Backgrounds for Portrait Photography, Page 3

by John H. Siskin

Hanging Background
Hanging Background
© John H. Siskin
All Rights Reserved
Well, there is another option, you can buy cloth in 9 foot widths and dye it. This is an amazingly simple process. I bought a piece of fabric 9 foot wide (fabric widths are measured in inches, 9 foot is 108 inches) by 12 foot long. I really should have bought 24 feet, but I was just making the background for this example.

The other thing you need is Rit dye, or some other fabric dye. I went to a Laundromat, since I didnít want to use my home machine for dyeing, and put some soap and two containers of the dye in the washing machine. If I wanted a darker background I would have used more dye. When the wash was done I had a useful background. The fabric was $4.99 a yard, $20.00, and the Rit dye was $ 1.38 or about $2.75 for two.

Of course, I also had to drop some quarters in the washing machine. The fabric I used is bleached muslin and the dye color is taupe.

I hung the fabric to dry in my studio. This reduces wrinkles.

Sleeve
Sleeve
© John H. Siskin
All Rights Reserved
I got some help to sew a sleeve for a pole to hold the background. I could have done this with spring clamps but a sleeve is easier. I have got to learn to use a sewing machine.


Taupe Background
Taupe Background
© John H. Siskin
All Rights Reserved
I got on Craigís list to find a model that I hadnít worked with before. Sam Veta was an excellent model for this project. Notice that I used spring clamps to create a drapery effect on the background and I even lit one of the images from behind the background. I would have like to have a little less evenness in the finished backdrop.


Sam V. #4
Sam V. #4
© John H. Siskin
All Rights Reserved
I think if I had twisted up the background more before putting it in the washing machine I would have achieved this. Alternatively you can paint some fabric dye directly on the cloth. I think this worked out very well and very economically!


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About Author / Instructor / Photographer, John H. Siskin
Photography Instructor: John H. SiskinJohn Siskin is a commercial and fine art photographer who makes architectural, portrait and macro images. He has worked for General Motors and Disney Studios. He teaches the BetterPhoto course An Introduction to Photographic Lighting and is the author of the book Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers.

In addition, he teaches studio lighting black and white photography at Los Angeles Mission College. His studio is in Reseda California and more of his work can be seen at www.siskinphoto.com

His work has been part of many exhibits. His photographs have been shown at the Brand Library, 2nd City Art Gallery, Haroldís Gallery, Farmani Gallery, and The Atelier. He has been a participant in the Valley Studio Tour several times.

John has published quite a number of technical articles about photography. His articles have appeared in Photo Techniques, View Camera, Studio Photography and others. He has written about photographic lighting, building lenses, framing, photographic lab work, building cameras, as well as some more speculative photographic subjects. Since he is so well versed in photographic subjects, he is often hired as a consultant by businesses.