What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

Started Oct 30, 2009 | Discussions
framework Regular Member • Posts: 487
What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

Hi folks,

just starting out with a little studio area in the house, and was wondering what would be the best material types for a white and black bacground for just some simple portrait shots.
Thanks in advance!
Mike V.

kotm14 Forum Member • Posts: 69
Re: What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

For white I have used various types of cloth (anything from bedsheets to bleached muslin) but I always ended up frustrated because of wrinkles. Now I use rolls of background paper almost exclusively - yes they mark up and rip over time and they're large to store, but they give me the best results. You can buy it at any decent photography store.

For black I just use wide cloth available from any fabric store - heavy enough that nothing passes through so it appears solid black. Wrinkles don't show up, especially because I generally avoid having light on the it (if I want gray, I'll usually use the white backdrop). Of course, you can also buy rolls of black background paper if you prefer (or gray, or any other colour)

PS. I once tried to find a white plastic material - like the stuff used for outdoor signs - for a more durable, longer-lasting white backdrop, but I couldn't find anything large enough that didn't have a visible pattern to it. There may be something suitable available now.

kb2zuz Veteran Member • Posts: 3,203
Re: What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

Do you plan on doing headshot and 3/4 length shots only or full length shots including feet? If the former, a white wall will suffice, just make sure you can keep some distance and light the wall separately so that you don't get harsh shadows cast by the subject.

If doing full length shots, pick up a roll of white seamless paper. Savage and a dozen other companies make seamless backdrop paper.

For Black you can use black seamless but black velvet does suck up the light a lot better. Another option is if possible to not use a backdrop at all. If you have the lights significantly close to the subject and nothing close behind them and no light hitting anything behind them, the background will become black as there is no light there. For a while I lived in a house with a large set of woods in the back (no houses or other lights in view) and I'd do my "On Black" shots on the back deck lighting the subject with strobes and the background would be pitch black.

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Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D Nikon AF-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED Epson Stylus Pro 3880 +6 more
WFulton Senior Member • Posts: 2,698
Re: What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

framework wrote:

what would be the best material types for a white and black bacground

The "best" would be black velvet (real velvet). This is not inexpensive.
See the first larger picture (5th picture down)
at http://www.scantips.com/lights/metering.html

which shows black velvet at the top of frame, and black paper in the middle down lower in the frame. There is a major difference.

The cheapest would be many feet of blank empty space nothingness, nothing to reflect the light back. Like outside on a dark night.

If you use black paper or black muslin fabric, and if you allow your lights to illuminate it, it will be very visible, and can be identified as black paper or muslin. If you place it back much farther, and do not allow the lights to hit it, it can approximate black.

Conversely, for white to appear white, you have to light it, perhaps about 1/2 stop brighter than the subject. If it is simply a few feet behind the subject, the light is more dim there, and it will appear dirty gray.

OP framework Regular Member • Posts: 487
Re: What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

Thanks for all the input guy's. I guess I really need to study up on correct lighting techniques also, as I have had grey/bluish casts in white backgrounds and honestly didn't know what to blame it on.
Mike V.

halil selman nsel Regular Member • Posts: 326
Re: What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

what about the ebay ones???

guys, i think i could not find paper background for white in my country. (1.5 m is ok, but no 2.7 m with reasonable price) do you think muslin backgrounds on ebay would be fine??

many thanks

DRode Senior Member • Posts: 2,815
Re: What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

For black velvet is excellent b/c it sucks up the light better than anything else I know of. A cheaper alternative is black crushed velvet. The effect is nearly the same. However, if you're careful with light setup, you can make a pure whit background appear totally black.

For white, I use seamless paper most of the time but muslin or a bed sheet works well too. Almost anything wide and white will work. One photographer in Cincinnati gave me the idea to use vinyl flooring. Turn it upside down and add some flat white paint. When it gets scuffed, he simply touches it up with another coat of paint.

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calson Forum Pro • Posts: 10,199
Re: What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

Cheapest is paper and easiest to manage are the collapsible. With white if you are adding 2-stops light almost anything works and same applies to black where it will be providing 2 stops less light than the exposure on your subject.

Best backgrounds in the opinion of most portrait photographers are ones with a light spot in the middle for an automatic vignette effect. Worth taking some time and checking out what is available at B&H for starters. They have more than 500 backdrops.

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kenbulmer Junior Member • Posts: 47
Re: What material is best for wt/black backgrounds

I'm considering a vinyl coated 10x20 white backdrop from Backdrop Outlet. Has anyone used vinyl and can give pros/cons?


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