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Backdrops are a great way to add variety and style to your sessions but sometimes having a cache of every color and type can also be pricey. Some ways to save on backdrops is to make your own. Creating a custom backdrop for your next shoot can be easier and less expensive than you think. With a little brainstorming and some markers, tape or creative propping, you’ll be able to build one-of-a-kind backdrops using seamless paper. Unique, handmade backdrops can set you apart from the competition, increase your profits and establish you in the marketplace.


Learn to do calligraphy with a few short lessons and you’ll be able to create custom messages for your next subject. (If you can’t master calligraphy, try hiring one inexpensively through a site such as Elance or Craigslist).

Photo by Tammy Horton Photography via The Knot

Make it extremely personal by using wedding vows, or favorite lyrics, quotes, poems or book passages. You can also build a cache of reusable backdrops with messages such as “Sweet 16”, “Just Married”, “Happy Birthday”, etc. Be sure to do each message on a variety of colors that will suit the different skin tones, hair color and style of your subjects.

Photo by The Cinderella Project

Drawing & Painting

Seamless paper is the perfect surface to lend itself to painting and drawing. Utilizing chalk, paint, markers or crayons, you can create anything that you can dream up. Have a range of themes to suggest to your client. Bring a variety of drawing materials and let them work together to make a truly memorably piece. Jungles, ocean creatures, beaches and more can be whipped up with a swish of the brush. This idea is especially fantastic for children’s parties. Have them create one or several backdrops and then snap some beautiful portrait pics when they’re finished.

Photo by June Lion via The Knot

colorful painted backdrop

Get Creative With Materials

Gone are the days of using boring drapes or standard columns. Today photographers can get creative and think out-of-the-box with inspirational backdrops made with everything from streamers, wood, fabric or quilts. You can adhere almost every type of material to a seamless backdrop to make it your own.

Photo by Style Sisters blog

Try using 2-3 different colors of seamless paper and cutting them up into 4” squares and arrange them artfully on your main paper backdrop. You can create an endless number of geometric shapes and patterns. It will not only add color but texture as well. Other materials to try attaching to your seamless can be tissue paper flowers, streamers, and even coffee filters! They can all be used to make an interesting backdrop piece. 

Photo by Kimberly Michelle Photography

Create an Out of This World Backdrop

Poke holes and back light the paper in your Black Seamless Paper to create a space-themed backdrop!

Let The Clients Be A Part of It

Handcrafted backdrops are perfect for portrait and event photographers. Landmark events such as weddings or senior year portraits are the great times to brainstorm with your clients and let them have input on their photo session.

  • Postcards 

Perhaps a couple celebrating their anniversary has a collection of postcards where they’ve traveled throughout the years. Glue the postcards to the backdrop. If not, do a Google search and print and cut out the postcards to customize it to each couple.

  • Newspapers

Using vintage newspapers from the year your subject was born or married to create a timeline of their life. Stick to either a bright white, pure black or red background to keep it graphic.

  • Clothing

Perfect for a Sweet 16 portrait, ask the mother for some of the favorite outfits she saved from their days as an infant. Carefully pin the outfits to the backdrop behind your subject. If vintage outfits aren’t available, ask your subject for some of their favorite accessories, flowers or object d’art to arrange artfully in the background.

  • Photos

Create a collage of 4×6 images of your subject(s) throughout the years. Don’t use too many or the background could get quite busy. Try black-and-white or sepia tones images to keep it cohesive.

Seek Inspiration

Photo by Traveling Mama blog

Pinterest is always a GREAT tool to get some ideas for your next project. 🙂

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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