and also I love the color that you picked. It is so fun to see how people photograph their food and to learn about how they play with light and stuff like that. I have yet to learn and I think the first step is getting a better camera. I know you hear this often enough but I really love your pictures. You also have an eye for decorating your background and I love that. I can probably learn to play with light and angles someday but background stuff is something that comes with an eye, which I don’t have.

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      Thanks, Margarita. It’s funny b/c the background stuff is the hardest part for me. I’m not naturally artist nor do I have that kind of “eye”. I can barely draw a stick figure on paper. Seriously. I get a lot of inspiration from other food blogs and then use what I see and make it my own somehow. coming up with “original” staging is hard! (at least for me)

  4. Averie @ Averie Cooks

    Love this post! Have seen Lindsay and Lori/recipegirl’s post on making boards and I think Todd & Diane have one, too….I just have never embarked. This makes me want to though!

    I love the shots of your room and your house. And a window that gets perfect light basically all day…wow…that is worth the price of your rent, right there!!

    Thanks for all the step by step pics (I know it’s not easy to put your camera down every 3 seconds and take a picture but it’s appreciated).

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      yeah, I love my light :) Like I said to Brittany’s comment, I totally lucked out. It’s not like I was blogging or even into photography before we bought this house so I definitely wasn’t even thinking about light then!

  5. Cait's Plate

    Love it! I always want to do this but it just seems so time consuming. It definitely looks beautiful though!

  6. Kelly @ No Sugar Sweet Life

    Once you mentioned this was a “photoboard” I was totally intrigued and was going to ask you how you did it… and voila! You were reading my mind :) Thanks for the in depth tutorial. I LOVE your turquoise board and now I might just have to make one for myself… or maybe red.

  7. Brittany @ Eating Bird Food

    Thanks for such a great tutorial. I love the turquoise board. I want to make a coral one!!

    I absolutely adore our house but the one negative is that there really isn’t anywhere good inside to take photos. Even our dining room doesn’t get much light because we’re in a row house. I have to go outside to take all my photos. :/

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      If you make a coral one I want to see it! It sounds like it would be so pretty. I have one set of planks left but I can’t decide on what color I want to do last. I struggle with outside photos so much, I don’t know how you do it! I find the lighting to be so much more harsh outside and then there’s the whole food + outside = bugs thing which drives me nuts. I totally lucked out with the light in our house. It’s not like I was blogging when we bought it so I wasn’t even thinking about that then, but it’s nice to have b/c it’s something you definitely can’t change unfortunately.

  8. Miriam @ Bellaspire

    I love reading about how you shoot!! I have even shared your website with my photography teacher with the subject “I want to be like her when I grow up.” I’m obsessed with your turquoise backdrop, how summery!

  9. Valerie @ From Valerie's Kitchen

    There is so much good information in this post that I had to Pin it. I was just complaining to my husband that either we had to move or hire a tree trimmer because I need MORE light!!! I think we’ll go with the tree trimmer. I’m also in the process of moving my picture taking area to my dining room so I was happy to see how you’ve got yours set up. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Vicky

    Great tutorial! I really need to step it one and make some photography boards but laziness and procrastination always gets the best of me so I just end up taking food photos on my balcony over a cutting board! I do need to get it together though!

  11. Rachel @ Baked by Rachel

    I’m completely in love with yours. Like I told you earlier -I did one I’m not crazy about and am really not sure if it can be fixed. You’re brilliant for using tongue and groove boards instead of having to glue a sets together. I should just start from scratch ;)

  12. Rene@gold coast personal trainers

    HI! I just searched“How to make a photography board” and came accross your post! You did such a fantastic job that I’m going to have to case! your directions are very clear – I can’t wait to try it this weekend. Thanks for the EXCELLENT tutorial.

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  15. Lee at Veggie Quest

    Gina, this is SO helpful–thanks for posting! I’ve been wanting to make a distressed wood background for ages now, and your step-by-step tutorial is perfect. This is going to be my weekend project! I loved seeing your photography setup, too. It looks slightly classier than mine–unless I’m photographing outside, I use a card table in my living room. ;-)

  16. Kristy

    Hi! I saw your idea on Pinterest and clicked to check it out because I make vinyl backdrops and love seeing textures like this. You should consider vinyls. I have 1000’s of designs, they are super cheap for a product photography size and roll to store easily. My website is or you can find me on facebook.

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  22. Sacred

    I have had this post in my pinterest board for a long time. I finally decided to do it and I am so happy with the outcome! I really appreciate you putting all the details from the steps to the exact items to purchase. I posted a couple of images on facebook would love for you to take a look and see what you inspired.

    Thanks again!


  23. Steph

    What an awesome tutorial! For everyone’s reference, you can often find these boards in the clearance section bin at Home Depot and Lowe’s sometimes. It doesn’t hurt to look there!


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