I have been working for weeks inside a tiny little space, and I have learned more during these weeks than ever before. Basically starting from scratch, forgetting all I knew about portraiture, and rediscovering simple ideas. I made a video a long time ago about making any spaces your “studio”, well this is kind of the continuity of it. If you are starting your journey as a portrait photographer these simple cost effective backdrop solutions might suit you.
Talking about shaking things up, I never use backdrops, I just never do. I always rely on the beauty and characteristics of a location to create my images. So from big large spaces, I reduced my world to a small 15 square feet room. The type of space you can kind of find almost anywhere. The accessories I am going to use will almost all be travel-friendly, which means that you will be able to recreate this for a client anywhere. Now let’s start with the cheapest and easiest backdrop solution you can use for your portraits and that will work for your clients almost all the time. It’s the black backdrop. The idea is to expose your scene in order to have that black background stay black or fade into black. For the backdrop, since there will be very few details in the background can be anything. The only person you have to convince that it will look good is your client. A black wall can work if you have one…
Your curtains, or just a simple black cloth… I have this very long one that I used regularly for my long dress photos…
I purchased a few other cheap accessories in my local hardware store to secure my backdrop. Instead of buying overpriced clamps, just be creative! Now you can fix your fabric to anything. To a curtain rail for example or like me to a microphone stand that I never use. I also back in the days taped a light black cloth directly onto my wall and it did the trick.
The following images were made with a black fabric attached to a microphone stand! These images were never published before, if you wish to see the Behind the scenes video and the other images I made during this session: Improve your lighting skills with color; NANlite Pavotube 30c; Forza500
Jennifer (Toulouse – France)
CANON EOS R5 – EF 50mm f/1.2
1/80sec f/2 ISO 200
To avoid having too much light on my backdrop I add a black flag that is basically this piece of cloth that I attached directly to my light modifier (you can see this in the YouTube video). The beauty of this is that you can make these portraits really anywhere. It’s dramatic, it’s easy to handle in post if you get your exposure right on your model you are basically done… or almost. Or course, you can use other types of fabrics/ cloth, of any textures or colors. Depending on what you are looking for, but I know that going black is the safest way to go in an environment where you may not have all the tools to master your exposure and the ambient light. If you prefer to replace your background in Photoshop… then I don’t know why you are watching this video, I prefer doing most of the work if not all of it in-camera! The less I do in post the better!
Maeva (Toulouse – France)
Fujifilm GFX100s – GF 80mm F1.7 R WR
1/160sec f/1.7 ISO 100
You can also go white… The same rules apply, or almost, if your subject stays close to the backdrop it will remain white, otherwise, you will have to light your backdrop separately. It all comes down to what look you wish to achieve. I am not a fan unless I wish to backlight my subject, and If I do I usually use one of my light modifiers as a backdrop.
But… If you have been following me for a while, I did use a white wall and even a white and black wall for a portrait session. Now, let’s imagine you do not have a black or white wall, you have nothing that can actually be used as a backdrop, no curtains, no fabrics that would do the trick, and you have a limited budget… Well look no further, this company reached out and proposed a cheap solution that can suit any starters out there.
This is the whole package, a light backdrop and a dark one with a portable stand that allows you to take your backdrop anywhere. For a small amount of money, you have a mini studio that will work great for your portrait sessions.
Jennifer (Toulouse – France)
CANON EOS R5 – EF 50mm f/1.2
1/80sec f/2 ISO 250
The only downside of such a system is the build quality of the stand. It looks and feels fragile. Basically, you get what you pay for. I am not sure this will stand the test of time, especially if you travel regularly with it. But on the good side, It comes with a little bag and has a small footprint. It’s light and easy to set up, but I would only recommend this to starters and photographers that take really good care of their equipment… unlike me. You also have to take into account the fact that the backdrops will always have creases every time you unfold them even though a lot of manufacturers will state otherwise. This means a steamer will be necessary to get rid of them if you want a clean backdrop… Which is a downside for me, if you are looking for a portable solution that is quick to set up.
If you take a quick look at the backdrops they are well made and with the correct lighting, they will do the job. I was hoping for a little more definition in the textures but… this can be linked to the printing method, I will have to test other similar backdrops to see if it’s the case.
In conclusion, if you have a limited budget, a small space, and need an easy system to set up that you can occasionally take with you on location, then this might be it. If you wish to get one of these backdrops or the entire system, I invite you to visit their website or click on the links below. I will get my hands on other backdrops, compare them, and after a couple of sessions will reveal to you the ones that I actually love and use on jobs in a future blog post. Until then, take care, and please, have a good one!
Get 20% off for these backdrops & kit with the code ”HZAN20”: Use the code HZAN20 and get 20% off!