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In the studio, where everything is under strict control, the choices of background can simplify or complicate your life. For most photographers, and for many years, the standard choice has been seamless paper. Most photographers don’t even think about it anymore. Once the choice of subject is presented, it’s only a matter of minutes before a roll of seamless is selected and rolled out to the proper specifications. But nowadays, while paper may be the “bread and butter” of studio backdrops, photographers are no longer limited. The world has opened up in any number of ways: you can choose from paper, muslin, floor drops posing as backdrops, green screens, specialty backdrops, and even vinyl.

Vinyl? Since when did vinyl factor into the equation? You may not know it, but vinyl has become a go-to backdrop material for many photographers these days.

Benefits of Seamless Paper

Color Variety

We all know about seamless paper: it comes in a wide variety of colors, more than you’ll ever really need for everyday work where black, gray and white are the dominant background colors (if you don’t believe it just pick up a fashion magazine and see how many different colors are in use today).

Disposable & Inexpensive

There are a number of convenient sizes to choose from, and ultimately, they are disposable and relatively inexpensive. It’s almost a no-brainer. Every photographer has several rolls of paper backdrops in the studio. You can paint on them, tear them up, roll them out and cut them up, get them dirty and throw them out. It won’t wrinkle. If it gets scuffed, you just tear it off and throw it away. If you don’t shoot too often, paper just makes sense. It’s the easiest thing in the world to deal with.

See more: 5 Reasons to Use Backdrop Paper

savage-tulip-seamless-paper-backdropPhoto Courtesy of Ryan Walsh, Featuring Tulip Seamless Paper

Benefits of Vinyl Backdrops

One-Time Purchase

But vinyl may be a better choice in your studio for several reasons. It may not take the place of paper, but for those photographers who are shooting a lot, paper expenses can add up to a lot of money if you’re not passing on the cost of the backdrop to the client.

Matte Finish

First, vinyl is not the kind of material you’re thinking of right now. It’s not that shiny stuff that raincoats were made of in the 1970’s. It’s not plastic. The best vinyl has a subtly textured matte surface that eliminates the kind of reflective glare vinyl used to have back in the day.

Quick Cleaning

It’s easy to clean (imagine photographing a dog on paper, or worse, fabric and you’ll know what I mean) and rather than simply tear off a chunk of it the way you might with paper, a damp sponge will take care of most messes. This yields a major advantage over paper in several ways: first, if you are doing a shoot where the background is constant, using vinyl instead of paper will save you time and money. Catalog photographers take note: instead of ripping off paper, you’ll be reusing the same backdrop over and over again, which brings us to advantage number two: environmental concerns. You will not be throwing away tons of paper every year and that is a good thing for the environment. You will feel it and your clients will take notice. In this day of “green concerns”, you’ll be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

See more: Vinyl Backdrops: An Essential for Pet Photography

Wrinkle Free

Advantage number four: vinyl won’t wrinkle. Advantage number five: stored properly, it will last a lifetime (consider the cost savings of that!)

black-seamless-vs-black-vinylPhotos by Ryan Walsh, Comparing Black Seamless Paper to Black Vinyl

No photographer should ever be without seamless paper. You simply have to have it as part of your kit. But in many instances, you’ll find good quality vinyl to have great advantages over paper in many areas of your work. It is a wise investment that will serve you for years, if not decades, if cared for properly. You may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly it becomes an important part of your studio, and if you pay even the smallest bit of attention to your cost of doing business, having vinyl backdrops in your studio makes a lot of dollars and sense.

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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