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Old 4th of January 2010 (Mon)   #1
belsokar
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Default Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

So I'm getting started shooting studio portraits. I recently bought two white muslin backgrounds to create a couple backdrops to get started with. I'm starting by going the cheap route and making my own until I'm more comfortable with what I'm doing.

I currently do wedding and family photography, and would like to bring some of that in-studio. I have a calumet genesis 200 2-light kit (with umbrellas) for my main lighting. I have a 580exII that I planned to use as a 3rd light if needed. (hair/background/etc...)

My main two issues are as follows:

1. What color backdrops? From reading around, it seems I can go a long way with gray/black/white. If you had to pick two, which two would you pick? Considering I'd like to do some basic family stuff, and perhaps some engagement or bridal portraits, would it be better to throw in a warmer background to start with as well?

2. Solid colors or tie-dye look? Alot of the self-made backdrops do the bunched up look to give a bit of that random tie-dye background that looks nice in certain shots. I'm worried however that by doing this to start, would I be limiting myself initially?

I'm basically looking for the best versatility to start with. I know I won't be able to tackle all types of portrait jobs, but something that will give me some room to grow until I can create/buy more backdrops as needed would be great! My budget is limited, so what I can do with what I currently have is the ultimate goal.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 4th of January 2010 (Mon)   #2
snyderman
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

Not sure what your budget is, but getting started in portraits is something I've done recently, too. Of course, backdrops are a requirement. Not knowing exactly what to get, I stumbled across this:

http://www.aurabackdrops.com/beginne...ack-p-355.html

Says it's a 'beginner' package allowing you to choose three backdrops from quite a selection of colors/textures. Muslin, died/washed or some such.

I chose a blue, gray and mocha colored backdrops. Just a word of caution, I got the 10x20' which practically fill my entire basement.

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Old 4th of January 2010 (Mon)   #3
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

This might interest you

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...d.php?t=797509

I am looking into something like this myself

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...rToReadReviews
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Old 4th of January 2010 (Mon)   #4
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

i'd say white is the way to go. you can get whatever color you wish with gels.

for tie-dye or other variations, you could easily PS them because the subject can be extracted easily!
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Old 4th of January 2010 (Mon)   #5
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

I would suggest that you may want to start with more neutral colors. White,black, gray, are the obvious ones. Brown also is very useful. These will all be great general purpose backdrops. You can achieve a certain amount with gels especially with tighter shots. Gels become problematic with full length type portraits. Vibrantly colored ones can be great for specific purposes, such as red for valentines day or christmas. These require more coordination of outfits to the background than the neutral ones do. Once you get some basic ones, some of the wilder ones are nice to have... the trick is to know when to use a particular one and not to overuse them.

For tight head and shoulders type portraits you can pick up lots of cheap backdrops from the fabric store.

Last edited by 111t : 4th of January 2010 (Mon) at 22:19.
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Old 4th of January 2010 (Mon)   #6
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

I think you'll find it's easier to paint black and grey backdrops with gelled lights than white. Light white with anything and it pretty much gets whiter.
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Old 5th of January 2010 (Tue)   #7
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

My "real" job is in video production. I have been making a very good living doing this for the past 15 years now. In all that time of doing "portrait" type backgrounds for interviews the grey background drop is the one to use. It takes color better than most others. It is neutral and doesn't overpower the situation at all. If you want it to go dark, then don't put any light or very little light on it and you get dark. If you want to add a color (say blue and orange because you are interviewing a Denver Bronco football player ) it will do that as well. I've done this so many times with video it's amazing. And the people who hire us never think it gets old. It's a classic and it works.

Also, never fold up any back ground drop cloth. Verticle and horizontal lines never look good on these types of BG's. Wad up the cloth into a ball and shove it into a duffle bag. Sounds rough, but fold it up once and you'll understand.
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Old 5th of January 2010 (Tue)   #8
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

+1 for grey one. get a pack of color gels and you are set
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Old 5th of January 2010 (Tue)   #9
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

New to the forums, but you sound like you are where I was a couple of months ago, so I thought I'd offer feedback.

I have the calumet genesis 200 2 light kit with umbrella's. I have a 580 ex II as a rear light (with an optical peanut to trigger it). I have gels for the 580.

i started out with a bright red backdrop, as I was primarily focusing on getting holiday cards done for friends and friends of friends. I picked up black, then white and now have gray on order. The white has got the most use - as I can throw all kinds of colors on it from the gels. For example, I was shooting a belly dancer recently, so lit the backdrop up pink to match her costume. I'd never have bought a pink backdrop


I get my backdrops from Backdrop Outlet - I buy the diamond cloth series in 10*20 where possible and have been more than happy with them.
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Old 5th of January 2010 (Tue)   #10
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

Personally I will do without cheap all white or black for muslins and get some higher quality stuff. Aurabackdrops has already being mentioned. I can recommend SilverLake Photo backdrops. There are other mfg, like saycheese, denny mfg and back grounds by maheu.

Tied dyed stuff looks too amateurish, IMHO. The hand painted ones are much much better. Get 2 good quality ones, one with darker tones and one with lighter tones and you set.
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Old 5th of January 2010 (Tue)   #11
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

I appreciate all the great feedback! I think to start I'll try to just do some solid colors and work with some gels if I need to.

Once I can afford it, then I'll pick up a couple hand painted backdrops for more "formal" portraits as needed.

I guess the some follow-up question would be...

- is it better to use one of my genesis lights to color a background? Or just use the 580exII
- If I go with a solid grey background, if I'm making it myself, any recommendations on the color/shade to use to dye it?
- Any recommendations on good "cheap" options for gels? I guess this will also depend on whether I'm using my genesis or flash.

Thanks again!
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Old 5th of January 2010 (Tue)   #12
belsokar
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pcj View Post
New to the forums, but you sound like you are where I was a couple of months ago, so I thought I'd offer feedback.

I have the calumet genesis 200 2 light kit with umbrella's. I have a 580 ex II as a rear light (with an optical peanut to trigger it). I have gels for the 580.

i started out with a bright red backdrop, as I was primarily focusing on getting holiday cards done for friends and friends of friends. I picked up black, then white and now have gray on order. The white has got the most use - as I can throw all kinds of colors on it from the gels. For example, I was shooting a belly dancer recently, so lit the backdrop up pink to match her costume. I'd never have bought a pink backdrop

I get my backdrops from Backdrop Outlet - I buy the diamond cloth series in 10*20 where possible and have been more than happy with them.
So you sound like you are working with the same lighting I am working with. Have you found your 580exII to be a sufficient enough light to get the background colors you want? Or have you ever needed to use one of your genesis lights?
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Old 5th of January 2010 (Tue)   #13
pcj
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

Quote:
Originally Posted by belsokar View Post
So you sound like you are working with the same lighting I am working with. Have you found your 580exII to be a sufficient enough light to get the background colors you want? Or have you ever needed to use one of your genesis lights?
It's ... well, challenging

The 580 is swamped by the Genesis 200's if you have them anywhere near full power. I've got the best effects so far by putting the 580 on 1/2 or full (full overpowers the gels though), the 200's on level 20 or 25, and bringing the model as far away as possible from the backdrop.

Next time I setup though, I'm going to have a barn door with a grid/gel combo for the Genesis, I plan on using one for the backlight with this, and the other with a softbox or reflective umbrella as my main - with the 580 or reflector as fill.

So, yes, I can get the 580 to work as a backlight, but it's tougher than it needs to be.
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Old 5th of January 2010 (Tue)   #14
belsokar
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

Another follow-up question,...does the gelled light need to be dead center for best effect? The main reason I ask is if I'm shooting some smaller models (i.e. kids), I may not be able to setup a background light low and center like some of the examples I have seen.
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Old 5th of January 2010 (Tue)   #15
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Default Re: Best Backdrop colors to start with for Family/Wedding Portraits?

White, black and grey seemless rolls and a set of gels and you have all the colors in the pallet.

Background lighting is however you want it. with kids its easier to set it up to the side, if you want it even use two background lights, one on each side. Or put it in the center and hide it behind a prop, I do that a lot. Take a piece of wood big enough to support the weight of the light, drill a hole in it and put a stud on there to put the light on. Then the light is at floor level and easier to hide.
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Last edited by Dave.H : 5th of January 2010 (Tue) at 13:42.
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