Backdrops – how to make your own

Photography is an expensive hobby, so do yourself a big favour and make your own equipment.  I usually get questions about backdrops and where I get them from.  So, I’ll let you in on that one…

I buy my backdrops everywhere… and I mean EVERYWHERE!   How?  Charity stores…. hundreds of the things just waiting to be picked up… and for just a few cents.  Who knew that charity stores sold photography accessories eh?  What are they?  Sheets.  Double, king size, queen size… for a few dollars only.  You can also get large pieces of material too sometimes and muslin curtains.  Easy to hang curtains because they’ve already got loops or whatever.

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on pro backdrops, though I have do have a couple of those which I’ve bought online.  You can also make one out of muslin, which I also use… yards and yards of the stuff.  It’s dirt cheap.  There’s a tut here on how to do that, though you’re going to want to hang it.  You can hang it from a wooden dowel and fix it to your ceiling and roll it up and down, or you can fix curtain eyelets into your sheet edge and hang from hooks in a beam or ceiling in your room, or make a frame for it, which is a great idea for portability.   Ideally you need something 10 foot across if you’re going to photograph a whole person, but much less if you’re just doing head shots. 

You can dye them any colour you like and it doesn’t matter if they get wrecked because they cost so little.  Buy white ones, chuck them in bleach to brighten them up and give them a good wash and you’re good to go.
Dye one set black or dark grey.  Tie dye is also good for a mottled effect and here’s a different way of dying which isn’t as fiddly as tie dye but I recommend you don’t use a dryer to set the dye.. just hang it over your clothesline until it’s dry.  Another tut here with pics.  I like those the best. 😉

Remember, the backdrop isn’t going to be really in focus after you’re done, it’s just a backdrop.  If you want block colours, then use a liquid dye rather than powder ones as the powder can sometimes leave little spots.  One that you throw in the machine is the best, though follow instructions about rinsing the machine afterwards because you don’t want any unpleasant surprises.

If you’re planning on shooting down, you need lots of texture, so make sure there’s enough material on the ground for this.  The more material you can bunch up around your subject area, the better imo.  Also, if you’re lying your subject on the floor, put something comfortable underneath your backdrop.. camping mats or gym mats are a good idea.  Be nice to your models!

I have several home made backdrops.. grey mottled, rust mottled, black and white.

Once you’ve set up your backdrops, place your models in (hire your kids), light it well and take some shots.  Amazing how much more pro it looks even if you’re not.
Have fun!

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