Photography Backdrops on a Budget

Joe Edelman is a frugal photographer—though you wouldn’t know it by the quality of the images he produces. But with over 57,000 YouTube subscribers to date, he frequently shares tips, tricks, and do-it-yourself instructional videos aimed at cutting costs without cutting corners. In the following tutorial, Edelman goes into detail concerning his use of backdrops—a fundamental (yet often overlooked) piece of equipment for any photographer working in a studio setting:

Backdrops made from common materials such as canvas, muslin, or vinyl can be quite costly when purchased from photography specialty stores. A less expensive alternative comes in the form of roll up paper backdrops, which can often be cumbersome and prone to folds and tears. For these reasons, shopping for the perfect backdrop can often feel like a chore rather than a treat.

What many photographers don’t realize is that a third option exists at virtually any local fabric store. Velour, a woven fabric similar to velvet, comes in 60-inch bolts and generally sells between $5-15 per yard. At that price, it’s completely viable to purchase a manageable and durable piece of fabric for under $20. Because it’s available in almost any color, using velour as an alternative for traditional backdrops makes it possible for photographers to expand their palette without spending a fortune. Velour can also save space and energy before, during, and after a shoot, as it’s not prone to wrinkles and can be easily folded and stored away.

The results this backdrop alternative creates are nothing short of incredible. Since it’s sheer enough to let light through, it’s possible to create gorgeous diffused backlit looks that highlight a model or subject when the fabric is stretched taught. Alternatively, velour can be draped loosely to create a vintage background filled with depth and texture.

model posing in front of velour

One question remains: how exactly do you effectively set up velour in practice? Some studios have bars mounted to the walls specifically for the purpose of hanging backdrops. In these cases, preparing the velour is as simple as taking a pair of metal clamps and clamping the fabric in place. However, when working on location, it may not be as simple as that. Luckily, Edelman walks through a solution that uses nothing more than glue and PVC pipe that can be purchased at any home improvement store. Once the pipe is properly measured and cut, the setup only takes a few minutes to assemble and can be easily taken apart and stored inside of a duffel bag.

DIY portable backdrop stand

Whether a photographer has been struggling in the studio for years or is just getting started in field, there’s one thing that’s universally agreed upon: any suggestion that can help save some money is one surely worth holding on to.

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