I’ll admit it: I am not a portrait photographer. Not yet anyway. I tend to shoot people all the time but never in a traditional manner with a proper studio backdrop. Whenever I’ve been asked to make a portrait I’ve always done so “on the fly” using whatever setting available as a backdrop. By choosing a large aperture on my camera I’ve relied upon a blurred background in most cases as a workaround to a distracting backdrop.
While nearly any environment can make for a workable backdrop, there’s no substitute for a true backdrop system. So many portraits we see in print and online were made with just such a system, often using mainstay colors and materials such as seamless white paper, black muslin, gray vinyl, or a green screen. In other words, the very backdrops you’d expect to find in a professional studio.
Recently I decided it was time to acquire a backdrop kit for more serious portraiture. I needed a professional look not only for portraits but also for product photography and other applications. I wanted a portable kit but didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a large system such as would be needed for hanging vinyl or canvas backdrops. What I needed was a boiled-down, solid setup to get me started in the right direction.
The new Savage Economy Background Kit fit all my requirements. Designed for photographers who want a professional look that won’t break the bank, the Economy Background Kit is a great choice for students, part-time photographers, and anyone starting out in portraiture. I was excited to see what this new offering could do for my photography.
See more: How to Optimize Your Small Studio Space
What’s In The Kit
When my Economy Background Kit arrived I wasted no time unpacking the box. Backdrop stands often require two people for set up. However these Economy stands are lightweight and feature hand-adjustable fasteners, making the kit easy to erect by oneself – perfect for moms and solo photographers on the go. The process was simple and within minutes I was assembling it for its first shoot.
A handy carrying bag contained two sturdy but lightweight matte-finish metal stands, each capable of a minimum of 47” (120 cm) and a maximum of 7’7” (231 cm) high, and 10’4” (314 cm) wide. No tools were needed, as the stands only required the legs to be unfolded and the center post locked into place using a wing nut that twists by hand. An ingenious spring clamp allows fast height adjustments by sliding the clamp up or down with a pinch of the fingers.
My next step was to choose a backdrop to mount onto the stands via the adjustable crossbar. You can order the Economy Background Kit with a variety of backdrops to suit your needs, each sized at 5’ x 9’ and made with wrinkle-resistant polyester fabric. The cloth backdrops fold small to make compact, travel-friendly bundles. Available in white, black, gray, and a green screen, the backdrops provide all the traditional colors and versatility needed for professional portraiture.
My kit contained the “big three” colors: white, black and gray. A sewn-in rod pocket at the top of each backdrop made them easy to hang on the crossbar. After unpacking the backdrops there were some creases where they had been folded, but these were easily removed with a quick iron steam after hanging them up. The backdrops are machine-washable so if they become soiled during use, maintenance is easy.
I fitted one of my backdrops onto the adjustable crossbar and then placed the crossbar onto the stands by simply aligning the mount holes with the tips of the stands and dropping it into place. It made for a sturdy setup which could be further stabilized if I wished by adding a small sandbag or weight to the bottom of the stands.
All told the setup didn’t require a large amount of space but gave me enough room to work with so that shooting a couple would be no problem. Now I was ready to give my Economy Background Kit a try!
Using the Kit
After arranging a basic lighting setup with a flash and shoot-through umbrella to the side and a small on-camera flash aimed at the ceiling, I invited my model to stand against the backdrop. I shot her using each of the three backdrops to give each of the three colors a try. Switching the different backdrops out was quick and easy so my model didn’t have to spend time waiting in between.
As expected the difference was dramatic from backdrop to backdrop. I was beginning to see how much this simple setup could do for my portraiture and other studio work. The setup is painless enough that it would be a no-brainer to take this kit on location too.
The Economy Background Kit was already expanding my photography. No longer would I need to shoot “from the hip” for a portrait by settling for an existing background. Now I could tailor my backdrops exactly how I – or my client – might want for a professional-looking portrait.
All Photos Courtesy of Elias Butler.