Backdrops are an important aspect of photography that can be easily overlooked.
Let me go off on a side note quickly…backdrops and backgrounds are being used interchangeably here. All I’m referring to is whatever’s behind your subject(s).
What you use for your backdrop can vary significantly based on your niche and the specific topic you’re working on.
The first and easiest reason is that your backdrop is part of the photo!
Make it look good!
Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t have to be in focus, but it should look good.
If it’s distracting or ugly, the viewer won’t pay attention to the main subject and he/she’ll end up staring at the mess you called the backdrop.
A good backdrop can also help with consistency, but one of the best uses for a good backdrop is to hide unwanted aspects of your surroundings.
Take for instance, a photography backdrop. When I put up a backdrop in my studio, (a.k.a….my dining room) I’m using it to hide the surrounding area.
It’s blocking my dining room table, chairs and the wall art. However, it also acts as a colorful background for the photo, as well!
Avoid using any kind shiny surface.
It’s not a hard fast rule, but what’ll happen is that you’ll end up inadvertently getting a reflection of yourself and/or your surroundings in the photo
…and let me tell ya, this is not an easy fix (most times)!
Another thing that often happens when using a reflective surface is that it’ll create a hotspot, or an area of pure white lacking all of the details.
When you use an additional light source to illuminate the scene, the light will reflect off the shiny object back to your lens creating a bright white spot in the photo.
In the photo of my son all those spots are specs of glitter reflecting the candlelight. He had just finished opening up his birthday cards/presents and wound up with glitter all over him.
In the photo of the tripod, you can see the reflection of my light source reflecting off the surface, which happens to be the lid to my freezer, but it is very similar to a dry erase board.
…no seriously, think about it. It is! LOL!
Other reflective surfaces include dry erase boards, sequence, mirrored and glass surfaces, etc.
Like I said, this isn’t a rule without exceptions. There may be times when the right angle is all you need.
For sake of ease, try to avoid shiny surfaces for now and once you feel more confident with your skills, then you can venture into more challenging backdrops!
The best backdrop will be consistent with your brand’s look and feel.
The exact backdrop doesn’t need to stay consistent, but it should remain consistent with your brand and your website’s look.
If you’re look is bright and clean, you wouldn’t want to have a very dark and dreary backdrop.
You’d want to find something that is consistent with your look.
Have you considered using furniture, your walls, a doorway, the kitchen, or office in your home? You have tons of options right there.
However, if you don’t like the look of what you have, try talking to your friends and family.
They may have something you could use, or you may even be able to take photos at their place.
Keep in mind, you can use almost anything as your backdrop as long as it goes along with your brand and niche, so be creative!
Outside you have a TON of options!
You could use a patio, the beach, a balcony, the park, a local forest preserve, the grass, the leaves of a bush/tree, the wall of a local building, a loading dock, a doorway, etc.
You are really ONLY limited by your creativity and the safety of your surrounds.
On occasion, you may need to purchase some items to help you get the backdrop for your photo.
Items you may need to purchase could include paper, fabric, and a stand.
Depending on what exactly you purchase, this could be relatively inexpensive.
These are easily found throughout the US in stores and online.
Actual, brick and mortar scrapbook stores were very popular about 10 years ago, but they have since dwindled.
You’ll be lucky to still find one that’s survived the digital boom!
However, scrapbook paper can still be found in craft stores and the big box chain stores, as well as online.
I’m sure they can be found in MANY places online, but I typically stick to Amazon.
Another option is purchasing digital paper.
The only downfall to this would be your limited ability to print a size larger than 8.5×11, unless you had it printed for you.
I find that a 12×12 sized scrapbook paper works well for a flatlay design’s backdrop.
Keep in mind, you can use a couple different sheets layered to get the look you want.
Rolls of paper are typically found in the teacher/school supply section of craft stores and in teacher supply stores.
These rolls are approximately 4 feet wide and the paper is fairly thin.
In the store I’ve seen a wood flooring pattern, brick pattern, jungle pattern, sky/clouds pattern, magenta, blue and maybe a few other options.
I’ve used these a couple times and the paper is reusable, but it wrinkles fairly easily.
I’ve also purchased rolls of photography backdrop paper from Amazon that are geared towards photographers.
I preferred the rolls of paper geared to photographers, more so than the craft/teacher supply brand, because they look more authentic and there’re more options to pick from.
That being said, I used a roll from the teacher supply store for a very long time prior to getting this version.
Mind you, the rolls of paper are identical in size and length, but you’ll pay a couple bucks more for the ones geared for photographers.
Fabric can be found in craft supply stores, big box stores, fabric stores, and online.
The cost will vary based on the amount you purchase and the type of fabric purchased.
Muslin is a common photography backdrop that you can purchase in a variety of sizes.
Muslin photography backdrops usually have a pocket sewn at the top for the backdrop stand to hold it up.
However, you can also purchase muslin fabric by the yard and get the specific size you want.
The nice thing about using fabric is that you can find a Ba-zillion options for colors, patterns, and types of fabric.
You would need some way of holding it up, so if you can’t get someone to hold it or McGyver a stand, you’ll need to purchase one
Don’t worry, they don’t need to break the bank. You can find reasonably priced ones on Amazon.
Another downfall to muslin is that it wrinkles, so you may need to iron it each time you pull it out.
Next, fabric can get bulky to store.
Lastly, some fabrics may not be machine washable. However, depending on how you use it, this may not be an issue for you.
That was a lot of info on a single aspect of your photo, that may not get as much attention as the rest of the photo.
I wanted to talk about swapping backgrounds digitally too, but that will have to be a post for another time!
Amy is the owner extraordinaire at Learn Blog Photography and Amy Paris Photography. She's a single mom to an amazing teenage son. She's passionate about photography and skiing (downhill), the faster the better! Sign up for a FREE 30-min call to light up your photos & biz! bit.ly/2udzBXB