DIY Artsy Backdrop -- have you made one ?

Started 1 month ago | Discussions thread
Ed Shapiro
Ed Shapiro Forum Member • Posts: 74
Re: DIY Artsy Backdrop -- have you made one ?

OK, Here's the drill!

I don't want my backgrounds to look lie the mass-production "school-photo" kinds with obvious swirly brush strokes. I low or medium key background has two alternative functions. Very subtle, just to add some color or tonal mass in a low key image so that the background does no go jet-balck and begin to look like a cut and paste job. touch of color or tone creates the illusion of space and dimension so the viewers imagine they can enter the image and walk around the subject. The other function is where the style and texture of the background become part of the image's composition and is reminiscent of a painterly style such as Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Degas- your choice!

You can create both effects with the same background by controlling the light that falls on the background. I will oftentimes just let the spill form the main light illuminate the background rather than utilizing a separate background light. If the background is 1 or 2 stops darker than the subject, a subtle effect will usually result. If you aad a background light the background design will be more defined. The distance between the background and the subject play an important role in both the aforementioned ratio and the degree of selective focus, that is not only how dark or ligh the background appears but also how much out of focus it is.

For this method, I usually make a fairly mid-key background and light it accordingly. I sat too with a fair amount of contrast and then again, vary, the light, distance, and depth of field to produce the result I want.

Painting Procedure: Use flat finish Latex/Acrylic paints. For 3/4 length use a canvas or high-quality window shade at least 8 feet wide by 6 feet high.

Fist lay in you BASE COAT of BLACK or DARK GRAP PAINT- cover the entire surface and allow to dry overnight to make certain the colors you add will not dissolve the base coat and begin to smudge. For the base coat, use a good quality roller designed for the paint surface you are using

For the background design, uses the same type of paint. For portraiture, I recommend colder colors because they bring out the warmth in the skin tones. Wam color will give you a more monochromatic (sepia ) effect. I lie blues and greens and you can add touches of other colors as well. You can mix the basic color with white paint to get different brightness levels.


As you are painting place the camer at the approximate working distance and have the approximate lighting in place so that you can test as you go. Check it out at different exposure to simulate the ratio and at various in and out of focus settings based on you working f/stops. Weh you get the effect you like- STOP PAINTING! If you totally mess up, it's easy to re-apply the base coat and start again.

If you decide to use lighter or pastel colors make certain to select paints that do not have an iridescent, hot, extremely high chroma or kin da day-glow paints. Those types contain ultra-violet and other kids of brighteners and can fluoresce under electronic flash illumination and become extremely distracting.

For portable use, I paint both sides of a window shade so I have 2 different backgrounds in one.

In the images, I am posting you can see one of the backgrounds in my camera room. You lady with the Chello was photographed with that background using the spill method I have explained. The bride is an example of a stylized background where the lighting and focus allow the background to be more prevalent and pick up on the color in the flowers. Both backgrounds are mid-toned and can go either way. The bride was photographed on location with one monolight in a softbox and a reflector for fill at f/6.3. The commercial jewelry shot, the cat, and the old folks are all on the same background. The bride and the little blond kid are on the same background as well- just different lighting and focus treatments.

Good luck! Put down a plastic drop cloth- it gets messy! --
Ed Shapiro- Commercial and Portrait Photographer. Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum PPrevious NNext WNext unread UUpvote SSubscribe RReply QQuote BBookmark MMy threads
Color scheme? Blue / Yellow