Choosing the Right Photography Backdrop

Choosing the Right Photography Backdrop

by Greg Thomason

The right photography backdrop and subject matter should harmonize to create a photo that sends you to another place. The backdrop is not something that should be an afterthought as you are truly setting the stage for your photos. The right backdrop controls some of the features that you are not able to and allows you to manipulate the area that you are in, truly setting the environment and tone for your shot.
With each backdrop setting the tone differently by having their own unique features and way they work, it is important to pick the best backdrop for the shoot. Backdrops come in many different sizes, colors and textures, making each one different in the way they work and display themselves in photos.

Size Matters

There are a few things to consider when choosing the size of your backdrop, It is important that your backdrop size compliments both the photo you are taking and your subject. It is recommended that your subject by at least three to six feet away from your backdrop when shooting the photo in order to gain optimal lighting and prevent unwanted shadowing,

5 foot and 7 foot backdrops
If you are wanting to take headshots or 3/4-length photos, then a 5 to 7 foot backdrop is the best to go with. Backdrops this size are not just easy to set up, but also require minimal space to keep up or when storing. These are perfect for those that do not have a large studio, or are the photographer on the go. While these backdrops may not shoot full body shots, they are perfect in capturing headshots and ¾-length body shots.

10 to 12 Foot Backdrops
If you are looking for a staple in your studio for full-length portraits or larger product shots, then you need to invest in a 10 foot backdrop. These backdrops are ideal for taking those larger shots or those that take portrait shots often. The larger 12 foot backdrops are most ideal for full body shots as they are designed to stand 7 feet high with 4 feet of backdrop hanging along the floor.

20 Foot Backdrops
With these large backdrops, you are able to capture not only a full family shot, but also shoot moving subjects. With their size, it allows the subject to be photographed even when they are moving without fear of the background changing or being obstructed by the motion. In addition, it allows you to move your subjects further than 3-6 feet away from the backdrop if needed.

Color Matters

When you are choosing a backdrop, you want to make sure that the subject and the backdrop compliment each other in a way that does not distract from the subject or the “point” of the photo. While there are many different options for colors, there are also some backdrops that allow you to reflect, subtract or block light as well as change the way the photo appears to the eye depending on how it is positioned. Your backdrop should enhance the way that your photo appears, so choosing the right color to complement your subject is ideal. Stray away from backdrops that have too many different colors or textures to keep the eye on your subject.

Material Matters

Photography backdrops come in a variety of different materials such as paper, cloth, muslin, canvas, vinyl and sometimes velvet. Choosing the right material is vital as each affects your shot in different ways. The most commonly used are paper, canvas, vinyl and pop-up.

Being one of the more affordable backdrop options, paper backdrops are also one of the most commonly used. Paper backdrops come in rolls that allow you to lay out the length of backdrop that is needed. While they are relatively inexpensive, they are quite heavy, making it difficult to carry around. In addition to that, they do not work well with wate4r and cAnnot be cleaned if they get dirty - making them hard to reuse. If you decide to go the paper backdrop route, you will also need to invest in a backdrop stand so that the rolls do not curl back or roll back in.

If you are looking to elevate your photos to appear as fine art photography, canvas is the material that you want. Canvas backdrops are both durable and thick, giving off the impression of a high end photo. The downside to canvas backdrops is that they are typically easily damaged and hard to clean. Not only that, but they can be quite pricey depending on where you buy the canvas and if you go for any customizations.

If you need a backdrop that is durable, easily cleaned and that will last for years to come, vinyl is the best choice. They are commonly used as floordrops due to the easability of cleaning. Due to its weight, vinyl is often used in a more permanent setting as it is heavy and difficult to move.

Best for photographers on the go, or those that need a quick and easy solution, pop-up backdrops are the way to go. Depending on the size, pop-up backdrops are typically inexpensive; however, you can buy more high-end pop-up backdrops if you are looking for a long-term product. There are multiple sizes of pop-up backdrops, including table-top backdrops. The downside to pop-up backdrops is that they may not be tall or long enough to capture the full subject.

Regardless of which backdrop you choose, it is important to look deeper into the benefits as well as the drawbacks before purchasing to make sure that you have the best photography backdrop for your photos. Size, color, and material all matter as your photography backdrop can drastically change the way that you take photos.

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