I really have used Savage paper backgrounds since the mid 1970s. I guess that makes me kind of old, but I got my first Savage Seamless Paper background in 1976. It was a 107” black roll and for a 16 year old budding photographer it was the most awesome background ever made!
Over the years, I’ve tried different brands, but I always came back to Savage and it has always been for the same reasons… Quality, Consistency and Selection.
I’ve always found the Savage backgrounds to be on a heavier paper stock that’s not glossy, in fact it really is non-reflective and it has no texture which is a problem with some of the cheap alternatives. I have even purchased colored rolls several years apart and placed them side by side in my studio and the color is a perfect match and with 68 different colors/shades, Savage offers a selection of colors that is unrivaled and opens tremendous creative possibilities for backgrounds.
Four decades of working with seamless paper backgrounds has also taught me some helpful tips that I always share with my students.
1. Seamless paper backgrounds will always last longer if you store them standing up – vertically. If you store them hanging or even laying down, the cardboard cores will eventually buckle and then the paper buckles and becomes uneven.
2. This tip applies to pretty much everything photography – cameras, lenses and backgrounds…. if you are a studio photographer it is important to monitor and control the humidity in your studio space. Humidity is not your friend, it can cause fungus on your lenses and sensors and it can cause your seamless backgrounds to buckle.
3. Gaffers tape is your best friend when shooting full length images with a seamless background. In other words – tape down the edges. I guarantee you that your models high heels WILL find the edge of your seamless and tear it if you don’t tape it down.
4. I always keep a small bathroom rug handy and I place it at the front edge of my seamless for my subjects to wipe their feet on right before they walk onto the paper. Be sure to throw it in the washer every so often and keep the rug clean as well.
5. Swiffer cloths or Swiffer Dusters are great for wiping down seamless paper backdrops after a shoot.
6. When you are ready to cut off some of the roll because the end is worn beyond use – don’t use scissors – use a straight edge like a box cutter knife or a heavy-duty arts and crafts knife. Since the seamless paper is thick and has a curl – cutting it with scissors will always give you an uneven and random edge. I use two pieces of 1-inch by 4-inch by 8-foot lumber that you can purchase at a hardware store for less than ten dollars each. I place one under the seamless while I use the second one on top as a straight edge to guide my knife. This method also insures that you won’t scratch the surface of your studio floor.
Shot on a Savage #27 Thunder Gray Seamless Paper
If I had to pick my favorite color paper background from Savage, it would be the #27 Thunder Gray or the #74 Smoke Gray. With all the great colors that Savage has available, you are probably wondering why I would pick gray as my favorite. The answer is simply because it is the most versatile background color.
With a medium to dark gray background – I can create black, gray, or white…
All three images shot on a Savage #74 Smoke Gray Seamless Paper
…and with gels, just about any color I need.
All three images shot on a Savage #74 Smoke Gray Seamless with colored gels over the background strobes
Here is a video that explains in detail why I think that Gray is the most versatile background color.
Here are some shots that I have done for models’ portfolios – all using Savage Seamless Background Paper.
For a simple a fun look, I will frequently pair a ring light flash with a model standing directly in front of a bright colored seamless paper backdrop. The ring flash creates a distinctive shadow outline and the bright color grabs attention.
Compositing doesn’t have to be difficult. This playful series of a Mom and Daughter was shot on a #01 Super White Seamless Paper background and the images were simply laid side-by-side in Photoshop. This was done with a three-light setup that included a 60” white umbrella on camera right and two strobes – one on either side of the white background.
Composite of Mom and Daughter shot on #01 Super White Seamless Paper
Bounce flash beauty. You read that right – bounce flash. This shot was simply lit with one strobe bounced of the ceiling and a small white reflector card placed below the models face. The background is a #62 Savage Purple Seamless Paper background.
Beauty portrait shot on #62 Purple Seamless Paper
I hope you find these tips and lighting ideas helpful. This is a very small sampling of the thousands of images I have shot with Savage backgrounds over the years and I promise to share more of them with you here.
As I always say at the end of my videos on YouTube… Go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because your BEST shot… It’s your NEXT shot! So, keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting! Adios!