When you’re traveling as a photographer, unless you have a truck that carries your entire studio with you, considerations have to be made with regard to space and size that will greatly influence the kind(s) of backdrop you carry with you. It’s also important to give your clients as much to choose from as you can, and that means carrying more than one backdrop. The question is: which ones? There are a number of good choices available depending on the size of your vehicle and the kind of photography work you’ll be doing. Take a look:
Muslin backdrops are always a good choice for the location photographer. The main problem with muslin is that the cloth can wrinkle, creating a texture that can be either a distraction or a benefit. To successfully work with muslin on the road, you will need to roll up muslin after use instead of folding it. Rolling will keep wrinkling to a minimum. Larger pieces of muslin will necessarily need to be folded some as the length of the material can be prohibitive in transporting it in a compact car.
The day before traveling, hang the muslin up so the wrinkles have a chance to work themselves out of the fabric. Steaming the fabric will help a great deal. Weighting the fabric at the bottom will stretch the material and hasten the departure of those wrinkles. Just remember it is much easier to add wrinkles than to take them out, so make sure you have a good bag or box to drop them into. Dirt and dust in and on the fabric will get a lot worse if you don’t. Have several good traveling bags on hand. Another thing to remember: if you’re using seamless in your studio, save those cardboard tubes they come wrapped around. They are the perfect tool to wrap your muslin around.
Amazingly enough, seamless paper can be a good choice for traveling. They come in several different sizes and it’s rare that anyone thinks of using seamless outside of the studio. The great advantage to seamless is that it comes already rolled, wrinkle-free and wrapped in its own shipping box. The choice of colors will satisfy the most picky of customers. In a small space, seamless of the right size is a no-brainer, and especially with the smaller rolls, it can be tucked away in your car or truck without any trouble. It has the added benefit of becoming a plaything if there are children around. After the shoot, there is nothing better than a large piece of blank paper for kids to play on.
Photo Courtesy of Zhang Jingna
Far and away the most practical backdrops for the traveling photographer are the collapsible backdrops. Not only are they easy to set up and break down, they are also available in a great many colors. But the real advantage of collapasibles to the traveling photographer is their ease of transport. You won’t have to worry about wrinkles: they just fold up small and flat and have their own carrying cases as well. Most times when you’re packing, they will fit into the most obscure places easily. Unlike most items you’ll be carrying, collapsibles disappear and will be the last thing you’ll need to pack. They are extremely versatile and can be used not only as backdrops, but in a pinch can make for a perfect reflector. They have even been used to create a changing room on location when privacy is needed. But no matter how you use them, these items are a must have in the traveling photographer’s tool kit and having them in several different sizes will add a great deal to your arsenal without a lot of additional cost or space. Don’t leave home without several of them!
It would be no stretch of the imagination to carry several of the above-mentioned choices. Certainly, collapsibles are the most storage-friendly and wrinkle free choice among the group, and having several of them in your traveling kit are almost a necessity for their versatility and ease of transport. Needing a larger backdrop is going to move your decision-making process up into the muslin or seamless category. While seamless will certainly be a good, hassle-free choice for medium sized shoots and certainly for table-top work, once you reach a certain stage where an even larger size backdrop is required, say for shooting large groups of people, muslin is going to be your best choice, even if it means taking greater care of the material in the long run.
So take care to choose wisely based upon your needs, buy the best quality you can afford, and leave the house with some versatility in your kit. In the long run, having several different choices will make your life immeasurably easier and it will have the distinction, by virtue of the additional choices, of making you a better and more professional photographer.