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Photography Question 
Janessa L. Taber-Webb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/14/2005

Backdrops for Studio Set-up

I saw a photographer on TV the other day who made a studio in a room in her apartment. She had one backdrop, and all the walls were painted different colors. (I am assuming for different colored backdrops.) What do you think about painting the walls in one room different colors? Like green, pink, blues, etc.? I have thought a lot about that, but I am unsure what the end result would be.

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1/12/2006 4:37:02 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Well Jan, that's a nice idea. Two problems. First, when you're shooting against a wall of one color, one of the colors from the other wall might cast its color into your shot, causing a color shift of the scene. The other problem that comes to mind is that if you paint a room that's not large enough, you may not have enough room to shoot in rig lights, keep the subject off the background, etc.
I suggest that, instead of investing in paint, buy a couple of background stands with a background pole and buy a couple of paper or fabric backgrounds to use. They're portable and if your walls and ceiling are white (or black), you probably don't need to be concerned with color casts.

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1/12/2006 7:05:30 PM

Janessa L. Taber-Webb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/14/2005
  I sort of figured that there could be problems involved with that, but what if the room was really big? I have a big stand for paper, but it's a pain in the rear to change the roll all the time because it's so dang long. It's like 9 feet long and HEAVY! And I am not a very BIG or STRONG girl, and I need to be able to do this on my own (change the rolls). So, instead, would you suggest me buying a bunch of stands with the rolls already on them so I don't have to worry about the hassle of changing them? (That seems like a hassle too, in a way.) This whole studio thing is stressing me OUT! Thanks for the advice, though. I really appreciate it.

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1/12/2006 7:10:58 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hi Janessa;
My 2 cents. I would not even use paper backdrops. Yes, they're cheap, but they also have a nasty tendency to wrinkle, tear, etc., and always at the worst time.
You can get 3 or 4 muslin backdrops these days quite cheaply. There are, of course, the more expensive muslin cloths, but for just starting out, I don't think you'll need them. I'd suggest a white, a black, and maybe a tie dye multi-color.
Concerning the walls, I agree with Mark, painting them different colors is a bad idea for the reasons he mentioned. If you want to be a purist and don't mind the look, paint them all flat black. This will "control" the light. This is exactly what I did. I have a roll out thin piece of white translucent lexan for the floor 16x20 when doing group shots. Great lower reflector to add light... over that, I can also overlay a black piece of lexan depending on the shot I want.

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1/12/2006 9:00:54 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Well Jan, you could rig sweeps - that is like backgrounds mounted on stands and swept in a long curve with muslins or paper. Muslins are nice since they're washable, and if you get tired of one, you can always toss some more paint or dyes on it.
And, no matter how large the room, if you paint, I'd only do one wall. Our studio has a wall with a built-in shooting cove made of plywood with a swept curve at the floor to make it look seamless. It can be painted any color we need or will support backgrounds either paper or muslin.
Sure, you can paint white or black, or even neutral gray. But I wouldn't go multi colors in the same room, unless it's really really big. Be well. Mark

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1/14/2006 7:44:10 PM

William Koplitz   It seems that the concern here is for the cyclorama, the unbroken curve from the floor to the wall. There are professional systems that allow you any number of background combinations on the same wall by front or rear projection. Do a search on cyclorama in google and see what you get.

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1/17/2006 11:58:57 AM

Steve Parrott
  Hello Jan, take a chill pill, it is not all that bad! LOL Just start with some basic muslin backdrops, black, white, and grey. Grey is great, it goes with any skin tone and hair color. Another alternative is to look into DIGITAL backdrops. Try You can buy hundreds of beautiful backdrops on CD and put them into your photo later. It has it's problems though. You usually have to shoot against a chroma key green or blue color, and even then removing your subject from the photo to put into the digital backdrop can be a pain in the rear. Do what I do. I use the basic colors I listed above, then tell people I'm striving to capture THEM in a portrait, not just take a photo of a fake scene... anyone can do that! Also... look into PROPS. Screens, decorative chairs, stools. tables. antiques... there are a world of items that add much more to a portrait than just a backdrop.

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1/17/2006 1:25:45 PM

Harold F. Bonacquist
  The cost of muslin quoted in the mags is astounding -- over $100. Wouldn't a bolt of cloth from a local store be cheaper?

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1/17/2006 2:59:36 PM

Victoria G.   Has anyone tried Ebay for backdrops?

I do know stay away from Dreammaker, terrible attitude and disappointing product. I have noticed that Steve Kaeser Backdrops have excellent reviews of their backdrops. Most of time they go for about $90 or less. Just be sure you read all sellers' feedback and the listings extremely well. Watch for the shipping charges and keep them in mind when bidding.

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1/18/2006 12:34:18 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/4/2005
  I have a garage studio (a big garage). So far I have painted one end all white.... and after I clear up the mess at the other end, will be painting that all flat black. Switching between the two should be a breeze.
I also have 10ft x 12ft backdrop. My back drop system only carries one roll at a time. I should have bought the slightly better system which has "rungs" to hold multiple rolls, which are much easier to interchange.
If your work area is limited in size.... why not take your back drop and tripod "outside" to a nice shady spot. Pick your day when the shadows are in your favour (and some small sandbags to help steady your uprights).

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1/18/2006 5:14:01 PM

Rachel Tribunella   Is there any reason Janessa couldn't hang her muslin drapes from several wall-width curtain rods and just pull across the one she needed? I imagine they'd need to be hung from sturdy ceiling hooks - some kind of loop at the ends would be enough to support the rod if it was room width. Closet rods are very cheap. Just an idea...

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1/19/2006 1:35:11 PM

Dawn T. Palmerley
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/30/2005
  I've bought backdrops from ebay. One seller in particular who is great. (funkybackdrops) Great product! I also just bought a strobe/softbox/stand from Dreammaker which seems to work well. And I got it at an okay price.
Fabric from fabric stores are okay for about 4 feet width or about 6feet with certain fabrics, but not good if you want to go bigger. I recommend ebay.

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1/19/2006 6:03:26 PM

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