A Comprehensive Guide to Photography Backdrops

white backdrop

One of the most essential features of successful photography is the background. In fact, one of the secrets behind shooting pictures that people like is paying attention to what’s behind the subject. As such, you might be thinking of purchasing the right photography backdrop to improve the quality of your shots.

Assuming you already picked some strobes to light your subject in your upcoming studio, a backdrop can definitely take your shoots to the next step. There are different types and sizes to choose from, which means you need to understand your personal preferences and where you intend to use the backdrop.

For instance, vinyl is great for using on a floor for its durability. However, it’s not glare-free meaning it may not be ideal for a hung background. For this, a lightweight material such as poly paper would suffice. Simply put, each material has its pros and cons as you will see it below.

How to choose a photography backdrop

Choosing the right photography backdrop includes choosing the right material, design, color and size. In addition, you may have to choose from different variations such as hand-painted, air-brushed, and printed, or a combination of styles.

To make your choice easier, consider answering these questions:

What is your intent?

Precisely, what do you want to shoot? If you need a backdrop to use outdoors for headshots, you are better off with something portable. On the other side, if you need a system for groups and full-body portraits, go for a permanent backdrop set up.

What size do you need?

Backdrops come in so many sizes as you will read in our section on backdrop material types. In general, you need to consider the size of your subject or the size of your studio. Keep in mind that the subject needs to be about 3 inches away from the backdrop to prevent shadows.

A 9-inch wide backdrop is mostly ideal in commercial studios as they can easily accommodate groups and full-body portraits.

A 7-inch wide backdrop works for ¾ length shots and perfect for full-body single model. They can work for being used in event photography.

A 5-inch wide backdrop is ideal for headshots and ¾ length shots. These are ideal for a small home studio or event photography.

Lastly on sizes, a 2-inch backdrop is used to shoot products, still life and macro images. They may also be used for some close up headshots.

How much do you want to spend?

Backdrops vary in price depending on material and size. You can find low-cost backdrops as low as $15 to high-end designs for up to $2000. You do need to strike a balance between your budget and the quality of your investment. Often, spending on a high-quality option pays dividends. Besides, the best backdrops are what helps you to become the best photographer.

What’s your preferred texture?

Backgrounds are available in numerous textures e.g. concrete, wood, granite, etc. Consider the texture that won’t take away the focus from your subject. The right texture should tell a story by creating narratives. Avoid surfaces that look too busy that they clash with the image.

What is your preferred color?

The color is important to compliment the image by dictating mood, story, lighting and creativity. Some of the most common colors for backdrops include.

White – it’s simple and minimalistic and used to put emphasis on the colors of the subject.

Grey – Another minimalistic color, but more neutral than white. Moreover, it doesn’t overpower subjects.

Black – It’s clean and simple but bold because it places the emphasis on the subject alone.

Mounting options

There are many options for mounting backdrops. Most photographers will go the DIY way, while some go with professional systems. This comes down to the size of your backdrop and how frequently you want to change them.

On the floor – When you are photographing products, kids, pets, the best way to do it is on the floor. And this is where a floor drop comes in handy.

Wall Hooks – This is the simplest option for on-the-go photographers due to ease of use. Simply hook on the wall and hang smaller backdrops.

Backdrop stands – a portable backdrop stand comes handy for travelling. The main advantage of stands is the added flexibility by allowing you to adjust to the size of your background.

Fixed mount – For permanent studios, this is the ideal option as you rarely change backgrounds. These are placed on the ceiling and walls to ensure convenience.

What Are Your Options?

The next section takes you through the type of material backgrounds in photography and the brands that offer the most bang for your buck for each type. Decide what materials are going to produce the effects you’d like in your images.

Here are the common types of photography backdrops:

Seamless Paper

seamless backdrop, photography studio

This is a versatile and inexpensive backdrop that’s popular among photographers and is staple for most studios. It is used to provide a dry, smooth and non-reflecting surface to create a clean look. For instance, let’s say you need to take a shoot of a professional model who just wants to appear on a simple white background for a vivid appearance to be editorial fashion or advertising.

Seamless paper backdrops are available in many solid colors, but the most common are black, white and gray. You can alter the lighting to get a gray color from white backdrop meaning you may never need to acquire a dedicated gray backdrop. You can even modify the white backdrop using gelled lighting to create colored backgrounds.

Although the white and black will get the job done, vivid colors can be used for commercial photography, product images, fine arts and more. For instance, why not try a red color to arouse the feelings of excitement, green for earthly look or yellow to bring energy. As always, the skin tone, hair color, eye color, clothing and other few factors will play are role in the color you choose for this material.

The downside of seamless paper backdrop is they are not wrinkle resistant. In fact, the paper gets smudged or wrinkled after some time, so you simply cut off the old portion. Also, the rolls can be a challenge to transport if they are wide in size because it’s easy to damage the paper.

The good thing with the material is that it’s cost-effective, allowing photographers to have a variety of backdrops in the studio. With Seamless paper, the large rolls can loads of paper ranging from 9-12 yards or 27 to 36 feet. The widths may also vary with the common sizes being 53 inches and 107 inches.

Muslin

Muslin backdrop, Closeup Photography of Girl Face With Blonde Hair

This backdrop material features plain woven cotton, which is durable, wrinkle-free and washable. Most photographers consider this material as a traditional option, so they don’t even pay attention to them. They are, however, portable can make a great-looking portrait background.

Moreover, the lightweight fabric has impressive ability to hold dyes and paints. So, they can have color splotches and can be dyed in a single color, especially the hand-painted ones. Muslin backdrops are available in a variety of patters including as a solid color, hand painted, airbrushed or others with special effects. They can provide a modern, or retro look, depending on the lighting.

They also washable if get them soiled, but you may need to use a commercial machine for large backdrops. Having muslin backdrops can reduce the stress that comes with a shoot preparation because you can hang them on a stand or just drape them over a door. Muslin backdrops come in different styles including standard, washed, hand-painted and crumpled. Standard sizes are 10 feet wide by 12 feet long.

Canvas

canvas-backdrop, group of people, photography studio

Also known as roll drops or scenic, these are moderately thick and heavy. They are painted to bring out the imagery of scenic realism. The fabric holds dyes, oils and paints more easily making it ideal for hand painting without absorbing or blurring. The paint is done in numerous layers to produce the perception of texture that is unachievable with seamless paper. Most movie-star and fashion photo-shoots tend to use custom made canvases.

Canvas backdrops are generally durable and feel soft, smooth and waterproof. The main downside is the cost because of the large space required to create them and the effort put in hand painting. Moreover, keep in mind that they require care in handling because they are delicate and can also be hard to clean. You don’t want people to be stepping on them. That said, the sizes of Printed canvas backdrop ranges from 4” by 12” to 14” by 16.

Vinyl

grey Vinyl backdrop, photography studio

What if your client is looking for a traditional style portrait to use within the company’s website? A vinyl background is the most preferable option because it can hang flat and offer a consistent look with a sense of classic and fashion. Regardless of how you roll or unroll this backdrop it doesn’t get wrinkles and has a matte finish that doesn’t reflect glare when using flash.

The material is durable and tough and feels like a flexible nonporous plastic. A notable advantage of vinyl the easy cleaning using a damp sponge. It’s no wonder it’s used for food fight, cake smash, children parties and similar events. Also, they can be moved without hassle as they are quite pliable. On the flip side, they can be a little reflective so you need more work with lighting. The smallest size of this backdrop starts at 5” by 7” all the way to the largest at 10” by 20”.

Collapsible backdrops

collapsible backdrop

Most traveling photographers prefer this collapsible backgrounds because they are easy to set-up and deliver unmatched portability compared to traditional backdrops. All collapsible backdrops comes with the same color, print and paint, which makes them ideal for shooting in tight spaces. They also come in a standard 5x7 size.

They also have two contrasting colors on the sides, which makes them versatile as you can create artistic scenes anywhere. You can even use them without a stand. The only downside with collapsible backdrop is the small size.

With that in mind, let’s now discuss about major brands making photography backdrops

Top Photography Backdrops Brands

Best Ever Backdrops

Whether you are a fashion photographer, food photographer, or you just need creative backdrops for your product photography, this is a brand you can rely on.

They do provide backdrops in a wide array of colors and textures at affordable rates. Whether you are looking for a backdrop that will create a moody, rustic, or elegant look, Best Ever Backdrops has got you covered

Replica Surfaces

This is a renowned brand popular for making hyper-realistic backdrops. If you are a photographer, blogger, or you are into product photography, you really should consider checking backdrops offered by Replica Surfaces.

They will take your studio photography to a whole new level. And the best part, they are affordable and creatively-made.

Soularty

Are you looking for handcrafted backdrops that will give your shots with rustic feel?

Then Soularty has you covered. It provides wooden, concrete, and marble backdrops that are made from pine.

The rich wooden texture is great for flat lay and macro photography.

Savage Universal

This has established itself as a great brand for photography backdrops and frames. Therefore, if you would like to buy backdrops in bulk at ridiculously affordable prices, Savage Universal is the brand to turn to. They offer a wide range of backdrops to choose from and you will be spoilt for choices.

Fovitec

Fovitec is one of the world leaders when it comes to making photography backgrounds and backdrops.

It has a wide range of backdrops that you can choose from. You will find a good backdrop on this site.

Conclusion

Choosing the right background will take your portrait to a whole new level. One way of improving backgrounds in your portrait photography is investing in backdrops. Backdrops helps to make your subject the center of attention.

The right studio backdrop can change the overall feel and mood of your images. Remember that the use of backdrops goes hand-in-hand with lighting setup. If used well, backdrops can make your images pop by pulling all the focus onto your subjects.

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