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.
Muslin is a cotton fabric with a looser weave than most cotton products and can get wrinkled pretty quickly. That can be either good or bad, depending on your perspective, and will matter greatly with one other consideration.
See more: Pros and Cons of Using Muslin Backdrops
Is the backdrop going to be in the picture?
What I mean is this: if you put your backdrop far enough behind your subject and work with shallow depth of field (a smaller f-stop number), the photography backdrop is going to be a soft, uniform color and won’t really be “in” the picture.
The other alternative is to use the backdrop as part of the picture, where you actually see and feel the texture of the material. Many photographers will drape a backdrop in such a way to emphasize the wrinkles and folds in the fabric thereby creating a “photographic environment.” Some photographers will go so far as to include frame into the photograph as well. All of these considerations are artistic choices that you, as the artist, get to make.
But let’s take a step forward and talk a bit about how to physically handle that photo backdrop. In a studio environment storing a muslin backdrop is rare, but take that same backdrop out on location and things get interesting. You can easily do a head shot in a confined space with a relatively small backdrop. However, shooting a full length figure or more than one person will require a 10’x20’ muslin along with a sturdy frame. Muslin of that size will require some handling if you want to avoid wrinkles and creases.
See more: Muslin vs. Seamless Paper
There are two ways to eliminate those pests. Carefully folding the cloth after every use is paramount, and folding a 10’x20’ backdrop can be a challenge. You can easily accomplish a fold by laying it out flat (much easier for two people) and folding it over loosely to try to avoid making sharp creases…
Until it’s ready to be put bag into its traveling bag, which is an absolute must if you want it to last. NEVER just ball it up and store it away, unless you really, really like wrinkles.
Featuring: Gray Skies Muslin Backdrop
An alternative to folding is ‘folding and rolling’. If you’re working with a large muslin, folding it down to a manageable size will allow you to roll it into a neat pile before you put it into your bag. Another storage method is to do a complete rolling. You can best accomplish this by rolling your muslin around the core from a spent roll of seamless.
Steaming or Clamping
Now, once the backdrop is out of the bag and you are setting up your shot, if there are any wrinkles, there are two solutions: a good steamer will easily smooth out those creases, which is great if you like lugging around a lot of equipment. The easiest way to flatten out that backdrop is by securing every corner and then some with A-clamps. No photographer should ever, ever leave the house without a box of A-clamps of all sizes, but preferably the big ones that will fit around a pole or light stand.
There is an absolutely stunning array of muslin backdrops available, and you can choose from a wide array of washed or crushed colors. Think about what a Sky Blue Muslin or even a Red Retro Muslin backdrop might look like behind your subjects. You’ll have a grand time trying to decide on one backdrop when you have such an array of vibrant colors to choose from.
The most important thing to remember about photography backdrops is that you are the artist and you get to make the choices. Trying new things will ultimately lead you to discovering your style, your way of doing things. And that is what will separate you from the pack, which is what good photography is all about.