Choosing your background is one of the most important things as a photographer.You don’t want a great photo to be ruined by an ugly background. Backgrounds can be put into two categories, natural and artificial. If you have had the opportunity to visit multiple photo studios in your life, you have most likely seen various types of studio backdrops. While I possess a similar studio, I usually like to shoot with my customized backdrop. Throughout my career in photography I have experimented with numerous types of photography gear, without which I could never accomplish proper indoor shots. When I first started building my studio I used synthetic backdrops that I purchased from photography shops, but it never gave me the quality of photos I desired. I really wanted something creative to put some life into my models. On one occasion I received a phone call from a young lady who was trying to put together a modeling portfolio. I accepted the job, but neglected to tell her that I had never shot these types of photos before! At that point, all I knew was that a portfolio required a large array of backgrounds and angles, but at that time I only owned two. So I contacted a photographer friend, and a few days later received a letter with instructions on how to create my own series of backdrops. I learned an awful lot just from that one letter.
Some Tips On Making Fantastic Backdrops!
Custom natural backdrops can be made by using natural shrubs & other plants, which can usually be found in hardware stores. Depending on the color of the shrubs and the complexion of your model, you can really get some excellent results. Try to find something both soft & durable, and you can hopefully use these for years.
Straw or hay is another type of material excellent for backdrops. If you live in the city, this may be hard to come by, but if you are in a rural area it should be fairly common. Although straw isn’t the most durable, it’s perfect for indoor shots, when washed an and dried under the hot sun. Hay is perfect for individuals with a fair complexion.
Most studios use various colored fabrics as a type of background. These tend to be durable, and can be found in many different colors and textures. I use these in my studio quite often, as they tend to work well with models of a fair complexion, and look beautiful with the proper lighting. Keep in mind however that these can be rather time consuming to clean.
Styrofoam balls are becoming another popular background item. You can usually find them at crafting shops. These look wonderful pasted against a simple black background. These balls are available in various colors and sizes. However, keep in mind that they are quite vulnerable to heat, and should be kept away from light & heart sources. The color of the balls can also fade quickly after prolonged light exposure. Foam balls are perfect for shooting children, as they produce a dream-like effect. Remember not to use wind effects, as these balls are extremely light and can easily blow away.
For a more vintage look, use an 8×9 ft wooden board. Keep in mind that the surface of this is non-reflective, but it is a very sturdy background. You can also cut and shape the wood for different looks or themes. These are easily found at your local hardware store.
If you don’t want to spend too much but you really want to make something special, try using colored balloons. These are always perfect for a birthday party, and works almost as well as the aforementioned styrofoam balls.
If you have a higher budget, you can use that to make a floral backdrop. These are always ideal for a wedding or anniversary celebration. Use different combinations of colors and flowers to really make your background stand out. The unfortunate disadvantage of using flowers for your backdrop is that they tend to only last for a day or two. If you want, you can spray water on the flowers to make them more attractive. I myself use a floral backdrop made of synthetic flowers, to avoid this very problem. It’s perfect for young kids.
Use of velvet as a backdrop is a great idea. It’s are cheap and available in many different colors. Velvet is perfect for both close up photographs, and shoots using high levels of light. Just hang it from the wall or a piece of styrofoam, and you are ready to go. Wash it regularly to keep it looking fresh.
I hope my experience will help you to get excellent results! Just be creative, and remember to always do your best.