Sometimes you just can’t find that perfect combination of good light and an uncluttered background to shoot portraits indoors. At times like that, a photography backdrop is the answer… but it doesn’t need to be expensive! In fact, it’s super easy to create a DIY photography backdrop!
To that end, we’ve come up with 8 DIY photography backdrop ideas that you can create easily, opening up a new world of unique and fun portrait ideas!
Bed sheets are a fantastic option for a number of reasons:
However, sheets get creased, even just from being neatly folded. Those creases will show up in photos and work to distract. So I can’t stress this enough… save yourself headaches later on and iron it before you use it.
Plain bed sheets are a bit tricky… unless the background is really blurred, and there is a lot of space between your subject and background, it tends to look… like a bed sheet.
I set this shot up in open shade on my back porch. It’s well lit by soft natural light, wrapping evenly around her face with no spots of harsh light on her (hot spots). The light was coming at her from behind my right shoulder, giving her beautiful catchlights in her eyes.
I placed myself at eye level with her, to ensure a simple composition with good eye contact. Meter for your subject’s skin and choose a wide aperture to blur that background pattern properly.
For plain colours, textured fabrics work better than plain cotton which tends to highlight every tiny crease and imperfection.
This was shot on my front porch in open shade which gave me beautiful soft light.
Come behind the scenes with me as I captured this set up and more, using only natural light and DIY backdrops to create gorgeous light filled studio style portraits.
Oh and… I share the camera settings I used for each set up, including my thought process behind the choices I made.
The name is a little misleading, as the fabric is not necessarily floral. But if you’re looking for this gorgeous sparkly effect, this is the term you need to be searching for. I bought this piece from an online party supplies store.
It gives the most fabulous bokeh effect!
Related: How to Take Bokeh Photos
Karen Hayden used a sparkly door curtain to create a beautifully simple, very inexpensive, and effective backdrop which really suited her subject.
In the pullback shot we can see she used her clothes line, which was situated in open shade. She shot with the light coloured shed behind in order to ensure a light background behind the door curtain.
You’ll find a gazillion fun options for door curtains on Pinterest!
You can buy small pieces of vinyl from fabric stores, hardware stores, Etsy and eBay.
The options are literally endless. You can get simple patterned or plain vinyl for a neutral, unimposing backdrop, like this one below.
Through Etsy and Ebay you can also find imitation wood fencing, scratched metal, splattered paint, light bokeh, holiday scenes… I could really go on all day. And whilst these are not handmade by you, or found in your cupboard or local hardware store… they can be sourced very inexpensively.
A twinkle light portrait is especially perfect for holiday photos, but there’s no reason why you can’t use fairy lights as a backdrop for any portrait.
To create this set up, you only need an inexpensive set of fairy lights and a plain backdrop, even if it’s just a wall.
We have a fabulous tutorial that shows you step-by-step how to set up for the shot, including the settings you need and pull back shots! You definitely need to be shooting in manual mode for this session as your aperture will control the look of the fairy lights.
Related: Easy Twinkle Light Portrait Tutorial
Think outside the square and put backdrops underneath your subject and shoot down on them. The moment you do this, you open up a magical world of creativity!
This fabulous image was taken by Nell Williams, one of our Advanced Photography Course students. Inspired by an image she found on pinterest, she created this simple circus themed outline using an inexpensive roll of party table paper, and kid’s poster paint.
Nell’s top tip is to use the paint sparingly, as the paper is thin and it will tear if you attempt to slap too much on it!
She made the trapeze using dowel and rope from a hardware store, which added interest and depth to the shot. She also advises the nylon rope she used was very tightly coiled, and heating it with a hairdryer helped to loosen it.
Who can resist a pullback shot?! This is exactly how Nell set up and took the shot…
Even if you’re not inclined to create a floor drop like Nell’s, the list of ready made items you can use in the same way is almost endless:
When shooting down, you’ll need a wide lens in order to fit your subjects into the frame. This was shot from my standing height using a 24-70mm lens at 24mm.
Alternatively you may need to stand on a small step or chair to create the composition. This was shot with an 85mm lens standing on a chair.
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 combination is heavy and can cause serious injury if it falls onto a small child from your standing height.
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