Wednesday, December 1, 2010

DIY Photography Backdrops

So as I've been getting deeper into my Photography I've noticed my wallet getting lighter & lighter & so has my husband who keeps patting me down & searching my office to see what new Photography equipment I may have stowed away while he wasn't looking. 

I realized a lot of the backdrops I was seeing that had me drooling were things I could easily do myself. So I started thinking & looking for DIY solutions & I've came across some really great ideas. Some are good only for amateur photography but some of the results could give professional products a run for the money. If you decide you don't have the time to make one or you want something more durable (many of these require a lot of time to set & tear down & wouldn't be able to be used several times) then check out companies like Drop It Modern, Lemon Drop Stop & Backdrop Outlet. They also have things like faux wood floors & wall decals/wallpaper  which is something that'd be harder to do on your own & can make a really dynamic background. When I first started out I kept seeing wood floors & I thought people were buying wood flooring & putting it together for the backdrops which you could do but it'd be so much more work & Im lazy sometimes Im not gonna lie. The faux floors are a durable material Id compare it to chef matts that are kinda foamy & comfy & you can roll it up & roll out : p  Also check out Savage papers, they are a really great price on Amazon but shipping does add a bit to the price. It comes to about $70 I think with shipping but they are really great if you want a seamless backdrop & you can use them several times.  

So on the DIY''s some miscellaneous ideas including christmas light strands, lace table clothes (you can find these easily at goodwill) & crepe paper or fabric streamers. Some of these are my actual photos but for backdrops I haven't made yet the photos are from Pintrest (go to my backdrop board on Pintrest all these photos are there if you want to see who took the images)

Fabric Store Backdrops  $20-100

The backdrops that you can buy from drop it modern & other backdrop vendors appeal is that they are usually made of heavier-less inclined to wrinkle fabric & are very wide. With some effort though you can find cheaper alternatives at most fabric stores. For a simple & plain backdrop you can use for any shoot I recommend starting with some Muslin. It's a plain fabric that's heavy & can usually be found in wider sizes than other fabrics. Second, & this can be expensive if you don't do it right but try looking at the sale bin & find Upholstery fabric which is heavier & usually has really beautiful designs. I go to Hobby Lobby & have seen it for 40-60% off. The added bonus is it can usually be found in wider sizes like the muslin.

Next check out fun patterned cotton fabrics. You can find some pretty awesome ones for cheap. Cotton fabrics are usually only available in smaller sizes but if you photograph babies its perfect. You could also always try to align two pieces & either sew or use iron tape to make it wider. The picture on the right is a sequined backdrop from Drop It Modern. Its pretty awesome but it's also really expensive. Hobby Lobby has a gold sequin fabric that I bought & used which worked awesome. I used my 40% off coupon they always have online & it was only $25 which is a lot better then $400 which is what they sell for online. It wasn't very wide though so I took it my friend who sews & had her sew the two pieces together & Voila!

To make your new backdrop easy to use decide how you want to be able to hang it. You can hem the top so it slides right on to the stands crossbar or not sew it & just clamp it to the bar with industrial clamps (you can find them at home improvement stores) or use velcro if you have a studio where you'll be using them. Just velcro the wall & the top & bottom of your fabric to quickly hang it on the wall. 


I give credit to Sue Bryce for making this one popular. She is an amazing Glamour Photographer. She primarily uses these in her shoots & her work is gorgeous. The picture on the left could be done easily with one or two pieces & some wrapping paper or fabric decoupaged to it for a shabby chic look. They are super simple to make & really cost effective.  Its basically two tall pieces wedged together with stands & painted. Watch the video below to see how to make them. I also highly suggest keeping one painted white on one side & black on the other for one of the most effective reflectors you've ever seen. It works amazing. 


This is super fun & you can use any type....I've used Silk & made a Photobooth backdrop, you can use sheer or velvet curtains for Boudoir. The ones on the left are a grey velvet I bought at Ikea & they are over 100" long which I love for tall dramatic shots. Ive set up sheer curtains outside on my backdrop stand & let them blow in the wind with the sunset in the background, it makes a beautiful backdrop for Engagement shots.  The only downside to curtains, is that they aren't usually very long so you can't extend them under your subject, only behind them. If you have an awesome floor you don't mind showing off (like really nice hardwood or cool tile) then it's not a big deal & you can make it look really nice still. Your other option is to zoom in & get from the waist or shoulders up. 

If you have a sunny window use it! If it's at your house, studio or a location your shooting at. Instead of hanging them on a stand put your subject by the window & let the beautiful backlit sunshine reign. I do this a lot for head shots & brides but you could use it for babies, portraits  families etc. 

The picture on the right is something I see at weddings a lot too & I've used it as a backdrop for photos for Christmas events & I've seen it used for a bridal shoot to capture the dresses. So simple with just some Christmas lights hanging off the stand & some sheer curtains in front of it. If you can't find sheer curtains there's plenty of this material at the fabric store & in that case you could buy it much longer so you can fit more people in the picture (the higher the stand the farther back you can get). Id go right after Christmas & buy a bunch of them on sale for 60% off. Lowe's had a long strand on a reel that winds back up on sale last year that I picked up, I would try to get one long enough you don't have to have a bunch of strands plugged together because it might be hard to hide the plugged in parts when your trying to drape it on the stand. 
A little tip too if you want to do this is to use a lens with a wide aperture so you get the lights blurry & dreamy. The fabric over the lights will help with this but a wide lens will soften the light's even more.  

Newspapers, Magazines, Book Pages
So simple & great for any shoot, family, babies, seniors. Get creative! I've seen it all. You can use newspaper or old book pages for a vintage feel. Glossy magazines pages would look amazing for a fashion or Editorial shoot. Jasmin Star used this idea in her promo video & it rocks! The whole wall behind her was covered in magazine pages. If you don't have a bunch of books or magazines hanging around make a trip to goodwill first! I always see a ton of awesome magazines & books there that would be perfect for this & they are so inexpensive. To hang it i'd use little squares of painters tape (so its easily removable without damaging the wall) & just overlap the pages slightly to cover the tape. They have the blue stuff or the cream colored one, go for the cream shade since if it shows a little it won't be as noticeable. If you want to be able to reuse the backdrop setup more then once & you don;t have a studio or home wall where you can leave it hanging full time try the V-Flat concept. Lowe's has the polystyrene  & you can just glue the pages to the two pieces of that to make a corner area or add feet to the pieces so they can make a flat wall & stand up on their own.  

A Wall

If you can't find anything else or even if you can, don't underestimate the power of a wall! I see Fashion photographers use sides of buildings & warehouses as the background behind the model, I've used old worn out walls with peeling paint of Senior pictures or colorful walls for fun shots. In one of the pictures below its shows fun prints on the wall....I like the idea of a wall with some fun decals or you could enlarge & vintage vector shapes on deviant art & print them yourself. Also buying construction paper & cutting out some fun shapes or circles is easy enough & as you can see in the picture below it looks fun & modern. The dollar store, party supply stores & craft shops have a lot of paper things you can use on the walls as well like the pinwheels. Metallic or patterned wrapping paper too! Id cut some gold circles out of that for a simple & classy wall dress up.  


A lot of photographers use the paper backdrops. They are about $70 which isnt too bad except that you go through them pretty fast & it can start to add up. Especially with white ones! Heres something I learned from a very successful & large studio....use linoleum. You can usually find some uglier rolls of it on sale at Home Depot or Lowe's & a lot of times they have stuff called Contractor Rolls which is really cheap. 

Go to the paint section & buy a can of Satin White paint (I like Satin because Flat gets dirtier faster & glossy is too shiny with your lighting). Take your paint & paint the back of the linoleum with the white paint, let it dry then roll it up & store it until your ready to use it. Keep your paint & as the backdrop gets dirty over time you can re-paint it to make it brand new again : ) 

To store the backdrop Id buy some pvc pipe the length of the linoleum. Duct tape the top of the linoleum to the tube so that it keeps it straight & when your done using your backdrop you can roll it up. You can also find cardboard mailer tubes or larger pvc to put your backdrop in to keep it clean when you arent using it. 

Lace Table Cloth from Goodwill



Crepe Paper & Paper Decorations

For more ideas check out my Pintrest board that I have just for Backdrop ideas. Get crazy & have fun with it! If you've seen something that'd work great or have found online stores with awesome prices on fabric & paper supplies, share it in the comments! 

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