There is certainly no shortage of materials that can be used for backgrounds in the studio.
And if you throw a “chroma key” — aka green or blue screen — into the mix, you have vitually unlimited choices of backgrounds via Photoshop and other image editing programs.
So, let’s sort out the backdrop choices, so you can select what’s right for you…
White and colored backgrounds
Seamless background paper — Using seamless paper is the easiest way to get a smooth background, plus, you can roll it out to the exact length you need, giving you plenty of room to photograph large groups when necessary.
Paper can also be easily taped to the floor which avoids the “bunching up” and hazardous “sliding” you can get with fabric-based backgrounds.
So, if you want a clean white background, or other solid color (other than black… paper doesn’t “suck up the light” as well as some other black materials) seamless paper is great way to go.
The downside to seamless paper is it’s a little awkward to store and transport, and it’s a consumable item. It is also difficult-to-impossible to use over carpeting.
You can also only get solid colors. So if you want a painted or textured background effect, you’ll need to use a different material like muslin.
Superlight® Wipeable backgrounds — The lightest and most portable of all backdrops. This patented fabric weighs in at only 2 pounds for a full backdrop, crushes up into a small bag for transport and storage, yet pulls tight for a smooth look. If storage, portability, and reusability are of prime importance to you, the Superlite® should be on your “short” list, and probably your “only” list.
The Superlites come in white and hand-painted neutrals. See the Superlite® White Background Review and Test and Superlite® Neutrals Background Review and Test for more complete information on this backdrops.
Collapsible backdrops — These are made of fabric and are reusable. The upside is they are easly transported and stored. The downside is having to deal with wrinkles in the fabric, and a length that may be less than ideal.
You may also have problems with “stability,” sliding and bunching.
If you need a white portable background, in most cases, you’ll be best off with the Superlite®. If you need colors and collapsibility these types of backgrounds may be useful to you.
Muslin — Muslins are durable and resuable, however they can have the wrinkle, sliding and bunching problem.
The upside, is they come in a variety of traditional patterns and textures.
Chroma — Also known as “blue” and “green” screens, these types of backdrops are made to give you the ability to easily knock out the background in Photoshop, or other image editing program, and replace it with the background of your choice.
Chroma screens make for a very versatile image, however, there is extra work involved in processing the images.
Special note — we mostly use white backgrounds in the studio and find that the subjects are very “extractable,” if neccessary or desired, making chroma key backgrounds uneccessary for general use. If you specifically intend to to a lot of “backgound swapping” chroma keys used with proper lighting and the appropriate software will be helpful.
There are a few materials that can be used for a black background.
Unfortunately, most of them either aren’t black enough, aren’t big enough, or have other problems that make them less than ideal.
See Resource Guide for Black Backdrops.
As always, if you have any questions, or need any help, be sure to contact us!