Being a lover of anything vintage and that classic look in studio portraits, I've fallen in love with fine art, textured backdrops. One company in particular, Oliphant from the US are renowned for these beautiful backdrops.
I've been reading blogs of very well known and respected portrait photographers who use these backdrops and thought I'd try making my own. There are many and varied ways to make these backdrops.
I chose to use a method employed by New Zealand photographer, Sue Bryce. So today I'm sharing with you what I did to create my own backdrop. I was satisfied with my first attempt. Though in hindsight (as we do) next time I will improve on the outcome and have learned through experience what to do and what not to do next time.
- 9" x 12" Canvas drop sheet (from the hardware in the paint section)
- plastic drop sheet (to place under the canvas)
- interior low sheen (acrylic) paint - white base colour x 4 ltrs
- interior low sheen pots x various colours - teal green, grey, beige
- small rollers & large rollers and trays
- mixing pots and paint mixers for mixing colours
- extension handle for rollers
- sea sponges
To decide on what colours to buy and mix, I printed off a copy of the backdrop I liked (the one in the photo is from one of my favourite portraits by Sue Bryce). I then took the picture to the hardware and chose some colours that I thought closely resembled the colours in the the backdrop.
Also, with my colours, I kept in mind what my end result would be. That is, what colours I wanted in the clothing of my prospective clients. I used a teal green because that colour will pick up blues and greens and will compliment those softer, warmer, pastel colours of pinks. The beige I chose to ensure there was some warmth in the teal/green and to pick up more natural skin tones. And I chose a white first layer to keep the overall tones lighter, rather than darker.
Now there are some things that I would recommend:
- Ensure you buy a larger tin of base colour, not only to use for the first coat which the canvas really soaks up. But also because the white is required to blend in with your other colours.
- Try to get a canvas drop sheet with no seams! It's a pain having to edit out the seam in post processing.
- For smaller sized sheets, steam the sheets if you have a steamer or iron out the creases. I did manage to smooth a little out using the roller, but better if you can get the creases out beforehand.
- For larger sheets buy an extension handle for the roller so you don't have to stand on the sheet to paint in the centre of the sheet. It will also save your back.
- Be careful not to use too many colours or mix too many together, otherwise it will all turn brownish in colour. Test a little in a separate mixing pot before mixing together larger quantities.
- Try to mix enough paint the first time to cover enough of your canvas. The reason being is if you don't mix enough colour, your next batch may be a different colour if you don't get the ratios exactly the same.
I was fairly happy how my backdrop turned out for my first attempt and I was fairly close to what I wanted to achieve in colour matching. My apologies for the images which aren't quite focused correctly.
In regard to these photos, I put everything together rather at the last minute as I was losing light. I was in too much of a hurry and didn't take my time setting up my camera and focal points. And I ended up dragging my daughter out and throwing a dress on her and pulled out some taffeta and a few items in order to test what the back drop looked like. So it was all done in rather a hurry.
So I hope this information is useful to fellow photographers who would like to try their own backdrop. If you try it yourself and have anything else to add, please feel free to leave a comment.