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The Perfect Solution for Travel Photographers

As a studio photographer, I have grown my business to accommodate two main income streams. Throughout the year I work primarily with seniors in high school on their Graduation Portraits as well as with Corporate Clients. Because I do have a studio location the majority of my clients come to me but there are many instances where I need to be flexible and accommodate the client by going to them due to distance, time constraints or the number of individuals that need to be photographed.

Recently I received the new Savage Universal Backdrop Travel Kit. The stand itself comes very compact and has its own easy-to-transport carrying case. Once the stand is fully unfurled, it extends to a single piece backdrop stand that is seven feet high. It is extremely lightweight with a tripod base and extendable arms which help to pull the backdrop tight through simple adjustments. I received a black 5’x7’ foot backdrop as well as the 5’x12” White Floor Extended Backdrop to fit the stand. Each backdrop has 5 grommets which you place onto the hooks at the end of each arm of the stand. I found it easiest to hook the grommets prior to extending the arms so I did not have to stand on a step ladder to attach the backdrop. The two grommets on the bottom of the backdrop help to pull the backdrop tight so that you do not need to use gaff tape or another rigging system to maintain the tension. The 5’x12’ backdrop is very handy as there are five extra feet of fabric below the bottom grommets which you can pull forward onto the floor for a seamless sweep. This is perfect if you plan to shoot full body shots with your subject.

In order to do a proper trial with this unique travel setup, I put together my setup in the front lobby of my studio in order to mimic how I would use this gear for an on-location corporate shoot. I found it to be easiest to setup the backdrop system in a corner as the back leg of the tripod needs room to extend and this made the best use of the space. I tried out a few different lighting setups that I would commonly use for this type of corporate shoot.

I started with the black backdrop and a one light setup which is one of my go-to setups for headshot images. I used clamshell lighting with an octabox positioned above my subject and a curved reflector slightly below my subject’s rib cage to fill shadow underneath my model’s chin. My subject was positioned about two feet from the backdrop. While I could see a bit of light through the drop initially, it photographed as a beautiful flat black thanks to the polyester material of the backdrop. It conveniently soaked up any fall-off light from the subject and resulted in a lovely, clean headshot with all focus on the subject.

For the next setup, I simply moved my main light to camera right at a 45 degree angle to my subject. I added a gridded strip bank behind the subject on camera left to add dimension to her hair. This helps to add some separation to the backdrop and add a bit more drama to the image. By bringing my main light to one side of the subject I added some shadow and depth through short lighting to the cheek closest to the camera.

After experimenting with the black backdrop I asked my model to switch outfits while I changed out the backdrops. It was much simpler to make the exchange with this system than it would be to lower a standard backdrop stand for the switch. Additionally, I did not require help from an assistant and was able to complete the task easily by myself. I had the set changed and was ready to shoot the moment my subject emerged from the dressing room.

When shooting on white, I have always used Savage Universal Seamless Paper so I was not sure what to expect initially from the white polyester drop. I was surprised to note it didn’t fall off to grey as much as I had anticipated. It would be completely usable without the addition of a background light but being a bit of a perfectionist decided to add a small light behind the drop to help with illumination and cut down my time in post-processing. Below is a before and after image of what I got in camera vs the edited image where I quickly neutralized the background with the help of pulling out the red and magenta in the Hue/Saturation tool.

Before and After

In conclusion, I was very impressed by the Savage Universal Backdrop Stand and have no doubt I will get great use out of it for a variety of my on-location sessions. For my own business, I will use it for corporate sessions where I am required to be on-site. Often times the spaces I am provided are cramped so this will make my life easier by being able to assemble a one-piece backdrop stand that takes up minimal room. Additionally, it will be easier to haul my equipment as I will not have to take nearly as many trips from my car to the set location. I laid out the equipment I typically would take as far as background gear vs what I will now take and the difference is incredible!

In addition to being useful for Corporate Portraits, this kit has many other potential uses. It would be great for photographers who do not have a studio but need to submit “studio” yearbook portraits for their Seniors. Many of the schools in my area strictly require studio shots and this can be a struggle for photographers who shoot only outdoors. It would be very simple to have this system on hand to set up for a few formal portraits during the session. Furthermore, this setup has great potential for events where there is a need for a compact studio setup or even something as out there as pet photography on the go at a dog or cat show!

Emily Voss

Emily Voss is a professional portrait photographer that stands apart based on her emphasis on clean lighting and strong use of color. She is the owner and sole photographer of VOSStudios, a state of the art portrait studio in downtown Wausau, WI where it is in its fourth year of business. Emily graduated from Luther College in 2013 with dual degrees in Fine Arts and Spanish. In 2012, she interned and photo assisted Annie Leibovitz in New York City resulting in a love of the city and passion for lighting. While her home base is in the Midwest, she makes trips back to New York to work with actors, dancers and models. Back home in Wisconsin, Emily specializes in high-end senior portraits and corporate headshots but has branched out to include newborns and pet portraits as well. She has been published in a variety of online and print sources such as Photo Vogue, Photographers Forum, Compliance Today, Boutique Design magazine, and the NCAA Champion Magazine. Check out her website here. Learn More