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Go into your studio. Take a look down at your feet. Now go a few inches farther down and take a good look at the floor. It’s probably dirty, and no amount of cleaning is going to make it look any better than it is now. You might consider painting it, but sooner or later you’re going to wind up with the same problem you have now.

You might solve the problem by shooting with seamless paper and extending the apron out a few more feet for your subjects to stand (or sit) on, but the one drawback to that solution is cost: there’s going to be seamless that gets dirty and thrown away; over time, a lot of it. As I talked about in another blog, plexiglass adds more expense, but creates the potential for re-using the seamless. It’s a possibility worth considering, but there’s an even better solution, especially if you’re going to create something beside your standard backdrop: Floor Drops.

Rustic Pavers
Photo by Ryan Walsh, Featuring: Rustic Pavers Floor Drop

Create an Atmosphere

Here’s where life can get very interesting for the studio photographer, especially the portrait photographer. Clients of all ages, sizes, shapes and interests are going to be walking through your door and many of them live with passions. Passion for a favorite sport or they may see themselves being photographed in some downtown loft with brick walls and oak plank floors. You can give them all that and more without leaving your studio.

Floor drops will not only save you money on seamless paper, but you can also make use of them as backdrops as well. On the floor you don’t have to worry about them sliding all over the place, as they have a sure-footed rubber backing, or developing dirt marks (they clean up really well), or even tearing and creasing – something you are going to be constantly dealing with when using paper and muslin backdrops, both of which inevitably wind up as your floor covering as well as backdrop. A great combination to start with would be the Worn Plank Floor Drop (which can double as a background) coupled with a Red Brick Floor Drop used as a backdrop. As large as they are, you’ll get great coverage and they’ll work well not only with individuals, but groups as well. Go to a few local vintage stores and pick up some sympathetic furniture, like a rolling chair, or any other “stressed” or “previously-owned” accessories to enhance your setting. These kinds of props can add a lot of drama and excitement to your shooting schedule and will absolutely thrill your clients.  Mixing and matching floor drops, when done with an expansive imagination is a great way to add versatility to your studio without spending a whole lot of money.

See more: Floor Drops vs. Photo Backdrops

Using Your Imagination with Floor DropsPhoto by Ryan Walsh, Featuring: Worn Planks Floor Drop and Red Brick Floor Drop

Extending Your Artistry

There is also one other way to create magical settings in your studio with the help of floor drops: use them in combination with seamless paper. Don’t just hang a paper backdrop and give yourself a two-tone setting. That would be altogether too easy. Paint your seamless. It may sound crazy, but along with all the other props and tools in your studio, it’s a great way to have fun for you and your clients. Add white clouds to a sky blue backdrop. Go the extra mile and incorporate your clients painting your backdrop for you – think of it as a Tom Sawyer trip down the Mississippi. Or behind a First Base Floor Drop paint a fuzzy out-of-focus crowd scene, a thing that is super easy to do. A kids paint set and some larger brushes, while being inexpensive, will not only create great portraits, but you’ll have a blast doing it, and your clients will have the most memorable photo session they’ve ever experienced.

The point of all this is simple: photography is fun. It also requires a great deal of work, both in preparation, investment, and post-production. Hard work. If you’re successful at it, it’s going to stretch your imagination at times to make it fun, and there will be a marked difference between the photos you make while you and your clients are having fun and the ones where you don’t. You can see the difference in the results. Take some risks. Be flexible. Have fun. Do what you love and bring that love to your clients. They will know and feel the difference too. And they will do two things: they will come back for more and they will tell their friends about you. You can’t buy that kind of advertising.

James Schuck

James Schuck is a writer and photographer working in Southern California. He is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has photographed everything from Architecture to Auto Parts to Cookies to Portraits and Weddings.

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