If you’re anything like me, you probably have a closet full of tiles, planks, and random construction scraps in case you need an interesting surface to draw on. These new photography surfaces from Duo Boards are meant to change my messy studio, and this photography tutorial shows you just how useful these backgrounds can be!
As I just mentioned, one of the most embarrassing areas in my entire photography studio is the closet where I keep all of my product and food photography background surfaces. I have a rat’s nest of different woods like IPE, walnut, reclaimed barn slats and driftwood. My wood collection is matched only by my pile of Home Depot tile scraps barely moved because they’re too heavy. Although I have quite a collection, in reality most of these surfaces are too small to build anything substantial and too bright to give me the photographic results I desire in my head.
When V-Flat World contacted me and asked if I had tried their new photo backgrounds, Duo Boards, I was quite intrigued. Fstoppers has a few V-Flat World V Flats in our Puerto Rico and US studios, and we use them all the time. The quality is excellent, and most importantly, they are much easier to transport because they fold up. So after loving their first product so much, I was excited to see how these Duo Boards looked and worked.
Now, printed or textured backdrops for food and product photography are nothing new. However, in the past, these products were either of such poor quality that you could easily tell they weren’t real surfaces, or a single background was very expensive to manufacture or buy yourself. -same. For example, a single 24 x 48 inch large format tile from The Home Depot costs around $40 and weighs 35 pounds. Not only are these tiles extremely heavy, they only have one side you can pull on, ground tiles can be extremely sharp to handle and they are so brittle that they often crack and chip.
Fortunately, Duo Boards solve most if not all of the problems you might encounter with other photography surfaces. If you want to see how I used a few of these boards to create the two images below, definitely check out the photography tutorial video at the top of this post. For this article, I want to highlight some advantages of these boards over my collection of DIY scraps and some alternatives in the world of food photography backgrounds.
The biggest issue I have with a lot of my wooden tiles and planks in my own studio is that they aren’t large enough to create a usable shooting area. Duo Boards are available in two different sizes, 24 x 24 inches and 30 x 40 inches. The smaller ones are great if you’re traveling or have limited space in your studio, but for me the big advantage is the larger boards as they’re still small enough to fit in a car but big enough to shoot bigger products and food patterns. So for me, these are my favorite boards in my studio.
Perhaps the closest competitor to Duo Boards is the photographic backgrounds made by Replica Surfaces. These boards are a bit smaller than the 24×24 inch Duo boards (and also more expensive and only one-sided, more on that later) and are really only useful for tighter comps and smaller products. Comparing the larger 30 x 40 inch Duo planks to my large format tiles from the big box stores, the wider 30 inches might not seem like a lot, but that extra 6 inches really helps when you’re building a small set like I did. did with the cigar humidor shot above.
Another thing that impressed me with the Duo Boards was the quality of the prints themselves. I’ve bought photography backdrops from Amazon before and most of those cheap ones weren’t very high resolution at all. Also, many of these products have repeating patterns that instantly make your wood, terrazzo, or tile look cheap and fake. I used to fix this by using Photoshop to add variety and break up repeating patterns, but it’s a huge pain and really doesn’t work at all for video shoots.
The four Duo boards I have in my studio are Gray/Dark Chalk, Aged Cutting Board and Butcher Block, Glazed and Midnight Cement, and French Clay and Terracotta. Each of these surfaces is impressive and accurately captures the mood that their names portray. You can tell these backgrounds are made for high end photography, and since they are printed at 1000 dpi the quality is much better than any other surface I have used before.
In terms of value, Duo boards are far better than any other surface I’ve used because each board gives you two completely different textures to create the perfect shot. Unlike my real heavy tiles or the boards at Replica Surfaces, which only have one usable pattern, each Duo board comes with a different variation of the main textured theme. So if you get a subway tile panel, you will have both white and black tiles. My clay tray has both an interesting green French clay as well as a strong orange Terracotta Blush clay. With the other alternatives, you will have to buy additional planks or tiles, which means the cost of Duo Planks is literally 50% cheaper, or even more.
I’m not sure what kind of material these Duo Boards are made of, but it seems to be some sort of plastic laminate. They’re both stiff and stiff but not heavy, which is a nice break from some of the other surfaces I’ve accumulated over the years. The laminated surface is not super glossy like a laminated name tag or restaurant menu, but is rather similar to anti-glare matte photo paper from a high-end printing lab. Of course, unlike those matte prints, these boards are much more durable and scratch resistant. While I accidentally spilled barbecue sauce during my own shoot, I was happy to find that the boards cleaned up easily with a damp cleaning wipe even after letting it dry completely over the weekend.
We all know that most equipment used for photography is subject to the dreaded “photography tax” added to the price. The 24×24 inch Duo board is priced at $74.95 and the larger 30×40 inch Duo board is $119.95. For me, it was a sigh of relief as their price isn’t much different than my real heavy tiles or the cost to build yours after walking around town and wasting a lot of time at the store. Plus, since you get two different surfaces in one lightweight, easy-to-carry board, buying a single Duo board seems a lot easier to justify than some alternatives.
Now, as I mentioned, you can find cheaper backdrops on Amazon, but these are almost always smaller, and the printed design never looks as good as advertised in my experience at least. For comparison, Replica Surfaces only offers a 23 x 23 inch background and is priced at $77. So with these being an inch shorter on both sides and only having one texture to draw on, I can’t imagine why anyone would go for the Replica Surfaces decks over the Duo decks unless you just don’t like one of their designs anymore. Of course, I prefer the larger 30×40 inch boards, which they don’t even offer.
Fstoppers special discount
This article is a sponsored article by V Flat World, and as part of this review and photo shoot, they have given a special 10% discount to all our readers. Just use the discount code “FSTOPPERS10” during the checkout process and you can save a little on your entire order. Keep in mind that even though this is a sponsored post, I stand by 100% my opinions and experiences of use of these tables.
Overall, even though I don’t take a ton of product and food photography, using the Duo Boards and creating these two unique images was quite a fun experience. Like I said, I absolutely despise all the random bits of real wood and tile I have lying around my studio, and having a few professional surfaces that take up little space is a welcome change of pace for times when i need to build a little photography set for food, product or still life. At this point in my photography career, I appreciate well-designed systems and ecosystems that make my life easier, more organized, and give me proven results every time. These Duo Boards, along with their well-designed carrying case, are an unexpected upgrade to my own food and product photography workflow, and I look forward to using them more in my future work. Who knows, maybe I can even use a few as backgrounds for some tight headshots!