Microfiber is a fabric made of polyester and polyamide (although most backdrops are 100% polyester). Microfiber is often used in many industries, but it isn’t widely known as a photography backdrop. Microfiber does not stretch and can be easily placed on any flat surface. Microfiber can be used for backdrops or backgrounds for photoshoots or other photography needs such as photo prints and banners.
It can also be used for table cloths, drapery, upholstery, window curtains, bedding, dress shirts, and more! In addition, microfibers are considered an eco-friendly option because they’re durable, reusable, wrinkle-resistant, and easy to clean.
Now that you know what microfiber is and how it has become such a desired material in the photography backdrop world - let's discuss how it's better (and not so good) than other materials.
I'll say this - as a beginner, one of the most difficult aspects of doing a studio or on-location photo session with a backdrop was the setup process.
It was getting the stands ready and set to the correct height. Then making sure the backdrop was mounted correctly and was wrinkle-free. Then you had to keep in mind the height and width of your subjects and adjust the backdrop if you needed to... and the list goes on.
This wasn't so difficult if you had a dedicated studio (or home studio) - but it can be a challenge on location outside.
Personally, paper backdrops are some of the most difficult in these situations. You can't bend it, or you'll have creases. It tears easily because, well, it's paper. Rolls are a totally different issue and aren't worth bringing on location.
Microfiber on the other hand eliminates all that. You know the height and width because it's set by the microfiber backdrop cloth. This helps me tremendously as a photographer because there isn't any guessing. They hang easily off of a backdrop stand and you can pin it to keep it tight (to eliminate any loose areas).
Did your microfiber backdrop get dirty during your last session? No worries! Throw it in the wash on cold/delicate. Air dry or dry on 'air' setting (in the drier), and you're done. Good as new.
One of the great things about microfiber is that it can be folded and resists creases. Unlike paper and a vinyl backdrop - which you can't fold or wash - you can fold and store these backdrops in a tote or bin (if you don't have the space to hang them up).
Note: when you receive one of these backdrops for the first time it will have creases and folds in it. It's been folded and sitting like that for months - you should expect it. A simple solution is to steam iron it on a low heat setting. You won't hurt the fibers if the heat is low enough - and best of all... it'll look just like it did in the photos you saw when you purchased it!
Unlike canvas or muslin backdrops - microfiber is pretty inexpensive. At the same time, you will pay more for quality - that goes for anything on the consumer market. For instance, one of the most well-known microfiber backdrop designers/brand names is Kate Backdrop.
While her backdrops are about 30% higher than what you'll see from other companies... you're getting what you pay for.
But, in comparison to other backdrop materials, you're looking at a 30-50% (or more) savings across the board. Again, it all depends on what you're comparing it to - but, generally speaking, that's a good range of savings.
The amount of detail portrayed within a pattern/picture/custom design on a microfiber backdrop... is actually quite amazing.
This is one of the reasons it has become so popular.
Not only are you able to wash, fold, iron/steam... the level of detail and overall quality of the printed design - just makes it that much better.
The microfiber printing technology has gotten advanced enough to offer this level of quality at a very reasonable cost.
Seeing as microfiber is a pretty translucent fabric - you're able to shoot light through the fabric itself.
This is great for illuminating the backdrop without setting up a separate light from the front.
This can save you in a pinch or tight area (or larger subject/family) where you cannot get the light to hit the backdrop how you would like to.
Check out the video at the end of the article to see exactly what I'm talking about.
There are two sides to anything that's microfiber.
Microfiber is soft 'furry' on one side, and the sewing texture is on the other.
Don't be afraid to use either side. You'll get different looks and textures from either one. Obviously, if you have a printed backdrop, the print will be on one side, and it'll be the solid underlying color on the other.
There isn't a product on the planet that meets every need. With that being said, let's discuss when microfiber wouldn't be a good material to use during a photoshoot.
Seeing as microfiber is an absorbent material - you wouldn't want to use this during cake smashes or any session involving liquids.
Vinyl backdrops are recommended over microfiber for a session like this.
This is true for any backdrop, really. When doing outdoor/on-location sessions - moderate to high winds and damp/rainy weather is a no-go.
Again, microfiber is absorbant and will get completely soiled in no time and will blow over on your stands just as fast in moderate to high winds.
Sandbags are highly recommended for light to moderate wind conditions.
To take care of a Microfiber backdrop, you should get rid of any messy spots with water and mild soap. Make sure to hang dry it when you are done so that the wrinkles come out. And if there are any wrinkles or creases, put it on your ironing board, place a towel over the Microfiber backdrop, and press gently on cool/low for 5-10 minutes.
Make sure to use a towel or something else between the Microfiber and your iron. If you do not have an iron, you can always place it in the washing machine on low/delicate with no soap.
If there is any color bleeding from the Microfiber backdrop into the water, then switch detergents as this means the Microfiber is too soiled and should be replaced.
Pretty simple, right? Well, it's straightforward compared to muslin or canvas, for instance.
Generally speaking, there are two acceptable ways to store microfiber.
One isn't really better than the other - it just depends on how you're able to. Be warned, even though they're wrinkle/crease resistant - you will get creases and wrinkles if stored for a long period of time (3 months or more on average).
As you can see - both are viable options that have their pros and cons, which makes them equal. However, one is not particularly better than the other.
'Best' meaning a combination of quality, selection, and design.
Kate Backdrop is, hands down, your best source for microfiber backdrops. There's an incredible selection in both design/color and size. They specialize in microfiber, and it shows. Top-quality all around.
Your best bet is to check them out and purchase online. Rarely will you find quality microfiber backdrops in a local store (if you do, you're lucky!). They ship worldwide - not just in the united states.
You'll also notice that the price is very reasonable for the quality. It's very affordable compared to high-end muslin or hand-painted canvas. Remember, you can wash and reuse microfiber for years if taken care of properly.
Photography backdrops, in general, are great investments and highly recommended. Microfiber even more so.
Whether you have a photo studio or just a studio space, you'll get so much out of microfiber.
You may want to consider a custom rubber floor mat for various photo sessions. You can have colors/designs printed on it, much like microfiber or vinyl.
We hope this article has helped you make an informed decision about which type of backdrop is best for your photography needs. One thing we know for sure, it’s hard to beat the versatility and simplicity that a good microfiber background offers. They are easy to set up on almost any surface and can be stored anywhere with ease. If you have found our blog post helpful, please share it with others who find the information valuable!
You can learn everything you need to know about photographer backdrops in our pillar article, What Makes A Good Photography Backdrop: The Ultimate Guide.
Until next time, be safe and keep creating!