Collapsible Background or Bed Sheet?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by kerrick_long, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. I'm a photography student living in the dorms (and maybe soon, a not-much-bigger cheap apartment), and I'm pretty serious about photography (leaning towards portrait/studio work, I think). I'm throwing a Portrait Party in my residence hall at the end of March, and I'm wondering about equipment.
    Should I go down to Walmart, buy a white and a black bed sheet and some dowels, sew the dowels into the bed sheets for weight/straightness, and use those for backgrounds? Or, should I buy a Collapsible Background like this one? I'm pretty sure that if I bought the background I would get LOTS of future use out of it, but it's almost twice what I'd expect to spend on a DIY solution.
    Thanks in advance for any advice!
  2. Buy the background, unless you always, ALWAYS, want to see the crinkles in the back. If you don't use it, you can sell it again (well, you could make other uses of bedspreads, too...)
  3. Bed sheets make a decent backdrop. The big problem you might get with it is that a flash may flash through it and you will see the outline of what is behind it. If you handle a backdrop cloth you will feel that is it a much heavier material than bed sheets to prevent this from happening.
    I have never used the backdrop you looked at and cannot comment on how well it would work. I use regular backdrops. They are rather long so you can cover both the wall and the floor. This is useful when the floor can be distracting such as when it is a rather bad carpet. A good muslim cloth is under $50 and I have see some for $35, which makes them within spitting distance of the price of a bed sheet.
    My recommendation is buy a muslim backdrop cloth. You can then pin or tape it to the wall. You do not need to sew dowels as it is heavy enough to lay flat. The big cost item are the stands which it looks like you do not need right now and can purchase later. It is only a few dollars more and a lot less work than the bed sheet set up and much better for photo use.
  4. Buy a real background if you can afford it. It will give better results and help establish your reputation as a serious photographer. But the color you want is a traditional portrait color like stormy gray/studio gray, or a sort of mottled blue. Those are what you most often see in a professional portrait. Pure black or white is too stark. Also, dark hair or skin will blend into a black background unless you really know your lighting, and white will go gray unless properly lit.
  5. Okay, so I'm getting the vibe that a bed sheet isn't the way to go, but neither is this particular background. What kind would you recommend getting? What is a "real background," are there certain quality aspects, sizes, and colors (I know you mentioned storm blue or grey work) that I should look for? Any specific backgrounds you could point me to for at or under $70?
    Thanks for the quick responses and help, by the way!
  6. Actually, I've been using the "bed sheet" solution for years with no problem. I went this way both because of weight (regular back cloths are much heavier and bulkier--I wanted something that was easily transportable) and cost. I just went to the material store and found 110" material in black and white and bought a portable back drop stand to hang them from. Works fine, and there are no visible wrinkles in black. But you do have to have them next to a wall (or something solid) or you can see through them.
  7. Backdrops come as either a roll of paper or cloth sheets. You want the cloth type and the most common is muslim cloth. Just do a web search for "photography muslim sheets" and you will find several sources. Prices are anywhere from $35 to over $100 for the really elaborate ones. Depending on the walls you have, you can pin or tape them to the wall. They come in a variety of colors and textures besides plain gray.
  8. Is there a functional difference between the muslins that are dyed and those that are painted?
    Is it better to get one with the mottled look rather than one solid color?
    Is there much advantage to get one that is 20' long rather than 10' x 10'?
  9. Dyed vs painted, not sure.
    I like mottled, but it can give all your portraits the same look unless you have several.
    20' gives 10' behind model and 10' on the floor for them to stand or sit on. Great for variety in posing and for full length shots.

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