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Portable Food Photography Studio Setup & Tutorial

This Portable Food Photography Studio is made possible by a product donation from Overstock.com.As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you. 

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

The world of the internet has become a very visual landscape. Which is why it is important that authors, food bloggers, and photographers offer up amazing photos with their work.

I mean how many people would want to make a dinner recipe that is photographed in front of an ugly dirty kitchen? No one right?

Keys to a great photo include great lighting, a clean and mild backdrop, and a well staged, in focus subject! And that is what our portable food photography studio helps me create!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

DIY Food Photography Studio

The struggle for food bloggers is real when it comes to a good spot for food photography! A lot of work goes into making photos for a website. Be it for food or crafts or even just lifestyle!

We have lived in a variety of homes over the years and each one has presented me with challenges for my photos.

Some had very little light. Others had a very outdated and gross kitchen. And again, very little access to natural light.

I believed when we moved into our current home with its insanely gorgeous kitchen with knotty pine cabinets and granite counters that my food photography struggles would come to an end.

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Well, I was wrong!

While my kitchen is gorgeous, the cabinets and counters cast a yellow tint to all of my photos taken in the kitchen! The green paint that I thought was beautiful at first, now drives me crazy messing with my white balance.

I have to greatly adjust the white balance EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I’m talking adjustments in the range of 5400K or less in the kitchen to 5600K or more in the sitting room. When I have a solid neutral background and good natural lighting, I can leave my camera at a regular 5500K and it is perfect! So you can see my struggle.

Not to mention that my kitchen window isn’t in the optimal location to use natural light for photos.

So I have been doing shots on little folding boxes in front of my daughter’s window.

I’ve tried setting up on the coffee table in the sitting room.

I have even taken food outside onto our patio to get better shots! (Yeah, my neighbors have seen it all and probably think I’ve lost my marbles).

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

But what I really want is a studio!

But I can’t justify building a studio with windows from all walls for optimal natural lighting. We just don’t have the funds or yard space for that.

So instead I brainstormed logical and feasible solutions and finally settled on a set up that is just perfect for my house!

It’s so versatile  that I think it will be perfect for almost any home! And it is great for food and craft photography!

The secret? Use a small Kitchen Cart!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

I found the Simple Living Aspen 3-drawer Spice Rack Drop Leaf Kitchen Cart from Overstock.com. And it is just perfect! There are 3 main items you want when selecting a kitchen island for a portable photography studio.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Neutral Counter Top.

You want a kitchen cart that has a beautiful counter top. I think that is the most crucial part. The wood or granite top needs to be a beautiful grain. It needs to be light in color or a natural color.

It needs to be something that will make a good background for photos. A simple natural wood or a white granite are great options.

This will eliminate odd hues, tints and shadows casting onto the subject when taking photos.

I also love that the Simple Living Aspen Kitchen Cart has a drop leaf!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

This way when I am working on a larger project and need more space I can easily fold it up to work. But when I don’t, it folds down to save space!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Wheels!

You want to pick a Kitchen cart that has wheels. This is the other big feature I was looking for. This allows me to roll the kitchen island around the main floor from window to window.

Now you can roll the cart in front of the window that is getting the best light based on the time of the day.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Then when I am finished with my photo session for the day, I can wheel the kitchen island back out of the way and reclaim my sitting room.

Storage.

Lastly, you want a kitchen island that has a good amount of storage options.

When we discovered I was pregnant with our little Rose, I had to make the tough choice and gave up my office/photo studio.

So now all of my food photography props were homeless and scattered all over the house! But I can keep them all collected in this portable food photography studio!

This kitchen cart boasts 3 drawers that I can use to store my linens, napkins, paper straws, plastic ice cubes, and more!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

I also love that this Kitchen island offers a closed cabinet that I can use to stack my food photography props and dishes.

I love having a single home for all my dishes I use for food photography. And even better, to be able to hide away all the food photography props and dishes behind the closed cabinet doors!

I’ve also been known to hide some of my favorite chocolate inside away from the husband and kids, but SHHH! Don’t tell them!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Plus it also has a spice storage rack on one end where I can hold photo props or camera accessories during a photo shoot.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

And on the other end a paper towel holder or a hand towel bar. Either way, it helps when I’m doing food photos.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

There is often a spill or two so it’s helpful to have clean up tools right there with me.

DIY BackDrop Frame

After you have your kitchen island selected you can get busy just as it is. I have used it numerous times just as is as I waited for some hardware to arrive.

But in order to use it as is, I had to balance white boards around the back propped up by my window shutters, or have my kids hold the backdrops.

I want more freedom (especially since the kids are heading back to school soon).

So I decided to take it one step more and add on a simple DIY Backdrop frame to the photography studio.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Supplies:

  • 1 Kitchen cart
  • 1/2″ PVC pipe cut ( 2 pieces cut as tall as your tallest backdrop and a 3rd piece that is cut the length of your kitchen island counter)
  • 2 PVC corners
  • 2 pipe straps- 1/2″ plus screws.
  • A Clamps
  • brook and mop grippers

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Install the 2 pipe straps onto the back side of the kitchen island near the top. Make them even with each other. Line up the brackets where you want them and mark with a pencil.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Drill a hole and then install the bracket with screws.

Assemble the PVC pipe into a half square. One PVC pipe standing vertically. Add an elbow corner.

Then stand the other PVC pipe vertical and install the other elbow corner. Insert one end of the PVC that is sized for the length into the elbow corner and the other end into the other elbow corner.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Slide the 2  vertical PVC pipe ends into the pipe strap and then tighten the screws.

I like the pipe straps because I can loosen the screws and adjust the height of the backdrop frame based on how tall or short I need it depending on which backdrop I’m using.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Now you have the frame to hold your backgrounds!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio SetupAdd a background simply by using A clamps to clamp the background onto the PVC pipe!

 

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio SetupNow you have a great portable food photography studio!

You can move it wherever you need for natural lighting. And you have an easy way to set up the backdrop!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio SetupEasy Portable Food Photography Studio SetupWhen I have good lighting I use it just as it is propped in front of our  sitting room window.

But sometimes there are extra shadows so I use an umbrella light to help with shadows. Or sometimes I use a reflector or white board to bounce light back.

If the project is smaller I place my Lowel EGO light on the side opposite the window facing the subject to cut down on shadows. (I LOVE my Lowel EGO light and want another one, but they are always out of stock when I have the funds to grab another).

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Don’t mind the white backdrop behind the kitchen cart. I don’t usually have that up for my food photography.

I just put that up to help hide my messy sitting room so you could see the food photography studio without the distraction of the piano, curio cabinet, my Doctor Who collection, and the pet’s favorite lounging spot.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

But what about storage? I mentioned before I loved the wheels because it allows me to then move the food photography studio out of the way when not in use. But with the DIY backdrop that is a bit harder.

So I added a little more onto the back to make storing it all away even easier.

This is where the mop/broom grippers come into place. I love these because they only use Command Sticky tape and don’t damage the kitchen island at all!

And it’s easy to snap the PVC pipes into them on the back of the Kitchen Island out of sight whenever the photography studio is not in use!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

Now you may think I put the last one on at an angle. And I did. On Purpose!

It created just enough space that I can also roll up my backdrops and slide them right in between 2 of the broom grippers for storage.

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio SetupNow it is easy to roll out the cart and assemble the backdrop frame. Let me show you a little taste!

These two shots weren’t set up much at all.

I just pulled a few things from the kitchen and simply placed them on the kitchen cart and snapped the camera!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio SetupJust think about the potential this setup offers with a little planning and staging!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

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The best part is that this cart is quite affordable from Overstock.com! I have been eyeing and window shopping for Kitchen carts like this one for 2 years actually!

But most of what I have found were $500-$1000. And that was still a bit pricey for just a photography staging area.

But Overstock.com has a large variety of Kitchen Carts at affordable prices that you can pick through!

Some larger and some smaller to find the perfect fit for your home and studio needs! Or you can just use them in your kitchen for their original purpose – a kitchen cart!

Either way, the prices are drastically reduced at Overstock.com and you still get a quality and sturdy kitchen cart!

Easy Portable Food Photography Studio Setup

How do you set up your Food Photography Studio?

What is your favorite feature of our Portable Photography studio?

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