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).
With that being said - let's start with the importance of the material of a backdrop!
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:
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Photography backdrops (or sometimes called 'photography backgrounds'), range a great deal in price. Much like any consumer product, the aspects that determine price are:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!