How to Find Photography Backdrops
If there is one thing you cannot have enough for your studio, it is the backdrops for those never ending demands on variety and subjects. Old school backgrounds are never enough and the problem is that most small studios do not have enough space to store them. We talk about where to find backdrops as well as create some intuitive ones yourself. However we start with something that can get rid of the need for most backdrops if not entirely.
The blue screen, only background you may ever need: If you hang a blue roll of say a 12-14 ft wide washable backdrop, it is quite easy to take the negative/RAW and post process it in photoshop. You can add clipping path, remove the background and add a background of choice. So without going into technical detail, you ideally should light up the background evenly without any hard shadows. You can then shoot your subject(s) standing over the background (reason for it to be washable/cleanable which most of them are). Then you can use different selection tools to remove the background, then use feather tool to soften the edges and add a new layer to push below the subject.
Also you could create a shadow effect in a new layer for your subject, or create adjustment layers to mimic reflection of the newly placed environment on the subject itself. For example an amber highlight for a person standing in a sunset scene. For most situations, this will save you time, energy and cost. This is how most Hollywood movies do it, so no reason why you can’t.
Now that we are over with the digital solution, let’s move to some real backdrops:
Pro Tip: Shoot your background as RAW all by itself (without any subject) so you can use this background digitally whenever you want. This is especially useful for rented backdrops and disposable self made stuff. This is a useful addition to your backdrop library.
Self made backdrops: Here are some crazy ideas on how people are using simple things to create some very suitably attractive backdrops without breaking the bank.
1. Balloons and birthday glitter ropes: Frills and paper confetti, birthday stars and ropes of confetti can be hanged on a colored or colorless wall or studio shade. The densely packed inexpensive birthday supplies create good background for parties, celebrations and other happy mood situations. They also make for some wonderful blurs to be used as product backgrounds.
2. Rolls of cloth or paper: Denim rolls, paper rolls, florals, lines, pinks, blues, linen and a whole lot of cloth/paper wallpapers can be pasted wide to match your width requirement and make some very practical backdrops.
3. Drapes and curtains: They make some excellent backdrops, while easily available, you can use a single drapery rod held by studio stands or tripods on both ends to suspend the drapes. Many interesting shades and textures are available for your requirement at a nearby furnishing store.
4. Lights: Lights with or without bokeh make for some excellent background. Using light strings and pedestals in clusters suspended over dark color, cloth, drapes or any background make for some very brilliant backdrop ideas.
5. From your garden: Backdrops made with flower garlands are common in my country and so are leaf garlands. Take a stitching thread and needle, rope in leaves, flowers and vegetation parts to create a garland. You can use several of these to make some nice fillers. Although it is labor intensive, it makes for some very interesting stuff.
6. Cardboard scenes: You can cut cardboard pieces into shapes and make themes like forests, Christmas scenes, festival objects etc, you can use them in solid color or pasted with printed paper to add detail. You can even watercolor them. You can make stand-ups and suspended pieces to create a mocked up scene. This is quite popular for window dressing shops in recent times.
7. Other random stuff: If it can be hanged, painted, pasted, it can be a background. Things like yarn space balls, painted plywood, veneers, laminates, tissue paper, throws, paper items, ribbons and whatever. They can be turned into art pieces like flowers, fake vegetation, or just mixed collages. The creativity is unlimited as to what you can do here.
Finding More backgrounds and backdrops outside your door:
1. Shopping sites: I could find a couple of interesting backgrounds including translucent cloth with remote controlled LED light strings for as little as $20. There is a huge variety available online. These are available for purchase and not rentals. Although you could sell it back once you are done on sites like olx or ebay.
2. Special sites like photographypros, rentscenicbackgrounds etc sell or rent as per their own terms. You may need to find more about their shipping and rental policies for your area. You can also look in google shopping for local sites. They usually have a whole range of material from small simple scenes to elaborate matt paintings.
3. Local background shops: For my area, I would find them in streets less known to the general public. Generally near old time photo studios and art galleries. So you can roam your local market to find or rent some really nice ones. You usually find props here too.
4. Borrow and rent from studios: If you are a studio, you can exchange, rent and borrow from fellow competitors. I am not sure about other countries but in most cities here, competitors have a few rules when dealing with each other. They understand that the best way to do business is to help each other. So you may be able to borrow, rent or exchange backdrops from other studios. But do inspect the merchandise for any damages and failures and notify the owner before taking it away. This will help you insure yourself in case the roll or material is damaged/aged already.
Do share your experience and tips for quest for a great backdrops in comments. Thanks for reading!
Nature and Wildlife Photography