Tag Archives: background

How to make a backdrop system on the cheap

First off, you need a backdrop. I bought some white muslin from Joann Fabrics, and dyed it myself. There are a bunch of how-tos online to tell you how to do this, and they are better than I would describe. Long story short, I used two packs of permanent dye per backdrop (10′ x 20′, but you don’t necessarily need one that big), tied it up a bit with some jute twine, soaked it in one of those Toughneck Rubbermaid storage containers inside my bathtub for nearly an hour, untied it and let it soak a little longer, rinsed it like crazy, washed it in the washing machine, and then dried it on low… and untangled it about a dozen times. This sounds like a giant annoying job that you’d want to do outside and/or in a big basement… and that would be nice. However I managed to do it in my 2 bedroom apartment without a basement in the middle of winter so outside wasn’t an option.

I have plans at some point to sew a rod pocket into at least one end of each of the two that I dyed myself, but since my sewing machine is in storage while we’re between houses, that’s a little project that will just have to wait.

If you’re not into DIY, you can buy inexpensive backdrops through Adorama.com – I have a white one of their Belle Drape muslins, and they aren’t bad. I would love it to be a little heavier but it works pretty well. Dying two backdrops myself saved me about $75, so to me it was worth the effort. But, I wanted big backdrops that I could wash easily, and wasn’t entirely concerned with exactly how I wanted them to come out.

I do also have a background stand, but it does get in the way. I have found the best way to put up a background, as long as you have a bare wall (no furniture or framed art on it) is with those 3M Command Hooks and some large-sized binder clips. You know… the kind, when you have an office job, you seem to accumulate endlessly. You probably already have the binder clips (or can get them at no cost) and the hooks are inexpensive, reusable, and temporary.

Here’s what the backdrop setup looked like for the photos I shot in the previous post. I used one softbox, about 15-degrees off-center.