Handbook of Photography Backdrop
By Dylan Yu
If you’re a professional photographer, or have passion for photography portraits, your list of ‘essential gear’ can be overwhelming when browsing through online courses and tutorials on how to get started. However, one decision can be easy: Choosing your backdrops.
Photography backdrop is a staple item for both new and professional photographers. They are versatile, durable and affordable. It can be regarded as one of leading roles in your sessions besides the model.
Backdrops can come in various materials, styles, sizes and be used in different occasions. Learning the essential information of each type of photo backdrop can be a compulsory course for new studio photographers. What dose a backdrop system consist of? How to choose backdrops and use them?
In this article, we will talk about the main characteristics of backdrops for photo and video applications, and offer you clear, practical guide. The article is divided into five parts, and will show you the material, size, type, setup and maintenance of a backdrop step by step.
By providing basic instructions to help you get started, integrated with backdrops management solutions, you will soon be aware of the advantages of each kind of backdrops and make your decision to order those that would serve you and your clients best!
Ready? Now we can start!
Material of Photography Backdrop
A right background can infuse personality into your sessions. You choose one by its pattern, color or images printed on it, and anticipate how well it complements the model.
A backdrop may make a difference on your photos, but how to choose a background right for you? Which kind can perfectly match for your photography without breaking the bank? Well, the first thing you need to learn of a backdrop, we call it: Material.
Material of Backdrops
Even sharing the same color or image, different materials will affect the performance of backdrops in your photos. Photography backdrops can come in various materials. To help your get an first impression on backdrop materials, here is a list of 6 common photography backdrops., in order to help you choose the right one.
Seamless paper has been popular among photographers for more than decades. It provides a smooth, dry and non-reflecting paper surface.
Unlike most backdrop made of fabric(cloth), seamless paper is not wrinkle resistant, and when there are wrinkles or stains on it, you just need to cut those damaged parts off. It shall be rolled up to store and no need to wash. Accordingly, it is not that durable for its material.
Paper backdrops are commonly used for solid color backdrops. It is less expensive and portable. It’s vivid colors can do good assistant in commercial photography portraits, product photography, fine arts and more.
Microfiber is one of the synthetic fibers. Applied in backdrops, the most common types of microfibers are made from polyesters. Microfiber Backdrops give an overall professional look. This material can be easily folded and makes the backdrop portable. The sturdy, wrinkle-resistant backdrop is more appropriate for realistic image printed on it.
With high-definition printing technology, microfiber backdrops can come in variety of patterns and designs. You can even custom a microfiber backdrop as your requirements! For this reason, microfiber backdrop collections can always provide fun and choices.
Microfiber backdrops have richer styles and can be used in more occasions. It is soft, durable and washable safe. It can also be easily clean and store.
You can always choose a microfiber background with of particular pattern or design which is suitable for you. Perfect for photography portraits, events, product shots, video production,etc.
Muslin, plain woven cotton (100%), which is durable, washable and wrinkle-free. As a very traditional option, muslin backdrop is always popular among photographers
Muslin backdrops are lightweight and can be easily folded, which makes it portable. Substituting muslin backdrops for paper backdrops greatly decreases the stress for preparation of your photography, and you can take one to any location.
Muslin gives the background an overall professional look while offering versatility. This material has won praise for it is easy to dye, especially the hand-painted ones.
Vinyl background is durable and tough. This material makes the backdrop wrinkle-free. A high-quality vinyl backdrop usually comes with a unique non-reflective matte finish which avoid glare.
‘Vinyl is a kind of nonporous plastic which is flexible, shiny, and can be transparent.’ This material works so well for digital printing and provides the background bright vibrant colors and a sense of classic & fashion.
Another big advantage of vinyl backdrop is easy cleaning. Through a simple wipe with a slightly damp sponge, the vinyl will be clean and ready for next shoot. That’s why it works for cake smash, food fight and more.
But please remember that vinyl can never be washed by water or be folded! You can choose to make the backdrop lying flat in your cabinet, or roll it up and store in the shipping PVC tube.
When it comes to canvas, the first thing that would be mentioned is painting. Dyes, paints, and oils can be held easily by this fabric. Because of this, canvas is quite suitable for hand-painting without absorbing or blurring.
Hand-painted canvas backdrop is soft, smooth and waterproof , it can serve for a long time. Canvas has become a nice option for photo sessions among the backgrounds, and it will always add creativity and enhance your photography.
Rubber floor Mats
Rubber floor Mat (Floor drop) is sturdy, wrinkle-resistant and waterproof. It has been more and more frequently used when shooting newborn, kids, pets and product photos. For example, when you need to blend your background with floor smoothly, floor mat can be a nice addition.
Also, most of the time backdrop needs to be extended onto the floor for the model to stand and move. If your backdrop is not long enough, a rubber floor mat can be a good assistant, which will add extra good effects to your final works.
Floor mats are usually digital printed and feature a thin thickness, making the patterns high-definition and realistic. It is convenient to walk on and roll up, easy to carry and store. Size usually range from 4 x 5ft（1.2×1.5m）to 5×8ft（1.5×2.5m).
What Size of Backdrops Should I Choose
Now you are planning to start or upgrade your studio, or just want a mini-session in your house. However, you may hesitate which size of backdrops to choose when ordering, that perfectly fits your requirements and style. Or you’re just not sure if the space you have is realistically big enough.
Different occasions mean changes in backdrop size! Selecting proper backdrops can not only match the size of your subjects and spaces, but also add personality and aesthetic feelings to your sessions.
To anticipate which size can work well for your shooting, here are 3 principles for reference when choosing backdrop size:
- Size of Your Studio
- Size of Your Subject(s)
- Size Range of Backdrops
Size Of Your Studio
When choosing backdrop size, it's important to figure out the size of your studio first. Backdrop size should fits your studio to look both practical and aesthetic.
You need to measure 3 significant factors of your studio: Depth, Width, and most importantly, Ceiling Height. Accurate size measuring of these 3 factors will offer both primary and essential reference for you when choosing backdrop size. Here, we take sizes that can be applied in the most common occasions (e.g. Full length body shots）as a baseline.
【Please note: The following size references are relatively the most cost effective recommendations. If your studio/space is big enough, you can choose any backdrop size you want.】
The Limitation of Ceiling Height
The most important limitation of a studio is the ceiling height. You need to consider whether the height is enough for both setting a backdrop while implementing a ceiling light & a hair light when you begin your work.
First of all, in order to set lights above the model （5.5ft—6 .5ft tall when he or she is standing) , it requires at least another 4 ft height over the head of model.
By summarizing above, we can conclude that you need at least a 10-12 ft ceiling height. For this ceiling height of your studio can deal with the most of cmmon occasions, and that also means your backdrops there can be applied for full length body shots, headshots, waist shots, half-length shots 3/4-length portraits, etc.
Depth is also need to be precisely measured before choosing a backdrop. You need nearly 1.5ft - 3ft (0.5m - 0.9m) of space between your subject and the backdrop, in order to get the subject far enough from the backdrop so it doesn't cast a shadow and leave enough space for possible ornaments or equipment.
Sometimes there is necessary that you need your backdrops extended onto the floor. Your model can lie or sit on it while you can shoot from various perspectives. Or you can add some ornaments and the extended part of your backdrop can perfectly merge into the whole background. Precise measuring can help you choose the right height of the backdrops you need.
Or just use a rubber floor mat to match the background! Our rubber floor mat have 4x5ft(1.2x1.5m) and 5x8ft(1.5x2.5m).You will always need that!
Space for your subject
After measuring the size of your space, then you need to consider the size of your subject(s) and your sessions. How many people will you shoot? How will your model(s) pose? What kind of compositions and shots you need? The answers of these questions will eventually decide the width of your backdrops.To figure out what your session needs is always the most direct way to help you choose correct backdrop size.
Kate backdrops are available in multiple sizes – standard widths of 3ft, 5ft, 6.5ft, 8ft, 10ft and 20ft. You’ll be able to shoot big to small to everything in-between. Also, we are specializing in customizing even larger size according to your requirements.
For example, for kids, headshots, 3/4 -length portraits, you will need at least 5ft of width for a background, at least 1ft on both sides for the backdrop to extend beyond the edges. So you may need 7ft in total for a single portrait. And if your model needs to lie on the floor or you are planning family or holiday sessions, you will need more width. Usually, 10 ft wide is a good choice.
Ceiling height & Depth of Studio —— (Determines) —— Height of Backdrop
Space for your subject(s) —— (Determines) —— Width of Backdrop
It is always safest to order a backdrop that is too large rather than too small, as it is much easier to crop an image than try to digitally extend the background. According to the standard we mentioned above, 6.5ft×10ft, 8ft×10ft, 10ft×10ft (Width×Height) is enough for most of regular sessions.
Also, we are specializing in customizing even larger size according to your requirements. There is no limit to the size range.
Size Range of Kate Backdrops
Now you can start to choose the size you want. Here are some examples of subjects or occasions that best fit a certain backdrop size. (Only For Reference) Please read the guide below:
(Please note: All backdrop sizes are displayed as "width x height" , 1ft ≈ 0.3m)
3ft (W) x 5 ft (H) (1m x 1.5m) / 5 ft (W) x 3ft (H) (1.5m x 1m) – The smallest size recommended starting with, for tight headshots, newborns or kids, pets, small products.
5ft (W) x 5 ft (H) (1.5m x 1.5m) – For kids, headshots and 3/4 -length portraits; It is also ideal for photographers who work in narrow spaces or a small home studio.
5ft (W) x 7 ft (H) (1.5m x 2.2m) / 7 ft (W) x 5ft (H) (2.2m x 1.5m) – Ideal for headshots and portraits that are not full-body length; 7ft (H) for Standing posture and 5ft (H) for No standing posture. 1-2 people.
6.5ft (W) x 10 ft (H) (2m x 3m ) / 10 ft (W) x 6.5ft (H) (3m x 2m) – This size is good for single full length body portraits and other occasions we mentioned above, but still not the optimal size.
8ft (W) x 8 ft (H) ( 2.4m x 2.4m) / 8.2ft(W) x 8.2ft(H) (2.5m x 2.5m) – It can absolutely finish what smaller size ones can do, but also allow extra space for your model(s) to move and more space for post editing in Photoshop.
8ft (W) x 10 ft (H) (2.4m x 3m ) / 10 ft (W) x 8ft (H) (3m x 2.4m)– This size is able to be applied in most of occasions, from portraits of children to portraits of families; This size of backdrop is versatile! 2-4 people.
10ft (W) x 10 ft (H) (3m x 3m) – This size is ideal for shooting most full-length portraits and group portraits. It can be found in professional studios!
10ft (W) x 20 ft (H) / 20 ft (W) x 10ft (H) (3m x 6m / 6m x 3m) - Large Size!
Custom size – As your requirements, please contact us.
Please note: A larger size backdrop can always do what a smaller size can do, but not the opposite! All the size suggestions above are only for references.
Type & Style Options
After centuries, backdrops have evolved into so many styles and types. There shall be no sense in limiting yourself to only a few backdrops when so many nice choices are available now.
Different backdrops will have different effects on your photography. It will be better if you can develop a good instinct for choosing backdrops. Even if it usually depends on your clients and the dynamic you wish to create, there are still countless colors, patterns, types and styles.
In this part, we will mainly divide backdrop types into 5 categories, and you will get more information belonging to each of them.
Printed Photography Backdrops
To start your sessions in your studio, printed backdrops always play the role of essential gear in your sessions. As the basic type among various kinds of backdrops, printed photography backdrops can come in various designs and materials. It can include almost all the designs what other types of backdrops can do, with high-definition and realistic image printing technology. Here is a list for reference:
|Classical Backdrop Styles
|Festival & Anniversary
|Abstract Textured Backdrops
|Valentine's Day Backdrops
|Solid Color Backdrops
|New Year Backdrops
|St. Patrick's day Backdrops
|Back To School Backdrops
|Mother's Day&Father's Day
From holiday theme, abstract texture to season styles, you can always find a printed backdrop that you want as your requirements. It all depends on your model and the personality you wish to create. Printed backdrops will give you incredible creative freedom! They have multiple choices and would be best used for any sessions as your requirements.
Solid Color Backdrop
Solid color backgrounds are a good option if you try to create classic look for photography portraits. You can always find solid color backdrops in professional studios and commercial photography. It is great for serious portraits and print ads.
Easy style of solid backdrops can keep your works simple and extrude your model, so you can focus on the model exclusively and will achieve classy outcomes. Neutral colors make liveliness, fashion or glamorous pictures without interruptions. The viewer's attention would be only attracted to the details of subject and feel the emotions conveyed by the photo.
Solid color backdrops can come in a variety of colors. Options start from the basics like white, gray and black to exotically beautiful ones. However, you need good knowledge of color theory, composition and light use if you want to make nice works with solid color backdrops.
Hand Painted Backdrops
Hand painted backdrops mostly come in canvas, as dyes, paints, and oils can be easily held easily by this fabric. Hand-painted designs of backdrops can create fine art photography. These backdrops are magnificent and offer pop feelings for your sessions.
Hand painting gives the backdrop unique texture and unique patterns. If your want to achieve special visual effects or add sense of art into your works, you can choose this backdrop or even custom unique paintings as your requirements. Accordingly, hand painted canvas is relatively more expansive than common backdrops.
Collapsible Backdrop is a more portable and convenient option for shooting. With collapsible backdrops your shooting won’t be limited by locations and space size, no matter outdoors or in your studio. Collapsible backdrop is quite convenient for its two exclusive features: ‘Both Sides’ and ‘Foldable’.
A collapsible backdrop typically comes with different backgrounds on each side, which means a reversible design. And this will offer more inspirations and creative freedom to your photography. For another, collapsible backdrop is an ideal option for both location shooting and small studios, as they can be folded and lightweight. You can fold it into a compact circle for transportation.
Collapsible backdrop can always create artistic environment in wherever you want, it is good for on-location head-shots and three-quarter length body shots.
Custom backdrop always means personality and requirements. If you’re quite clear about your sessions and what you want to express through your photos, you can custom backdrops. You designs & requirements will always be realized by professional backdrop designers. They can provide expert proposals and practical support to your custom designs.
No matter what kind of backdrops you want, custom backdrops will help you make it happen! And your will achieve unique outcomes and amazing experience!
Set Up Your Backdrops
Now, you may have made your choices, or even have already got your backdrops. Are you ready to try them out? To start setting your backdrops, you will always need to set a Backdrop Stand System.
There are specifications on setting and positioning photography backdrops in different locations. Whether you work in your studio or not, a stand system will raise your work efficiency and help you make the most of backdrops. It would be beneficial to create a stable and long-standing set and help you easily replace or adjust your backdrops as your requirements.
Below are the introduction of a common backdrop stand system:
- Material: Aluminum Alloys, ABS
- Features: Durable, stable, light-weighted, portable, easy to assemble and store, making it ideal for both indoor and outdoor photography.
- Telescoping crossbar sections can be extended or be collapsed to the length you want.
- Upright sections can extend to the height you need.
- ABS bases add stability to the whole system, make it possible to accommodate with different types or sizes of backdrops.
(Please Note: Before getting started, think about your location. Check out chapter 3 for details to make sure there is enough space for setting a backdrop stand.)
Basically the components should include:
- 2 dedicated support stands / 2 sets of uprights
- 2 telescoping crossbar sections (With hooks / knobs on the ends)
- 2 bases
- Carrying case / bag
Set Up Backdrop Stand System
The following document contains step-by-step instructions for setting up a background stand system.
Step 1:Insert one of uprights over a base.
Step 2: Insert one uprights over the bases and then tighten the knob.
Step 3: Loosen the screw locked on the upright’s joints to allow the uprightsections to move freely. Raise and lower the upright of the stand to the height you need, and then tighten the screws to hold the sections in place. Repeat Step 1 through 3 for the other support upright.
Step 4: Put two sections of one crossbar together and tighten the whole crossbar.
Step 5: Loosen the screw locked at both ends to allow the crossbar to stretch out and draw back freely. Drag it out till the you get the length you need, and then tighten the screw.
Step 6: Place the assembled crossbar onto the top of the uprights, remove the knob on the end of the crossbar, let the pin of the end go through the upright and screw it on and sure it’s tight.
Repeat Step 6 for fixing the other end of the crossbar onto the top of the other upright.
(At this point, the support stand can stand on its own at the height and the width you want.)
Step 7: Repeat Step 4-6, get the other crossbar with the length same to that on the bottom of the stand.
Step 8: Put you drop on.If there’s no pocket, you need backdrops clips to fix your backdrop on the support stand system. If there’s a pocket on top of the backdrop, just put the crossbar inside and keep threading it on before Step 6, so you can hang your backdrop onto the top of the stand system.
Now you backdrop has been set up and ready for use.
After setting up the background stand system, now you can fix your amazing backdrops on it and start photography. But please remember, wrong operations may do harm to your backdrops. We suggest that some essential accessories will help you.
Use Backdrop Clips or Clamps
If there is no pocket on the top of your backdrop, which means you can’t directly fix your backdrops on the stand without accessories. Or, if you need to start your sessions in small space or on-location, which means your equipment needs to be in flexible use according to requirements, here is a nice assistant for you, which can always work like a charm. That is—— Backdrop clamps!
Here are two classical types for your information:
Backdrop clips are extremely useful in positioning and gripping your background. They’re consisted of metal clips and environmental protection reinforced nylon rope. They are small but durable. They can support any size of fabric backdrops.
Each steel spring clip is light-weighted but durable. They are small but efficient, with high strength. When you use backdrop clips, you will always need a set of them, like 6pcs or 12pcs. Only one or two can not function very well.
Backdrop Clamp is made of steel and rubber. It is bigger than clip and it can clamp thicker, heavier things or large size backdrops. It can firmly keep your drops in place.
It features high strength and good elasticity. The edges of clamps are wrapped with soft rubber, which can avoid damaging your backdrops. Backdrop clamps are convenient and quick, you need only one or two at a time to set your backdrops. However, it is not flexible as clips.
How To Use
1.Simply strap them onto one upright of backdrop stand, clip them on the side of backdrop, and then pull the rope to make the background tight.
2. Use clips to hold backdrop straight, in order to avoid the wrinkles when you set or replace the backdrops during the sessions.
3. Set clips at the bottom of the stand to accommodate the backdrop near parallel to the ground.
4. Adjust the clips according to the on-location circumstance and strap them to the stand or somewhere you need.
Clean & Store
Without correct maintenance solution, backdrops may last no long. Therefore, knowing how to store and clean properly is quite important.
Some backdrops are machine washable, some require just sponge cleaning and others are expendable. Some can be folded but some must be rolled or flattened to store. Different types of backdrops require different maintenance methods.
As the last-but-not-least part of knowing backdrops, this section will help you clean and store different types backdrops properly.
(The following instructions are the general standard, which are only for reference. You still should follow the care instructions of a specific product.)
General Principles for Maintenance
Store Them in Clean and Dry Place
Check the storage place for issues of humidity. Backdrops stored and used in humid environments will absorb moisture which can result in wrinkles in the material, and the bacterial growth can completely destroy the surface. Also, the sunlight can fade the backdrop. You need also check the room temperature and don't let the fabric backdrops be squeezed by any external force.
Regularly Clean Your Backdrops
Regular clean is important indeed. Otherwise, frequent use without clean in time will lead to stubborn stains which can be difficult to remove. However, regular clean never means excessive clean. Wrong clean solutions against the specific care instructions will destroy your backdrops
Use Dedicated Tapes or Clamps.
Do not use common tapes or clamps to hang or fix your backdrops. They may do harm to your backdrops
Avoid Treading with Shoes
Unless there are requirements, you shall try to avoid walking on the backdrop with your shoes (except models). Clean your shoes or think over walking on your backdrops. If necessary, we recommend removable shoe covers which can be reused, or purchase a Rubber Floor Mat to match with your backdrop.
Put Backdrops in A Dryer on Low-heat.
Some types of fabric backdrops can be dried by dryer, according to the care labels. Please turn the dryer on low-heat and follow the instructions on the backdrops’ care labels for what settings to choose. Dry the curtains for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Use Cool Iron or Steamer
Pay attention to the temperature of steam ironing. The heat of the iron may do harm to the backdrop. If necessary, you can choose a [hand-held steamer to treat the wrinkles with steam or cool iron slowly over the backdrops which shouldn’t last too long.
Maintain Indoor Ventilation
No matter you use the backdrop in you studio or on-location, we suggest that you can open ventilation facilities or windows before the work in order to prevent dust and mold growth. This is not only good for your health but also keep the backdrops clean and tidy.
More tips for clean and store are in exploration!
Things You May Need
If you just got your hands on your first backdrop, here are some general tips for making sure you have the best experience with your new backdrop.
Special Tips (Depending on Material of Backdrops)[Paper Backdrops]
Tips for Clean
Unlike other backdrop made of fabric, paper material has its uniqueness. It is neither waterproof nor wrinkle resistant, which means it can not be washed or cleaned when there are wrinkles or scratches on it. You can sweep away the dust or stains or just tear the dirty parts off. After all, it is not that durable for its material.
Tips for Store
Store vertically with tubes & wall mounts. The recommended way is to store backdrop rolls vertically. You can use dedicated tubes and wall mounts. They can not only save space, but also prevent moisture damage and keep colored surface from fading.[Fabric Backdrops]
Different types of fabric require different cleaning methods. And you must pay attention to the care labels on you backdrops before deciding how to clean them.
Please Note: Wash the Backdrop According To Care Labels[Microfiber, Muslin]
Tips for Clean
You can take the general principles as reference when handling these two. Most of them are washable safe, if there is no any other special instructions on the backdrop care labels. But please note, no cleaning for a long time may cause stubborn stains or even mold on backdrops. Never use strong bleach on colored ones which may damage them.
Tips for Store
These backdrops can be folded or sealed for storage, you can store them in cabinet or hang and line up on a stand.[Vinyl backdrop]
Tips for Clean
No Water Wash! A vinyl backdrop can never be washed by water, neither ‘Hand Wash’ nor ‘Machine Wash’. Water wash will eventually destroy the vinyl.You can use a slightly damp sponge to treat stained area. Only if necessary, you can carefully flatten the backdrop or hang it up and use a hand-held steamer to maintain the BACK of the backdrop at the lowest temperature as quick as possible. (Please notice: Never iron a vinyl! Because the heat of iron may destroy the surface.)
Tips for Store
You may choose to make the backdrop lying flat in your cabinet, or roll it up. Thanks to the material which can prevent wrinkles, a vinyl backdrop can be easily rolled up, but please remember it can NEVER BE FOLDED! For example, you can store your vinyl in the original shipping PVC tube and stay upright with a roll holder against the wall, which can keep your backdrops clean and wrinkle free.
Special Tips: Get Wrinkles Out of Backdrops
Long-term use, being folded for a while or lack of maintenance can still occasionally get backdrops inevitably wrinkled.
Here are several easy options for you to remove the wrinkles!
Hang Up the Backdrop to Treat the Wrinkles
If you do not want to wash the backdrops every time there are wrinkles, hanging up the backdrop to treat the wrinkles is a better choice. Use a [spray bottle] (can be filled with cool water) to spray the wrinkles until they’re damp. The water of spray will smooth out the wrinkles. Also, you can choose a [hand-held steamer] to treat the wrinkles with steam (Low temperature).
Stands and Clamps are Good Assistants
A stand and clamps are nice choice, which can keep your backdrop smooth and prevent wrinkles or dents on it.
Try to Avoid Frequent Ironing
Pay attention to the temperature of steam ironing. The heat may do harm to the backdrop. If necessary, please set a low temperature to remove the wrinkles. Use the iron slowly over the wrinkles and shouldn’t last too long.
Allow the Backdrop to Air Dry
After cleaning the backdrop or removing the wrinkles, it is always a good choice to hang the backdrop up and allow it to air dry naturally if there is enough time. This operation will help dry the backdrop evenly and remove the remaining wrinkles. It may need 24 hours.
If you want to dry your backdrops with a dryer, please remember to set the dryer on low heat. Dry for approximately 20 minutes and then hang up.
Always be Creative
Now you must know how to choose a photography backdrop right for you. But please be creative and open-minded when making your decision. There are principles on photography, but there will be never rules on creation!
Choosing photography backdrops you like, take photos and try different sets. Backdrop universal can always gives you surprise and make your photos pop!
Hope you enjoy happy photography!