Gallery: Please visit the gallery to view images in full size. From the gallery, you will be able to add the images to the shopping cart and checkout. YouTube: I have a YouTube Channel (Hari PHL) where I post videos once a week. Please subscribe to my channel and share my videos. I appreciate your support. Thank you for visiting my site.
One of the most important things in any photograph, even though it’s not immediately obvious, is the background! The background, or negative space in the image, plays a huge part in defining the entire mood, feeling and impact of the photograph. Getting the background right is always crucial in photography, but never more so than when you’re working in the studio.
To create a background in your studio that you can work with in a controlled way you need to use a backdrop. A backdrop can be any number of colors, patterns and textures, each of which will help to define your photos.
There are many different types of backdrop that you can use in your studio to achieve different outcomes but you also need to consider the size that you will be using.
When you’re using a studio backdrop you also have to make sure that your subject is at least 3 or 4 feet away from it so that the shadows are easier to control and your lighting is more effective. You may want to deviate from this general rule though if you’re working with backlit or overhead shots as well as in some types of product photography.
What Sizes of Studio Backdrop Can You Use and What are they Best For?
- 5 foot studio backdrop. This small scale backdrop is ideal for closely cropped portraits or product photography. These require very little space to set up and are easy to work with; ideal for small home studios.
- 7 foot studio backdrop. Usually used for ¾ length, or mid shot, portraits. You can also use it for general individual portraits, headshots and product photography.
- 9 foot studio backdrop. This is what you’ll probably find in most studios because it is extremely versatile but still easy to set up and work with. You can use these for portraits and much more besides.
- 12 foot studio backdrop. This larger backdrop covers the full length of a person standing up and is designed to be draped along the floor at the bottom. You can hang the backdrop up to a height of about 7 or 8 feet with the other 4 or 5 feet sweeping along the floor towards you; thus creating a unified background for your subject.
- 20 foot studio backdrop. These large scale backdrops can be used for almost any project including full family portraits, large product photography and even videography. You can also move your subjects further away from the backdrop if you want to work with more dramatic shadows in your work.
What Types of Backdrop Should You Use?
There are many types of backdrop that you can use in your photography, each with its own advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered. You can hand make your own backdrops but generally speaking, particularly for professional studio work, it’s better to buy a purpose made one.
Seamless Paper Backdrop.
This is a great choice if you’re working on a tight budget and although it’s relatively fragile and thin it works fine for most studio settings. You can get paper backdrops in almost any color although the most common types are either black or white. You can also use your white paper backdrop to create gray backgrounds by changing your studio lighting setup so it’s very useful to have on hand.
You can always get a nice clean photo with a white paper background and it’s easy to change the tones with filtered lights. It’s also a great option for product photography. It is not very easy to travel with or use on different locations because it’s fragile and may get damaged en route.
These are made with cotton fabric and come in a range of dyed colors. You can also hand paint a muslin backdrop. Muslin backdrops are a very traditional option and have been used for a long time although in modern times many photographers seem to have forgotten about them! Nonetheless, they are modestly priced, highly portable and look very good in most contexts.
One major advantage of using a muslin backdrop is that if they get dirty you can actually wash them. When you use a solid colored muslin backdrop it comes out very similar to a paper one. You do need to be careful about not letting them get folded during the shoot so that you don’t have any unwanted inconsistencies in the background.
Hand Painted Canvas Backdrop.
These are often used in high fashion photoshoots by the likes of Vanity Fair and although they look fantastic they can cost quite a lot! The color or patterns are hand painted onto large sheets of canvas – with multiple layers of paint being used to ensure proper consistency.
Hand painted canvases produce a lovely rich color that is vibrant and fresh with the paint adding a subtle texture to your background. This is impossible to achieve with most other types of backdrop and so it makes an excellent addition to your studio gear. You will have to handle the canvas carefully so it doesn’t get damaged though due to its cost.
This is a type of backdrop that is printed onto a strong and pliable vinyl sheet. This gives you great flexibility in terms of the image or color on the backdrop but you are restricted by the fact that the backdrop has to be vertical and cannot fold over to cover the floor behind your subject. However, if you do need to cover parts of the floor as well you can purchase a separate sheet to use, onto which you can print anything from a fake hardwood floor to marble styled texturing!
Vinyl backdrops are one of the best options for creative projects and because they are tough and washable they can be used with children, pets and for product photography. One very interesting option that you can experiment with is printing 3D objects onto the backdrop – such as a bookshelf or even a monster!
You can use a material backdrop in your studio with either plain colors or patterns printed onto it. These are very durable and machine washable so they are a good long lasting option. They can produce a similar type of rich tone as the more expensive canvas backdrops but you need to be careful that they don’t get creased during the shoot because this will cause shadows and irregularities in your background.
Material backdrops can be folded around on the floor to cover the space between your subject and the vertical back wall however you need to make sure it’s properly straightened out to avoid inconsistencies. They are excellent an choice for most studio projects and it’s always worth having one to work with if the need arises.
Velvet backdrops come in all colors and many different patterns and because they absorb the light somewhat they create very rich tones in your photography. They do crease quite easily but even this can be used to great effect in your work because the shadows will be understated – unlike a material or canvas backdrop.
Velvet backdrops can sometimes be washed although they will often fade very quickly with repeated washes. They are very versatile and easy to travel with. These backdrops can be used to set up authentic retro photoshoots as well as impactful high fashion shoots. In the right colors they can also be great for more traditional portraits.
As known as ‘Cyc Studios’, these are made of two intersecting sections of walling that are built into place. These fixed backdrops are extremely sturdy and will give you very consistent backgrounds. The two walls are built so that they curve into one another meaning that in the photos there is no visible ‘corner’ showing.
Of course, since a cyc studio is actually fixed in place it is the least flexible of the options available to you and unless you have plenty of studio space to work in they might not be the right choice for you.
Generally, these backdrops are only one color although theoretically you could keep repainting it to meet the needs of new projects. Overall, they are quite costly and inflexible but if you are working in a very specialized genre and only need one type of backdrop they may be ideal for you.
Collapsible backdrops can be popped up and used in your studio or while you are out on location. They come in a whole range of shapes, sizes and colors – oftentimes specially designed for specific genres such as portraits or product photography.
These backdrops are versatile and tough and a great choice for freelancers. Most collapsible backdrops are made of wrinkle proof fabrics which means you’ll always get consistent backgrounds without having to worry about straightening out folds or creases to avoid shadows and inconsistencies.
How To Choose The Right Studio Backdrop?
When you’re selecting the right type of backdrop for your studio you need to factor in several things. Firstly, you need to think about how much you’re willing to spend and whether you can afford to get several! It’s always better to have a selection of backdrops to hand so you can be more versatile in your photoshoots.
Another very important thing that you need to decide on is the color of your backdrop. White backdrops are the most commonly used and versatile of the colors you can choose but for more creative projects you may want to go with patterns, different colors or even exciting or unusual printed backdrops.
Depending on what you are photographing – for instance products or family portraits – you need to select a backdrop that is big enough to cover the background of your subjects.
Are you going to have to travel with your backdrop or will it remain in place? If you need to take your backdrop to multiple locations then you’ll want a tough and durable one whereas for basic studio photography you can use a simple paper backdrop.
Studio Backdrops Are Crucial for Professional Photographers.
It’s something that often gets overlooked but without a proper backdrop your photography is bound to look amateur and unimpressive. You need to be able to create consistent backdrops in your studio so that you can offer your services professionally.
Once you have a good backdrop, or a few of them, you’ll see the consistency and quality of your work rapidly improving. Studio backdrops are excellent value for money and if treated correctly you’ll get years of use from them. Using the right backdrop will influence the mood, feel and impact of your photography so it’s an important decision that every photographer has to make.
What type of backdrop do you use?