The Background

There are plenty of backdrop options available on the market today. All of which have their own benefits and downfalls. There are many things to consider – Size, portability, affordability, durability and intention of use. Again, with most things photographic – It’s up to the photographer.

 

Different types of Backdrops

 

Cotton Backdrops

Pro’s

  • Comes in various sizes
  • Comes in various colours
  • Easily transportable 
  • Lightweight
  • Can be machine or hand-washed
  • Long-lasting, durable

 

Con’s

  • Creases
  • Need to be ironed
  • Not Solid, the material moves around when models are walking on the background



PVC Backdrops

Pro’s

  • No creases
  • Can be washed with a mop and handy andy
  • Solid Doesn’t move around when models are walking on the background
  • Long-lasting, durable

 

Con’s

  • Heavy to move around
  • Not foldable, the backdrop needs to roll back on the crossbar
  • Not easily transportable
  • Mainly comes in white




Paper Backdrops

Pro’s

  • Matt, no shine
  • No creases on the backdrop (unless it was forcefully bent)
  • Comes in various colours 



Con’s

  • Disposable. As soon as a piece is torn or damaged you will need to cut that piece off and dispose of it.
  • Not easily transportable as it rolls up on the crossbar, it can not be folded
  • Costly. Can not be cleaned and is easily damaged



Black vs. White?

Choosing between black and white backgrounds predominantly depends on which mood and purpose you are trying to achieve in your photos. Different backdrops may have unique problems when it comes to black or white. But overall it’s advisable to start off with white.

The usage of white backdrops is more versatile and covers a variety of photographic needs. You can achieve three colours (white, off white and grey) on the white backdrop which will allow you to achieve different styles of photos. You can do this by tweaking the settings of your studio strobes accordingly.

 

White Backdrops.

With white, you’ll encounter shadows created by your lights which can aid or ruin a photo. Additional lights can be used to “wash” out the shadows but it’s ideal not to eliminate all of them. Having a slight shadow creates a platform or “gravity” on your photo. Else your subject will appear free-floating in white space. 

 

Black Backdrops.

Black backdrops are often used for thought-provoking photos. Used properly with the right lighting you can create a more dramatic mood within your images.

Founding yourself in completely dark conditions will give you a better sense of what effects your strobes will have.

A problem that may occur is when your subject “melts” into the black. This is often the case with ethnic skin and brunettes. To overcome this you’ll need additional light to either shine directly onto the backdrop or onto the back of the subject. This will separate your subject from the black backdrop. 

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