Muslin backgrounds have stood the test of time across photography studios for decades. These traditional painted cloth backdrops may not be the first look that comes to mind when creating a mood board for your next studio editorial or fashion photo shoot if you’re immediately brought back to your family’s cringe-worthy 1990’s annual studio portrait sessions… but we challenge you to take pause, think back a bit farther in time to an era of Victorian elegance and dramaticism for styling inspiration!
Recently editorial and portrait photographer Elaine Torres stepped out of her seamless paper comfort zone to test out our Cranberry Washed Muslin backdrop.
Muslin is much more than just a lightweight backdrop or lighting tool, it is a fabric that dates back as early as the 3rd century CE with a vast history and a variety of uses. The origin of the word “Muslin” is ambiguous and often debated.
When you’re traveling as a photographer, unless you have a truck that carries your entire studio with you, considerations have to be made with regard to space and size that will greatly influence the kind(s) of backdrop you carry with you.
The issue of muslin vs. seamless paper isn’t so much about one having inherently better qualities than the other – it’s about which is a best fit for the subject in front of your lens. And which best conveys the look you want to impart.
Muslin backdrops are kind of the Rodney Dangerfields of the photography industry. Like the dear departed comedian, they often don’t get much respect. And, they have a similar world-worn, beat-up look to them (at least most of them do). But these aren’t necessarily bad things.
Muslin backgrounds are easy to transport, lightweight, and fold up nicely whether you want to store them or take them with you on a job. They look extremely professional and hang or drape perfectly creating interesting soft shapes in the background of your photographs. They come in many different styles, which can make deciding on the one that is best for your project a tough choice.
Whether you’re on the road or in a studio, the second most important thing you’re going to pay attention to is background. It’s safe to say that the least amount of distraction behind your subject will make for a better picture. So let’s consider photo backdrops, and most specifically, muslin backdrops.