Selecting backdrops is one of the easiest ways to add personality and style to your studio photography and videos.
Whether you are shooting portraits or products, the backdrop behind your subject can make or break your image. Cluttered backgrounds are distracting and draw attention away from your subject. And if you’re attempting to sell products online, a cluttered image may cause you to lose sales.
Selecting a backdrop may seem like a relatively simple task. However, there are many types and styles of backdrops available in different sizes, patterns, and materials.
Backdrop Size Options
There are a few things to consider when choosing a backdrop size, including the size of your studio and the size of your subject. Portrait subjects should typically be pulled at least 3’ away from your backdrop to prevent shadows and allow for easy lighting. Of course, this distance your subject will be from the backdrop will be altered when taking overhead or backlit/high key shots. Below, we’ll discuss both the length and width restrictions of common backdrops.
- 5’ x 7’ Backdrop: A 5′ wide by 7′ long backdrop is a great size for headshots and ¾-length portraits. These backdrops are easy to manage and require minimal space to set up. These backgrounds are ideal for event photographers who often work in busy spaces or for photographers working in a small home studio.
- 5’ x 12’ Sweep Backdrop: A 5′ wide by 12′ long backdrop is designed to sit at 7′ tall with 4-feet of backdrop sweeping along the floor. This length of backdrop is perfect for full-body portraits of a single person, as well as headshots and ¾-length portraits.
- 8’ x 8’ Backdrop: An 8′ wide by 8′ long backdrop is a perfect size for small groups and horizontal portraits. It was created for photographers that need to work fast and travel light to capture wide-frame photos.
- 8’ x 13’ Sweep Backdrop: An 8′ wide by 13′ long sweep backdrop offers the same benefits as the 8′ x 8′ backdrops as well as full length portraits.
- 9’ x 10’ Backdrop: A 9′ wide by 10′ long backdrop is what can be found in most professional studios because of its versatility for shooting full-length portraits, family portraits, and larger product shots.
- 9’ x 20’ Backdrop: With a 9′ wide by 20′ long backdrop, you’ll be able to cover just about every style of portraiture and product photography. These backdrops are great if you want to photograph a larger family full-length or have a video shoot that requires movement. These long backdrops are great for when you want to pull your subjects far from your backdrop as well.
Backdrop Color Options
There are endless choices of background color and print selections. The choice you make depends on the mood and story that you’d like to portray with your photograph or video. Here are some resources for selecting the proper style of backdrop:
- Solid Color Backdrops: Solid backdrops are great for clean, sleek headshots and are a simple way to add color or dimension to your shot. Check out: Getting the Best Headshot Expressions on a Solid Backdrop
- White Seamless Backdrops: White backdrops are great for easy photo compositing for headshots, stock photos and product photography and for creating a clean, high-key, professional looking portraits. Check out: Creating Composite Images on a White Backdrop with Masking Mode
- Black Backdrop: Black backdrops are great for low-key, rich looking professional photos and capturing stunning portraits.
- Green Screen Backdrops: When you’re looking to place your subject in a location that is not easily accessible and also allows you to use any digital image as a background. Watch: Green Screen Basics
- Textured Backdrops: Printed backdrops help add a touch of style to your shots and add a dynamic feel to an otherwise typical photoshoot. Check out Creating Classic Portraits with Printed Backdrops
Backdrop Mounting Options
There are many systems available for mounting backdrops, including some DIY solutions and some more professional options. Below, we’ll discuss the most popular solutions to help you determine which option is best for you.
Wall Hooks: The most simple way to hang a backdrop is by using wall hooks. This solution is suitable for people using smaller and lighter backdrops. 5 x 7-foot X-Drop Backdrops. While you can install these into your wall, we recommend picking up a pack of removable wall hooks to protect your walls. They are usually under $10 USD per pack.
X-Drop Backdrop Stand: The X-Drop Backdrop is an ideal backdrop mounting solution for traveling photographers or those with limited space. The X-Drop Frame features telescoping arms with hooks that assemble quickly and easily to mount 5′ wide backdrops. This self-standing system is extremely lightweight and has a small footprint for use in virtually any location.
The X-Drop frame has five hooks that pull X-Drop Backdrop taut to eliminate wrinkles and shadows. This system weighs a mere 3 pounds and its expandable carry case can fit up to three 5’ x 7′ backdrops.
X-Drop Pro Backdrop Stand: The patent-pending X-Drop Pro Backdrop Stand features a heavy-duty frame that’s convertible to support 8′ X-Drop Pro and 5′ X-Drop backgrounds, adjustable in depth for tight spaces, and collapses to fit in the trunk of your car. Its space-saving design can be assembled by one person in minutes. Perfect for traveling photographers, studios, video, photo booths, interviews, school photographers, events, and more. Compatible backdrop sizes include X-Drop Pro 8′ x 8′ and 8′ x 13′ sweep backdrops, along with X-Drop 5′ x 7′ and 5′ x 12′ sweep backdrops.
Collapsible Backdrop Stand: The 2-in-1 Collapsible Backdrop is an ultra portable option for video and photo with a reversible 2 sided background. This reversible double sided 5’ x 6.5’ backdrop provides a smooth and seamless look for professional-quality portraits, product photography, podcasts, vlogging, video conferencing, broadcast, online gaming, and more.
The collapsible backdrops are easy to mount with the light stand clip designed to work with any pop-up background or collapsible reflector.
Backdrop Support System: A traditional backdrop support system is the most common mounting solution for photography studios. The backdrop support system consists of a 3-section crossbar and two light stands. By utilizing two of the included crossbars, the backdrop support system can mount backdrops up to 7-feet wide. By utilizing all three crossbars, this system can mount backdrops up to 10.5-feet wide. The included stands can extend up to 12-feet high for photographing tall people, high movement, or products.
The backdrop support system typically mounts backdrops that feature a pole pocket. This pocket simply slides onto the crossbars. Backdrops without a pole pocket can also be mounted to the backdrop support system with spring clamps. Spring clamps (AKA A-Clamps) can be found at any hardware store and typically only cost a few dollars. These clamps are great to have around your studio, as they also allow you to clamp backdrops taut at the bottom to eliminate wrinkles or shadows.
This system is secure, long-lasting, and versatile. However, this backdrop mounting solution requires a bit of room and could become a bit difficult to use if you’re shooting in a small home studio. We recommend this solution for larger spaces and professional studios.
Backdrop Material Options
Choosing the material that your backdrop is constructed with can make a huge difference on the appearance, care, and durability of your backdrop. Below, we’ll discuss the most common backdrop materials and what advantage each has.
Fabric Backdrops: Printed fabric backdrops and solid-color wrinkle-resistant backdrops offer a wide variety of benefits and perform like paper. Fabric backdrops are reusable, portable and more environmentally friendly than paper backdrops. These 100% polyester backdrops are reflection-free, machine washable, and easy to transport. Because of their ultra-matte surface, these backdrops are easy to light.
Matte Vinyl Material: Our most cost-effective option, matte vinyl backdrops are a great choice for doing anything messy like children’s cake smash shoots or pet photography. The surface can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. These backdrops can be rolled for storage and are not affected by humidity.
Lightweight Canvas Material: Lightweight canvas backdrops are a bit thicker than our vinyl backdrops. These backdrops are not machine washable but can be spot-cleaned using water and gentle detergent. These backdrops are extremely matte and are easy to light. Our art canvas options can be rolled for storage.
Backdrop Tips & Tricks
Blurred Background: By shooting with a more shallow depth of field, you will create a blurred backdrop. The trick can be used when shooting on any backdrop and creates a soft, unobtrusive background placing more attention on your subject.
Avoid Shadows: One of the most common backdrop mistakes is in the shadows. To eliminate unwanted shadows on your backdrop, it is best to start by placing your subject about 3-feet in front of it and then adjusting from there. Depending on light placement, this should eliminate any awkward shadows.
High-Key Lighting: For a fresh or clean appearance, go with high-key lighting. High-key lighting will “blow out” your backdrop and focus attention on your subject. To do so, evenly light a solid white backdrop ensuring that the light is reading at least 3-stops higher than the light on your subject.
Low-Key Lighting: For a dramatic or edgy appearance, go with low-key lighting. Low-key lighting also focuses attention on your subject by surrounding them in shadows instead of light. To do this, you want to ensure that your solid black backdrop is at least 3 stops darker than the light on your subject. With low-key lighting, you also need to ensure that none of the light from your subject is hitting your backdrop. Grids and flags are very helpful for this.
Setting up your studio or on location photo shoot is easy as long as you familiarize yourself with the variety of options for background sizes, colors and mounting systems. Not only will this give you get more control of your shoot, but you are also not tied down by one option for a backdrop.
5′ x 7′ Solid Backdrops
5′ x 12′ Solid Sweep Backdrops
9′ x 10′ Solid Backdrops
9′ x 20′ Solid Backdrops
Popular 5′ x 7′ Printed Vinyl and Canvas Options