What Makes Photography Backdrops Great?
Often, perfecting a background is just as crucial to making an excellent photograph as securing a compelling subject. Distractions happening in the background can quickly throw off an entire composition, making a solid backdrop a necessity for those working with their cameras professionally.
But frankly, the subject of photography backdrops are often left out of the conversation when it comes to gear.
- Which brands offer the most bang for your buck?
- What materials are going to produce the effects that you'd like?
- And most importantly, which products are going to allow you to express your creativity to the fullest?
Through showcasing some of the best-selling photography backdrops available, we answer a gamut of questions concerning what makes the perfect backdrop.
1. Savage Widetone Seamless Background Paper
Price: Varies; between $13.99 to $219.99 (depending on size and color)
Material: 7.6 mil 100% recyclable paper
Paper seamless backgrounds are some of the easiest to use and most accessible options available to most photographers. Available in a variety of colors and sizes, each roll can be reused a number of times.
When a segment gets dirty, it's easy enough to simply trim it off. Among all of the types of backgrounds available, the paper option often proves to be one of the least expensive choices around, further sweetening the deal for image makers considering investing in a seamless.
Among all of the options out there, most users agree that Savage produces the best of the best. In business for over 60 years, each roll is comprised of acid-free archival material. The paper itself features a fine tooth to create the smoothest background possible with minimal texture.
There are a number of dimensions available to meet any situation a consumer might encounter, ranging from as small as 26″x36′ to as large as 140″x105′.
Savage also produces the paper in astounding 93 different colors, ranging from classic choices like “Soft Gray” and “Super White” to more exotic colors like “Tangelo”.
2. Lasolite Collapsible Reversible Background
Available at Amazon
Price: Varies; starting at $118.88 (depending on size and color(s))
Material: Unspecified fabric
For those looking for a backdrop that can handle working on location, this is a must-have tool. In comparison to canvas and paper backdrops, the collapsible background isn't much material to work with.
However, for most photographers, this proves to be more than enough to get the job done. Made from crease resistant, translucent, waterproof fabric, the material is double stitched to a steel rim that's flexible enough to fold down to one-third of its original size.
The wire keeps the fabric stiff and in place, ensuring a smooth background every time. Aside from being incredibly lightweight, its ability to collapse makes it easy to transport.
But the best quality of Lasolite's backgrounds is their versatility.
Essentially, it works as two separate backdrops in one, opening up all sorts of different creative possibilities. Most photographers choose a white/black or white/grey backdrop for more traditional work.
However, there are also less traditional color combinations readily available.
Lasolite even produces a pink/blue backdrop for maternity and newborn shoots. As a bonus, the design of this background doesn't require stands or tripods to hold it into place.
- Crease resistant fabric
- Reversible with white and mid gray sides
- Collapses quickly for easy set up and take down
- Ideal for passports and on location head shots
- Complete with storage bag
3. Studio Dynamics Canvas Background
Available at B&H
Price: Varies; between $137.50 to $445.19 (depending on size and color)
Material: Cotton canvas
Few backdrops can compete with the durability a canvas has to offer. But toughness is far from the only advantage to be had when purchasing a canvas backdrop.
In comparison to a paper roll, canvas has much less raw material to offer. However, the lack of material is made up for in the overall longevity one can expect when using a canvas.
Hand-painted by professional artists, each piece Studio Dynamics produces is arguably a work of art in itself. The paint itself is elastic and robust, meaning that it takes quite a bit to wear out the color of the material.
Because of these factors, it's reasonable for users to expect decades of use out a single piece and yet, it remains flexible enough to be rolled up and draped over a light stand.
Best of all, the matte finish provides a solid, vibrant background free of distracting glare. Despite being a costlier option, a canvas backdrop is a worthwhile investment for any serious studio photographer.
4. Botero Collapsible Background
Available at B&H
Size(s): 8 x 16′
Price: Varies; $139.95
Material: Cotton-polyester cloth
Botero's collapsible background offers a lot of the same advantages offered by Lasolite's collapsible model. Like other collapsible backgrounds, they're lightweight options that are easy to transport for on-location shoots.
When all is said in done, it's possible to fold the entire 8 x 16-foot backdrop down to a compact 3′ circle small enough to fit into a camera bag or backpack.
What Botero does offer is a unique model complete with an 8-foot adjustable floor piece. This allows users to make clean, full-length portraits without any breaks in color.
For those not interested in the floor piece, however, there's also a 5×7′ collapsible background available for a fraction of the price.
No two pieces are exactly alike – like Studio Dynamics, Botero's hand paints each background with complex, dynamic colors and patterns.
5. Impact Muslin Background
Available at Amazon
Size(s): 10 x 12′
Price: Varies; starting at $58.95 (based on color(s)
Material: 100% cotton muslin
For years, muslin has been a favorite background material for portrait photographers near and far. So, it should come as no surprise that a muslin background is among the best sellers.
Of course, it's possible to buy bolts of muslin in bulk at any fabric store.
However, the quality and convenience the Muslin Impact offers in its product makes all of the difference. The fabric itself is seamless and clean-cut.
Customers can order a smooth, wrinkle-resistant fabric or a “crinkled” version that adds a bit of texture. The 10 x 12′ size is manageable enough that a photographer can easily fold and transport it when necessary.
It's durable enough to withstand wear and tear, and can even be machine washed with cold water. Because of this, the background has the potential to be used for years on end when taken proper care of.
In addition, much like Lasolite's collapsible background, the muslin is reversible with a number of different color combinations available.
6. Westcott 130 Wrinkle-Resistant Chroma Key Backdrop
Size(s): 9 x 10′
Material: “Fleece-like” matte fabric
One of the most common reasons photographers look into purchasing backdrops is to utilize chroma key and “green-screen” techniques in post-production.
The Westcott Chroma Key Backdrop certainly does an effective job at accomplishing the task. Available in smaller backdrops and long, floor-length dimensions, this thin sheet of fabric is the key to transporting your subject to an entirely different environment.
The heavy-duty matte cotton fabric is resistant to reflection, absorbing light and making it easy to light effortlessly.
The wrinkle-resistant material makes for smoother, more even scenes – a crucial quality for convincingly inserting an entirely different background. As well as the traditional lime green, customers can also purchase their chroma key backdrops in a bright blue color.
Also, the backdrop can be machine washed on a cold or delicate cycle to keep it in prime condition. And for added convenience, it travels easy and is pain-free to store.
- 8 oz/ sq yard, 100% seamless cotton, one rod pocket on the top for use with background support system (not included)
7. Flotone Graduated Background
Size(s): 31 x 43″ or 43 x 67″
Price: $34.99 (small), $69.95 (large)
Material: Synthetic PVC
Some skeptics may question the effectiveness of PVC material as a photographic background. But, believe it or not, the results it produces are quite smooth and undoubtedly professional looking. For this reason, photographers will find that the Flotone is a pleasure to work with despite its flat, humble appearance.
Aside from the silky matte effect the graduated background provides, the material itself is fun to work with and perfect for making traditional product shots as well as experimental skill lives.
Many photographers are attracted to the material's ability to completely water, which allows for the incorporation of water and other liquids.
The PVC also absorbs light coming head-on, making it more resistant to glare than paper. It's small, thin, and flexible, making it easy to use and store away neatly.
And, because of the use of gradient, few lighting shots can instantly take on gorgeous, black shadows for contrast-filled compositions.
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