Photographers: DIY: How To Make A Real Wood Distressed Backdrop

How to Make a Real Wood Distressed Photography Backdrop

*UPDATE: This post is from last year. The backdrop is still going strong!*

real wood photography background tutorial

This backdrop is so easy to create and I can't get over how effective it looks. I hope you enjoy this tutorial. 

Disclaimer - shockingly bad mobile phone snaps below...



I searched and searched for real antique wood but just couldn't find any I was happy with. Sure, it looked BEAUTIFUL but it was pricey and most importantly I didn't think it would be safe: Many lots of antique boards I checked out locally and on eBay were splintering, had hidden nails or were in poor condition... I wasn't comfortable using those around newborns as I knew I'd have to spend a lot of time safeguarding the wood (sanding, removing nails, making sure the damp was treated... ) and I don't have time for that. Plus, they were soooo so heavy.

SO, I went for untreated pine boards from the local DIY store. These are great as they are really lightweight and also untreated, meaning they can be easily stained. They are pre-sanded and smoothed to size so there are no splinters (win-win). 

diy wooden backdrop

I measured my space and chose 7 tall (for the wall) and 7 shorter (for the floor). 

I used 175cm lengths for the WALL and 120cm lengths for the FLOOR.

Choose your width - I went for 20cm wide planks.

making your own DIY photography backdrop



For the dark stain, I used Coloron Wood dye in Jacobean Dark Oak. (£9.99) I was worried this may be a little red, but I think it's perfect. A couple of coats (plus some distressing) and it darkens up. You will need 2 of these (250ml)

For the white paint, I used plain old white matt emulsion. Why? Because I had a huge tub of it under the sink that I've been meaning to paint the hall walls with for over a year now so hey, why not!

*Update: I have since recoated the white side with Rust-Olium Antique White Chalk Paint. Annie Sloan would work just as well*

 wood dye diy backdrop



Ok, I did this yesterday with my amazing brother and his best friend. We used a hammer to bash dents, a paint scraper to gouge out areas, a garden fork and a rock (I literally grab what's to hand, like I said I don't plan well) to pepper small holes and scratches, a screwdriver to make mini cuts... whatever you can lay your hands on.

The trick is to distress the wood in a natural way and create an antique, worn surface. This is also excellent for your staining, as the stain will appear a lot darker in the distressed areas. I also made sure to hammer around the edges too so the wood, when lined up, looks even more aged.

#TIP: Watch out for tree-juice! Sap can leak out and it's mega sticky.

DIY real wood photography backdrop



Make sure you have some rubber gloves and an old rag to do this. Also, please work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

Shake the stain LOTS and then open it. Pour a generous amount onto your rag and start to evenly & smoothly rub into the planks.

Work it in well to the distressed areas and don't tiptoe about - the more the better! It dries very quickly so by the time you've finished the last plank, your first will be dry and ready for a second coat if you feel the need for it (I did 2 coats for added darkness).

#TIP - add a little stain going around the back to the other side - this will leave some dark edges for your shabby white side tomorrow.

Real wood photography backdrop Before and after dark stain



The next day, turn your boards over and paint them white with your white paint. I let some stain creep around the edges so I could shabby the wood up. This is entirely up to you - I like the shabby look. If you prefer a clean look, you want 2-3 coats of even white paint for a clean finish.

For a shabby finish, let the paint dry then lightly sand away at some corners/sides so the stain shows through for a chic, retro antique feel.

Let it dry (for me this took around 4 hours... to be fair, it wasn't properly dry but I'm impatient).

 shabby wood effect background photography



I have a long pole already attached to the wall in our studio, under the mounted backdrop system. This serves a double purpose - to store rolled backdrops neatly behind and also to clip the beanbag fabric on to when posing. Well, now it has a 3rd purpose - to hold my wooden backdrop safely in place.

This lightweight metal pole is held safely in place with 2 very strong metal hooks drilled deep into the wall and sealed for extra measure.

These were installed by a pro - please make sure your pole is safe if you go for the same setup.

Here you can see a snap of the wood set up and then reversed, behind the wall pole:

diy real wood photography backdrop tutorial

I simply slide the tall wood planks up behind the pole, with the tops against the wall, but the bottoms jutting out further (about 15cm) so they are leaning back and not straight up against the wall. This is an extra safety precaution as though the pole would protect them from falling, I also don't want them to try! So jut them back against the wall.

I then laid down an excellent Non-Slip floor mat from IKEA £1.99 total bargain. On top of this, I placed the floorboards. Even with me jumping and skidding they don't budge with the mat down. Win. Here it is below:

no slip photography backdrop

So now I can simply flip the boards over to go from White to Brown and back again!

double sided wood backdrop

If I want to store them away, I simply slide the floorboards up under the pole with the tall boards, as shown here:

 lsp diy backdrop



Here are some SOC images of the backdrop in use. The *only* thing changed is a touch of cloning bottom right on the white images: 

shabby chic real wood backdrop

diy photography backdrop

diy photography backdrop

diy photography backdrop

diy photography backdrop

diy photography backdrop

So... that's it! Easy peasy. I hope this article helps inspire you to create something similar. ** Please be safety conscious at all times including your DIY stage, how you install these in the studio environment and when posing babies & children on your new wooden drop. **

For more backdrop and DIY chat, here is the link to join the private LSP Facebook Group

 Image Reference:

Chair is a posing pod by Little Prop
Blue Hydrangea flowers and bucket from the Range
White vintage-style enamel bowl by Newborn Baby Posing LTD
Dark Original Vintage Crate by Dutch Style Props
Basket stuffers - made by me! I'll post a tutorial on this soon...




  • Ela

    Great tutorial.
    What size is the floor and background? I’m trying to figure out how much I would need for newborns and for milestone sessions.

  • Lindsay Larsson

    Moving into a studio of my own soon. What with your actions and your DIY tips I’m sure to be a success!! Thanks Lauren, this is my next project! X

  • Tasia

    Thank you so much for this! I have been wanting to make my own wood backdrop, but wasn’t confident that it would work, but this looks easy and really good. So thank you for sharing!

  • Brandi

    Thank you for this awesome tutorial. I am totally going to do this for my upcoming sessions!

    Best Wishes,

  • Abby Wilson

    This is amazing!! Thankyou Lauren I have been needing a step by step guide for this for so long, brilliant x

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