Do It Yourself: Backdrops


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A nice, clean backdrop can quickly enhance any photo. I personally prefer the simple and clean when it comes to backdrops. So for the sake of this tutorial, I will avoid discussing more intricate scenic backdrops and focus on low cost solutions for more versatile and simple backdrops.

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The most popular backdrop is probably the muslin backdrop.  


Whether handpainted or tie dyed, these will generally cost you a couple hundred dollars or maybe $50 (for a decent sized backdrop). I got mine on Ebay for $35 plus shipping and handling, and I still think that's a lot. 


But muslin backdrops are classic. And if you are looking into portraiture, a nice handpainted muslin backdrop is a worthwhile investment.


(If you must invest a muslin backdrop, at least save yourself some money on the backdrop stand. You can easily make your own out of PVC pipes or just hang it up like a tapestry.)


Advantages of using a muslin backdrop:

  • Very classy
  • Great for professional portraiture

Disadvantages of using a muslin backdrop:
  • Expensive in itself
  • May also require expensive backdrop stands
  • To change the color, you pretty much need to buy a new muslin backdrop
   

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A good alternative to the muslin backdrop is to use fabric


Unlike muslin backdrops, fabric backdrops are very cheap. Actually, most don't cost you a thing. Just recycle your bed sheets, a blanket, that couch throw, or maybe even a large shirt.


Even if you have to buy fabric, $5 should be more than enough for backdrop fabric (assuming you don't choose fancy expensive fabric intended for clothing).


You definitely do not need such a large piece of fabric. For macro photos, I often just use a t-shirt as the backdrop.


Advantages of using a fabric backdrop:

  • Affordable
  • A lot of variety to choose from, so easy to change the color
  • Readily accessible; everyone has access to some kind of fabric whether clothing or bed sheets

Disadvantages of using a fabric backdrop:
  • May wrinkle depending on the fabric you choose
     

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Perhaps the simplest backdrop is the plain ol' white wall


I have a fairly large white wall in my room that I often use as a backdrop in photos. I definitely don't use the entire wall in most photos, so if you don't have such a large wall, don't worry. Painted walls work too. I just prefer white walls since white can be color balanced to various light pastel colors in post editing. 


Advantages of using a wall as the backdrop:

  • No set up; just stand in front of it and go
  • Smooth and clean; walls don't wrinkle like other backdrops

Disadvantages of using a wall as the backdrop:
  • To change the backdrop color, you need to paint the wall
  • Not everyone has access to a clean wall
  • Maintenance might be difficult

     






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