What Makes A Good Photography Backdrop: The Ultimate Guide
July 30, 2021
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Are you wondering what makes a good photography backdrop? What's the difference between one background and another, or which is better for your needs? Well, wonder no more! This post will give you all the information that you need to know about choosing a perfect backdrop for your photography needs.
So, what makes a good photography backdrop? What are some disadvantages of certain backdrops? These are just some of the questions we will answer today.
Here is an overview of what topics this article will cover which will lead to determining what makes a good photography backdrop! Feel free to click the links - they will take you to that specific section of the article (anchors).
Ease of use
Ease of Storage
Type of Backdrop (for different occasions)
With that being said - let's start with the importance of the material of a backdrop!
Photography Backdrops Material
What's used in making your backdrop (the material itself) directly relates to the way that it looks. As you can imagine, the higher the quality of the material - the higher quality the results will be. Below is a list of 15 commonly used materials for photography backdrops. As this pillar article gets fleshed out - I will have a dedicated article for each of these materials - along with their pros and cons. Below the materials, I'll leave a few recommendations that you should keep in mind when looking for your next photography backdrop.
Top 9 materials for photography backdrops (in no particular order), include:
No matter the type of photography you're doing - reflections matter. Some materials reflect more than others. For instance, Vinyl reflects much more than muslin for instance. This is something to keep in mind - especially if you're photographing close to the background (product photography, for instance).
Keep color casting in mind. This is most important when shooting with flash. As light hits the backdrop - that light will reflect. What most don't understand is that the light reflected will be filled with the color of what it bounces off of. The image included (above) shows how a green screen shot a green halo/colorcast around my entire upper body (the side that the flash was firing off from). This is the biggest reason I never use a green screen for photography work anymore.
You get what you pay for (for the most part). For instance, large colored paper rolls are going to be much less expensive compared to a large canvas or muslin backdrop. The results yield equal results. Wrinkle-resistant material is a must. This is something you need to determine first - whether you can 'get away' with using something that is less expensive - or do you need something of higher quality to get the results you (and/or your clients), desire.
Textured photography backdrops are fantastic for adding dimension and texture to the photo. You'd be surprised how much a simple texture can change/improve your photos.
These backdrops are usually composed of textured fabric such as burlap, linen, or canvas materials that have been stretched tightly over the framework and secured at the top.
These can be used indoors or outdoors because they're durable enough to withstand windy conditions when outside but also easy enough to transport to a different location if need be.
What Makes Them Great?
Textured photography backdrops make the photo stand out with texture or give an artistic effect when photographing people in front of it. They're also very affordable, costing anywhere from $40-$200 depending on size and quality.
What's The Downside?
Textured photography backdrops are hard to find in stores so it can be difficult to know how they will work with your photo before buying. They also require a little more time and effort because you're required to place them over frames or stands, securing any loose strings from flapping around in the breeze.
Again, texture can add a lot of character and give an artistic effect (painterly), to your image.
Your backdrop should have a color that coordinates with your event colors or theme. For portraits, a lighter and brighter colored fabric will produce more pleasing images (i.e headshots). A darker backdrop can be used to de-emphasize the background, thus bringing attention to your subject. And for festive occasions why not try using a bold colored or themed fabric?
If you're thinking of just a solid colored backdrop - you'll have to most options in terms of material. You can choose from paper/paper rolls all the way up to silk/muslin/a canvas backdrop. Solid colors leave the doors open for the most variety in terms of material.
The Size Of Your Photography Backdrop
The backdrop should be big enough for your subject to fit nicely within the frame. Bigger backdrops will allow you to capture more of the landscape in your images (good if you're photographing a large group). You can always crop later on but it's easier to work with a larger backdrop.
The rule that I set for myself is:
No shorter than 7'
Width is determined by scene/subject(s) shot within it (or what you expect to shoot)
Generally speaking - I purchase 7'x7' backdrops. This gives me the height I need (if my client is standing), and the width for more people (as well as height when zooming out.
Always remember - shoot a little wider than you need to when taking portraits. You can always crop into the image. Leave yourself a buffer.
Durability Is Important
There are two things to consider here - how long will the backdrop last, and how easy is it to clean?
Canvas backdrops for example can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth while velvet ones can be taken care of just as easily by spot cleaning. Also, material that doesn't fray is the best bet if you have pets at home who may accidentally make their way onto your backdrop.
On the other hand, you don't need to worry about the durability of inexpensive paper (or seamless paper) backdrops. Paper backdrops are intended to be used once (or a couple of times) and discarded. You won't be investing nearly as much into paper as you would for canvas or muslin.
You need to also consider your environment. Hand-painted muslin backdrops won't be nearly as durable in the elements (rain, wind, sand) as something like a vinyl backdrop would. Vinyl is a durable, synthetic, plastic material that's essentially waterproof. This material is much more durable in outdoor environments.
As you already know - everything in photography has weight and size. From the camera to the lights and everything in between.
The majority of beginner (and some intermediate) photographers don't this into consideration. And why would they right? Everything is 'light'. A camera weighs a few ounces, a lens a few more.. and so forth. We're talking about ounces and rarely pounds.
What you need to consider is the combination of all of the equipment at the same time. Now, take that and consider traveling with it over long distances... A little bit of weight turns into a hell of a lot.
If you're using these for a studio backdrop - you may also need to consider this when transporting from one studio to another.
Vinyl backdrops will be much more portable than say a canvas. A canvas backdrop will be heavier itself - but the backdrop stand will be heavier as well.
These are all things to consider for all portrait photographers shooting in either a studio or on-site.
Ease Of Use
You want a backdrop that's easy to use and can be stored easily too. Materials like velour, unbleached muslin, or canvas are better choices than printed fabrics because they require no additional special treatment before storing.
Whether you're looking for studio backdrops or a backdrop for on-site work... Ease of use is very important.
Printed fabric may look great - but they have a tendency to produce folds and creases that need to be ironed or steamed out. This is common across all materials for backdrops - but printed fabric material is notorious for it.
It's important you either get a backdrop that's very easy to use or set up - or be prepared to go a few extra steps for something a little less expensive but harder to work with.
Ease Of Storage
You want a backdrop that will quickly unroll, go up easily and come down even easier without too much folding or creasing. It's a good idea to have two backdrops - one for portrait shots and the other for landscape/event coverage. Most photographers have at least two backdrops on hand - a lighter one for babies and children, and another darker colored one for adults.
There are collapsible backdrops on the market that may be worth looking into - but you should expect to lose a little in the quality department for the added convenience. It has the backdrop stand and material all in one and you unroll it from the ground. Think of it like a projector screen.
The number one most important thing about storing a backdrop is to keep it clean and wrinkle/crease-free. Your best bet is to roll it up and slide into a cardboard tube.
Some backdrops are made with pockets on one or both sides to conceal a lighting panel for an additional charge. This can be very handy especially if you are using two lights and want to hide away the cords and extra stands.
Some backdrops come with a simple 30-day money-back guarantee while others offer lifetime warranties - it's best to check the fine print before you make your purchase!
Of course, anything bought through Amazon can be returned within 30 days if you don't like it or there's something wrong with it. It's the lifetime warranties that are the most important (and come with the most expensive backdrops on the market).
Price Of A Photography Backdrop
Photography backdrops (or sometimes called 'photography backgrounds'), range a great deal in price. Much like any consumer product, the aspects that determine price are:
Quality of product
Size (esp in the case of backdrops)
Time of production
Also, much like anything that you decide to purchase - it comes down to what you're willing to pay for and how much it's going to pay you back. 'Paying back' could be money or even enjoyment.
Prices can vary greatly depending on all the aspects stated above.
Different Types Of Backdrops
Don't confuse this section for the types of material used in making a backdrop. These are backdrops for special occasions. Photography backdrops that're made for a specific occasion.
Baby dream backdrops
Christmas Photography Backdrops
Product Photography Backdrop
Generally speaking, they're printed backdrops on cotton or vinyl. They're used to create a scene inside a professional photo studio. Studio photographers love these throughout the seasons to add to the family portraits in their photography studio. They make for a great portrait background and add to the feel of the set.
Some of the best photography backdrops fall under these 'themed' backdrops. The creative possibilities are endless. They can be used with flash or natural light, full-length portraits, and still light photography. The possibilities are only limited to your imagination.
Those Are All The Aspects That Go Into A Good Photography Backdrop!
Whether you had an idea of what you wanted and wanted to be steered toward the right studio backdrop for you, or you had no idea at all of what you needed or what a good backdrop was...
Now I hope I have shed a little bit of light and helped you better understand what to look for when purchasing the right photography backdrop for you!
We went over the 11 aspects of a backdrop that makes it good. Those include:
Ease of Use
Ease of Storage
If there are any other questions, concerns, or requests that you have - leave them in the comments below, or shoot us an email at [email protected]
Be sure to check out all the articles that are listed above to dive deeper into the world of photography backdrops!
Until next time - be safe and keep creating!
What is the best material for photography backdrops?
There are a wide variety of photography backdrops for various needs. With that being said, it depends on your needs. Vinyl is great for outdoor work because of its resistance to the elements. Cotton is a great all-around material and texture - but terrible outdoors. Muslin and canvas are the best for hand-painting... but are quite expensive. It all depends on your needs. Generally speaking - Muslin and Canvas are the best materials for backdrops - especially for artistic/painterly portraits.
How do you make a photography backdrop?
There are many ways to make a photography backdrop, but the best way is to start with what you're looking for. What kind of backdrop do you need? What color? What material do you want it to be? What is your budget for it? What kind of quality are you looking for? What will be the practical use of this backdrop? What will happen to this backdrop after it's finished being used (will it be stored or thrown away?)
What I would recommend is starting with what you're looking for and then finding some great backdrops that fit those criteria. I have compiled a list of different materials that can be used as photography backdrops.
What do photographers use as backdrops?
This is pretty subjective - but most photographers use either paper, vinyl, or muslin as backdrop material.
Microfiber has become very popular over the last 10 or so years because of how inexpensive it can be, easy of use, and the ability to print nearly anything you want on them (at very high quality).
What backdrop is best for pictures?
The answer to that is simple - whatever is best for you. A muslin, cotton, or vinyl backdrop is highly suggested - but again, it all depends on your needs or wants. Hell, you may not even need a backdrop - a true, natural background might be better than a traditional backdrop.