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When I first started photographing portraits in studio I knew that I had to have a gray backdrop, but I often wondered which one was the “right” one to choose. In this article I’ll help you decide which shade of gray would be best for your particular application!

For these portraits, all 3 were lit the exact same way so you as the reader could get a better idea of the differences. 

Fashion Gray Seamless Paper

My very first gray seamless paper backdrop was Fashion Gray from Savage. Because it’s a little bit of a lighter shade of gray, it’s very versatile. If you photograph your subject closer to the background it will give you a brighter gray, and if you pull them away from the background it will go a little bit darker. Of the 3 backgrounds shown in this article, Fashion Gray gives you the most latitude to go lighter or darker.

Gray Seamless PaperPhoto by Miguel Quiles, Featuring Fashion Gray Seamless Paper 

Smoke Gray Seamless Paper

A shade or so darker and we arrive at Smoke Gray. This photo shoot was the first time I had ever used this color and it quickly became one of my favorites. Right out of the gate the color looks beautiful, but in post-production I felt like I was able to modify the color a little bit more to my liking compared to what I could do with Fashion Gray.

Gray Seamless PaperPhoto by Miguel Quiles, Featuring Smoke Gray Seamless Paper

Thunder Gray Seamless Paper

The darkest and boldest of the 3 shades is Thunder Gray. Pulling this color out of the box and seeing the color really had me excited to see the results. While I used this in this photo shoot on a subject with brunette hair, I would recommend using this one for blonde haired models as it helps you make a stark contrast between your subject and the background.

See more: 11 Great Portraits on Thunder Gray Seamless Paper

Gray Seamless PaperPhoto by Miguel Quiles, Featuring Thunder Gray Seamless Paper

Conclusions

Before doing this experiment I felt that one gray background would give you the flexibility to do just about anything you would want. Now, after using these 3 backgrounds I’m inspired to actually try out all of the different shades available from Savage. Just like a carpenter doesn’t just have one tool in their toolkit, photographers need a variety of backgrounds that can complement any and every subject. If you only have one shade of a certain color background (in this case gray) you’re essentially boxing yourself in and limiting your options to get the best possible images. For example, in this photo shoot if Thunder Gray was the only color I owned I may not have made the best possible portrait for my subject. For my tastes, Smoke Gray was the clear winner. If I have a different subject sitting for me I may have needed a different shade of gray to get the winning image. I hope this gives you some food for thought when selecting your next studio background.

Happy shooting!

Miguel Quiles

Miguel Quiles is a New Jersey-based commercial wedding and portrait photographer who’s been involved in the industry for over 15 years, starting off first as a salesman at a local camera store. Since then, Miguel has been refining his skills and pushing the limits of his creative abilities. As a self-taught photographer, Miguel hopes to share his experience and knowledge with new and upcoming photographers who wish to take their work to the next level. Miguel is a Sony Associate Artisan of Imagery, blogger and contributor for RangeFinder Magazine & SLR Lounge. You can also find Miguel teaching workshops and seminars at Adorama and Unique Photo in the NY/NJ area. Check out more of his work on his website

    

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