When you can’t find a perfect pocket of good light and simple uncluttered background to shoot in, then creating your own backdrops is super easy and has the added benefit of allowing you to create compositions that are fun, colourful and effective!
Your DIY backdrops don’t need to resemble the paper rolls and vinyl that studios tend to use. Instead you can use patterned or coloured fabrics, bedspreads, curtains, or anything else that takes your fancy!
Things to consider:
- Depending on your backdrop you may want it to be nice and blurred for a great effect and to separate your subject from the background. To do this ensure you are shooting in manual mode at a wide aperture and put a good distance between your subject and background.
- Different fabrics will “sit” differently, so make sure you’re not capturing wrinkles and shadows, as this will be distracting.
- If you’re including the floor make sure your backdrop sits perfectly flush with the floor, or alternatively pull it all the way out and sit your subject on it, so it becomes a seamless backdrop.
- Try not to use materials that are highly reflective, unless that’s the look you’re going for.
Simple Effective Backdrop
In the shot below:
- I used a long focal length at 135mm (on a full frame camera) which ensures the comforter pattern is nicely compressed and looks great in the photo. I was sitting a long way away from her in order to be able to use this lens, and this allowed me to use an aperture of f/2.0.
- Check out her catchlights and notice that the light is coming from over my shoulder from the right (the sky). She was just under the edge of the patio roofing and so the afternoon sky was lighting her in a fashion similar to garage lighting.
- I was nice and low sitting on the ground so that I was eye level with her, which helped ensure the composition was lovely and simple with good eye contact.
Looking down is another way to find pockets of nice soft light and uncluttered backgrounds in challenging locations where your options for composition may be limited. I like to use colourful blankets, bedding, or nice flooring to create a beautiful shot.
The looking down composition is perfect for kids. They’re fun, but super simple for babies in particular. In these two images I simply sat the blankets down really close to a large floor-to-ceiling window and then stood exactly over the top of them to photograph down!
You’ll need a wide lens in order to fit your subjects into the frame. Alternatively you may need to stand on a small step or chair to create the composition. The pink shot was taken at 24mm on my 24-70mm lens and the 2nd image was taken on my 85mm lens, both of full frame cameras. In both cases I used a wide aperture between f/2 – 2.8 as I generally always shoot wide open, and focus on their eyes.
**Safety tip** When taking photos of children and babies from above, always make sure your camera strap is around your neck so that if you accidentally slip with your camera it doesn’t fall onto your subject. A camera and lens can obviously be heavy!
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