Aged wood backgrounds really bring character to a food photograph. Sometimes I make my wood backgrounds and other times I hunt high and low for perfectly aged wood planks. In this post I will share with you my hunt for beautiful wood backgrounds.
Now, please keep in mind I live in the Los Angeles area. This means I can’t just go to the horse barn down the road and rummage around behind the barn for some old fencing wood planks that someone left there for a few years. Can you tell I didn’t grow up here 🙂
This means I have to go to wood salvage yards where someone else in a different state, went to the barn down the road, shipped the wood to LA, and cleaned it up by taking most of the nails out and removing some of the mud. We now have to pay dearly for this. However, in the scale of salvaged wood yards, you have your more affordable places, and the crazy expensive kind of places.
You see, genuinely aged wood is very hard to fake when you are not painting it with 100% paint coverage. It’s a little easier to make a wood background look distressed with paint. But, there is that beautiful patina that painted wood has when it’s been outside for a while. That kind of look takes a lot of work to make it look genuine.
I had a job with a major client last week and I had to look for fully weathered gray wood – no paint. Very hard to fake this with new wood. There’s a very rough texture that weathering does to the wood grain that I don’t know how you could create in one day – that’s how much time I had to make the wood surface.
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Silverado Salvage & Design
My good friend and prop stylist, Amy Paliwoda told me about her favorite place, Silverado Salvage in Vernon, CA. If you’ve never been to Vernon, it is a city that has block after block of massive warehouses and no grass. The roads are filled with huge trucks and there’s loads of traffic all day long. You just have to be patient because once you get to Silverado’s, it’s worth the drive.
Silverado Salvage doesn’t just salvage wood. They salvage anything and everything.
Need a window? They only have a few thousand of them.
Need a door? Yeah, they only have a couple of those too 🙂
Sorry! I digress! I just had to share with you all the fun, fabulous things they have. OK, now onto what we really came here for. Beautiful salvaged wood planks.
Aren’t those gorgeous?! These planks came from various places across the country. Now, you need to know, there are two ways they price this kind of recycled or salvaged wood. Priced by the linear foot or priced by the square foot. In my experience, all salvage yards do this. The more beautiful and thicker the wood, then it’ll be priced by the linear foot and it can get expensive very fast.
At some salvage yards, I’ve seen wood planks priced at $20/linear foot. At Silverado’s, the range was about $4 – to $14 a linear foot.
Above is the surface I had cut down for me. The guys working there are really nice and very helpful and they will cut planks down for you. I used six of these planks to make a nice surface. We negotiated a bit and I got this surface for $70. These are old wood flooring planks.
They have things coming in all the time and they had just gotten these very interesting pine wood planks in. Very beautiful, but didn’t have the right texture that I was looking for on the surface for my photo shoot.
The next salvage yard I went to only sold wood, lots of it. Treeline Woodworks in Los Angeles. They have all kinds of salvaged wood stacked up in their wood yards.
They have so much wood that they have to stack it in batches and move it around with a fork lift. You need to allow time for them to get to the wood you want. Then they let you go through the boards to pick the ones you want.
Their pricing was by the square foot. I paid $8/sq foot and I ended up getting 5 planks of three different colors. I got planks that were about 5 feet in length so that I knew I could do a table setting, like you see below.
The wood surface image above has perfectly aged wood that had old white paint on it from Treeline Woodworks. These planks were from a fence they took apart.
The wood planks above are what I used in my lobster shots. Keep in mind your lighting will totally shift how things look, so that’s why the shot above looks different from the wood in the lobster shot.
Three different sets of wood planks for surfaces I picked out.
To find these kinds of wood surfaces and backgrounds in your area, here are the search phrases you have to use in Google:
- Salvaged wood yards + your city
- Reclaimed wood planks + your city
- Reclaimed wood siding + your city
- Reclaimed barn wood + your city
- Reclaimed barn wood siding + your city
- Reclaimed wood surfaces + your city
- Reclaimed wood flooring + your city – I use a lot of wood flooring planks as surfaces in my shots.
You get the idea. In the Los Angeles area, there are a lot of salvage yards in the Valley as well.
So get going on your scavenger hunt for beautiful wood backgrounds to bring your food photos to the next level.
Please keep in mind – these wood surfaces can contain silverfish or other critters so do not store them in your house. Put them in your garage or in your carport. The blue planks above where filled with silverfish. My studio is already full of them so for me it didn’t matter, but I would not want these in my house.
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