DIY Reversible Wood Table Top Tutorial

By Mike Tamplin on Apr 15, 2013


I‘ve been getting a few questions on my backgrounds in my recent cookie photos. So, I thought I’d take the time to show you what I use and how I made them.

A few months ago, I was getting tired of seeing my boring, dark, dining table surface in my photographs. I wanted some realistic variation in my photos without having to buy actual tables to clutter my condo. I searched on Pinterest for ideas and came across a nifty tutorial from Confections of a Foodie Bride (who got inspiration by a tutorial from Love & Olive Oil). It was a how-to for a double-sided, wooden table top, about 2 feet square in size.

It was exactly what I was looking for, so I took a trip to The Home Depot to get the supplies.

(For a more detailed list of supplies and the step-by-step instructions, please visit the tutorial at Confections of a Foodie Bride. My plan is to show just a glimpse into the construction process, while sending traffic their way of anyone interested in doing this themselves.)

DIY Reversible Wood Table Top Construction

food photography wood board supplies

I had most of the supplies already, with the exception of the wood planks and paint. The paint sample was just $2.94. The wood I found was only available in 4ft planks that I cut in half with a handsaw. The cost of those planks were around $30. So it came to about $35 for two food photography surfaces. Not bad!

Here’s a pic of the gluing process:

wood gluing food photography table

And here’s what the finished surface looks like after being weighed down by heavy objects and set to dry overnight:

food photography wood unstained

After posting a few cookie photos, I was really impressed how the board surface looked in my final shots. I decided I needed to make a second one just to have a few more background color options. The hardest part was definitely picking out what colors to paint the boards. If you’re interested, here are the color samples I ended up choosing.

In order:

  1. Varathane’s “Weathered Gray” wood stain

  2. Behr’s “Sea Life” paint

  3. Behr’s “Glacial Tint” paint

  4. Varathane’s “American Walnut” stain

wood color samples for food photography

Tip: I wanted the wood grain to still show through after painting, so I wet my foam brush with water before applying the paint on the wood. Then I immediately wiped away the excess with a paper towel.

That’s pretty much the entire process of making these wooden table tops. Pretty easy, if I say so. Here’s a pic of my photography setup using these new wood surfaces:

food photography set up

If you’re wondering what those white, light boxes are on each side of the wood board, I wrote another DIY tutorial about them here. I mostly (almost always) shoot at night due to my work schedule and they are a tremendous help. Here’s a shot of the setup with the lights turned on:


Now, here are some of the actual shots with the wood table top backgrounds:

game of thrones cookie platter
oscar awards cookie
star trek finished red cookie
cabbage patch kids cookie cupcake

If you like what you see and feel up to a little DIY weekend project, I encourage you to head over to Confections of a Foodie Bride’s page and build one for yourself.

If you’re not up for making something or just don’t have the time for a DIY project, I totally understand. There are other simpler options that give you similar results. Melissa over at The Baked Equation shows you her food photography setup. She uses no-fuss, vinyl backdrops from Ink & Elm in creative ways. It’s worth checking out.


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30 replies on “DIY Reversible Wood Table Top Tutorial

  1. Great post, Mike! I’ve been researching different backgrounds since you mentioned them to me. Now I need to get down to Home Depot and get my supplies! Thanks for all the great info and the tutorial. You rock!!

    1. Thanks, Mark! Let me know if you need to borrow a hand saw. I have a miter saw and box that I used to cut the boards in half.

  2. lisathebearfootbaker 10

    You are a jack of all trades! Cookies, backgrounds and I bet you could even make a mini mall with a toothpick and some duct tape! Thanks for sharing:) This has been on my to do list for a while and this was just the push I needed to get it done.

    1. Haha, I think toothpick construction may be over-reaching my limits. ;) Thanks, Lisa!

  3. Those are awesome! Love the idea and you make it look so simple! Who knew I would be so excited to go to Home Depot! :)

    1. Thanks, Kim! It is so simple, I swear! The only hard part was all the sanding.

  4. Great job and wonderful tutorial and I love that you used the blue planks to showcase your supplies needed to do this.

    1. Thanks for noticing that, Paula! It was a last minute idea.

  5. Is there anything you can’t do??? Just curious…..hahahahaha Wonderful post. I’m adding this to my must do list along with your light box tutorial. Hopefully one of these days I will get this photography thing figured out.

    1. Thanks, Tami! Food photography is an aspect I’m always trying to improve on.

  6. thebakedequation 14

    This was a really cool blog post. I so needed those lights last night. Normally I always take my pictures during the day. I love this tutorial! Thank you for taking the time to show us.

    1. Thanks, Melissa! Those lights really are a life-saver.

  7. Hi Mike. I love this idea! I’m learning photography at the same time as I’m learning cookie decorating so I’m always looking for better ways to do things. Another very inexpensive option to share – My husband went to Home Depot and bought me individual tiles and pieces of slate for photos and it serves the same general purpose. Very inexpensive. Some of the tiles look like wood with a very life-like grain, another is pure white, etc. Most of them are 16″ x 16″

    Here’s a picture of my first hockey skate cookies on the slate. Now if I could only take better photos! :-)

  8. I love your settings :) I’m a Nikon shooter too, and a huge fan of natural lights so I always use natural light whenever i can, i struggle to take pics of my cookies at night coz i dont have any lightboxes or difusers.

    You just gave me an idea that maybe i can convince my hubby to build me one of these setups :P

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