How To: Choose the Best Photo Backdrop
Don't drop the ball on your backdrop choice!

Design Master

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Not only is a photo about its subject, but it’s also about what’s in the background. Since different backgrounds will be a part of all kinds of photos, visualizing and choosing them carefully is part of the photographer’s job.

What kind of backdrop will make your next shot more interesting, and how do you find the backdrop to fit your needs and budget? We have a few tips for you.

There are several types of studio backdrops. The most common are paper, muslin and canvas. Some of these are disposable and need to be replaced after a few uses, while the others you will be able to reuse many times.

Prices for each of these categories vary accordingly:

  • Seamless paper: This usually comes in rolls (plus the paper tears, gets dirty and wrinkles easily), but after shooting, you can replace it.
  • Muslin – This is cheaper than paper, and it’s quite low maintenance. It doesn’t wrinkle too much, and it’s easier to store and transport than bulky paper rolls. However, you must take care of it if it gets dirty or damaged.
  • Canvas – This is more expensive than both paper and muslin, but it’s higher quality and more durable.

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For special effects, there is a number of other materials commonly in use. Studio photography makes use of velour and velvet for portraiture. For fashion and lifestyle shots, highly reflective vinyl is a popular choice.

TIP: Chromakey is preferred when adding a new background that requires digital post-processing.

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You don’t necessarily have to spend money to have a nice backdrop for your photos, especially if you’re shooting outdoors. Anything can provide a nice background – you just have to keep your eyes open.

Brick or concrete walls, graffiti, colored wooden doors – all of these are great and you can find them simply by walking around.

TIP: This kind of urban backdrop is ideal for fashion and lifestyle photos, but they also can add lots of character to a portraiture.

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Photo by Chris Gampat

When indoors, look for good opportunities as well. If you need a neutral background, a blank wall, both white and colored, can do wonders. Ornate wallpaper, curtains and big windows also are excellent.

TIP: Make sure to get rid of excessive clutter to make the most of this type of backdrop.

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Photo by Ariel Da Silva Parreira

Your backdrop doesn’t need to be perfect. You can use your aperture to throw it out of focus and minimize possible imperfections, like wrinkles and blemishes.

TIP: In the studio and with the help of flash, you also can effectively apply artificial light to illuminate the part of your backdrop that you want to appear in your final photograph.

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Photo by Vincent Boiteau

Don’t limit your possibilities. With a little creativity, you can find the right solution for your shot.

If you don’t have a regular studio backdrop with you indoors, use what you have, from blank walls to doors and windows. When shooting outside, apply the same principles. A simple piece of fabric that is large enough can be a resource, especially if you are doing a portraiture and your subject is a few feet away from the background.

When you are ready to print your new photos, make sure to use one of the best photo printing services available.

About the Author
Kristi Maddox is a master of graphic design, on-site design and ordering, and is the go-to for template and design tool usage.
Kristi and the team order print jobs from every major printer to test quality, value, customer service, and more. See their reviews here:


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