Let us imagine you’re a photographer who works predominantly outdoors, and a local networking group you belong to asks if you’re able to do business portraits for them on a regular basis. Since you are all about giving value and you want people to see you in action, you say ‘yes’. You grab your gear and head to the venue, only to find yourself putting the subjects in front of a beige wall for the background.
Beige? Ugh.You want something better, but what? Should you spend the time in Photoshop trying to make the best of a bad situation or spend money for a studio photography backdrop?
Several of our photographer friends agreed it would take more time on the computer to make the image look good than it would by using studio backdrop in the first place. According to them, a photo background can help minimize post-processing, and time is money!
Finding information on photography backdrops isn’t difficult, but sorting through the choices may be another matter altogether. Muslin, canvas, paper or vinyl. Plain, printed, patterned or painted. It’s like trying to choose what to order from a Chinese dinner menu; plenty of selection, but limiting yourself to just one item from Column A can be a near impossibility.
While there are many inexpensive substitutes to a studio backdrop such as a bed sheet or plain wall, you will soon discover that “you get what you pay for”, and that using a nice solid photo backdrop is a great idea irrespective of your desire to cut costs.
Here are some advantages to using a photography backdrop for your photography:
A quality backdrop can give many years of service, especially if well cared for. Canvas backdrops are made with three, heavy layers of canvas, black-out cloth, and vinyl. This type of durability affords a long-term backdrop solution for any studio.
Photo Courtesy of Ryan Walsh, Featuring Autumn Canvas Backdrop
Solid-color backgrounds make for clutter-free images.Since they have no patterns, solid-color backdrops can be helpful if you do photo composites. White seamless paper can be great for this, and won’t leave a green colorcast like a chroma-key background can sometimes do. Solid-color backdrops can be lit in a variety of colors, allowing for an equal number of different looks and, if you use a GOBO or cut-out, you can add interesting shapes to the background, too.
If you do a lot of corporate portraits or headshot images, a professional studio backdrop can create a look that is consistent and repeatable. Our canvas backdrops are ideal for sophisticated portraits since they provide a classic and opulent scene.
Seamless paper backdrops are available in many colors, and if they get dirty you can cut off the bad part and start over. Patterned backdrops such as painted Muslin or Canvas, or Floor Drops replicating wood or brick, can offer a great substitute if you don’t have access to, or if weather prevents, shooting the “real thing.” When on location, you can use a backdrop to cover unwanted elements, while in the studio, several photo backgrounds allow you to easily change the look and feel of your images, all within the same shoot.
See more: 5 Reasons to Use Backdrop Paper
Here are a few other features of photography backgrounds that may help you decide which type of background would suit your needs best:
Like with many things in life, you get what you pay for, and quality can cost more. I learned this firsthand by trying to be cheap, using a light grey bed sheet as a background. I wound up substituting one set of post-production problems for another…I mean, have you ever tried “ironing” wrinkles in Photoshop? I am confident a quality photo background would have avoided this.
If you shoot outside of a fixed studio location, you’ll need to transport your backdrop to the shoot. Muslin, vinyl and canvas are easier to transport than seamless paper, since they can be folded or rolled up. Since seamless comes on a roll, your ability to transport may be limited by the length of the roll. However, collapsible backdrop kits are a great solution to on-location shooting, and will allow for easier transport and setup.
To provide the best studio setup, it is advisable to also invest in a backdrop stand or backdrop kit, as well as studio lighting equipment to ensure the most professional looking images.
Some types of photography backdrops are more suitable for different settings. Seamless, canvas and vinyl backdrops are heavy and need sturdy support. Seamless paper rolls are long, heavy, and need to be stored vertically to get the best service life from them (they wrinkle/crease).
With all the selections available, it should be relatively painless to find a photography backdrop suitable for your shooting style. From something as simple as a white muslin backdrop to a floor drop that looks like weathered brick, finding a background suitable for your shooting style should be relatively painless. The difficulty will be limiting yourself to just one.