As a novice photographer, it wont take you long to start looking into backdrops. I know I wanted to move beyond just taking informal pictures when I priced out a few different options. I also wanted to set up a place where I could get some more formal pictures, my own little creative studio. If you are also interested in doing the same, you have probably realized that you need to have backdrops. The type and how many you should buy depends on your budget and goals.
So how much do photography backdrops cost? Depending on the type of material, style, quality, and size, prices range from $12.00 for a printed paper backdrop, on the low end, to $1,300.00 for a large canvas, muslin, or velvet on the high end. Canvas is the most used backdrop material, and you can typically find quality canvas starting at $30.00.
There are so many variables that can go into choosing the right backdrop for your needs. Choosing the right style and material can make all the difference in your photo finish. Here are the top five picks for background material:
Each of these choices has its own advantages and disadvantages, and some are decidedly less expensive than others. But that doesn’t mean they are of lesser quality. The cheaper version may, in fact, be just what you are looking for if you are just looking to take some nice pictures, not set up a photography business. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the most used materials for backdrops.
What Kind of Backdrop Should I Buy?
Price Range: $20 – $200
Vinyl is a very durable and easy to use material for a backdrop. It’s easily printed in whatever pattern you are looking for. If you’re going to be doing photoshoots in messy situations, or just messy subjects like grandkids and pets, it cleans up easily with just a little soap and water, and it can take a pretty good beating.
It doesn’t wrinkle unless stored improperly (always make sure to roll, not fold, it on to a large tube) and stores well when not in use.
Vinyl comes in several different weights. Usually, it can be quite heavy. It’s probably better to use a lighter fabric for those shoots you travel too and keep the vinyl at your home or studio. Some of the newer types of vinyl are much more lightweight and can be used as a quick hanging backdrop or floordrop.
- For an inexpensive backdrop under $20, check out Pure White Vinyl Backdrop.
- If you want an idea of an expensive backdrop, check out this umbrella backdrop.
Price Range: $25 – $750
This one can be on the pricey side. Canvas is one of the most often used backdrop option (some say overused). It has a texture to it that makes it absorb and reflect light in a myriad of different ways. It is water-resistant so it is great for indoor or outdoor shoots.
Canvas is heavy and needs to be taken good care of. Be careful not to let it get creased, and always roll it up. Creases are very hard to get out and can easily become permanent, making it harder to work around in your shoot. It’s durable and sturdy and won’t reflect a glare. It is also colorfast and takes a print or paint well, providing a vibrant and beautiful backdrop.
- For a less expensive choice around $40, take a look at this Country Backdrop Wedding Background.
- If you’d like a more expensive, high quality, hand-painted Retro Background.
Price Range: $35 – $125 and up
This material is portable, versatile, and easy to clean. If you’re looking for an easy backdrop that you can just toss in your car and take anywhere, then muslin is for you. It has a weathered look that works with its wrinkles, it’s non-reflective and stretchable, and can be cleaned with just a toss in the wash.
Because it’s so easy to work with and so versatile, muslin generally runs in the middle price range. Although it also can be one of the more expensive choices, many photographers think it is well worth the cost, especially if you’re planning on using it for years to come. If you plan to do a lot of photoshoots, then this would be a good investment.
Price Range: $40 – $200 and up
If you want a luxurious background, choose velvet. However, it is not used nearly as much today. It absorbs light and is harder to work with than many other materials, which is probably why you don’t see it as much. You really can only use it in solid colors, but the lushness of the material really shows through in photos. It provides texture and softness, but those come at a higher price.
- If you want a lower-priced solid background, take a look at Meking 10 x 6.5 feet Portrait Photography Black Backdrop.
- For something more expensive, take a look at this Star Sky Backdrop.
Price Range: $5 – $50
Paper is by far the least expensive pick. It is easily printed on, comes in large seamless rolls, and is glare-free, lightweight, and easy to use. It does scratch easily and can’t be cleaned, which means it’s not ideal for outside shoots.
Also, small children love to crawl over, or worse, through it. It also creases very easily and needs to be kept rolled up on the tube it came in so that it doesn’t crease or tear. Because it is so lightweight, however, it is a wonderful backdrop to take with you, as long as you can fit the roll in your car or mode of transportation. Be sure not to fold it or creases will show in your pictures.
- For the most inexpensive and cost-effective, take a look at something like Ella Bella Photography Backdrop Paper.
There are a couple of other materials that are often used for backdrops, that should get ‘honorable mention.’ They may not be in the top five, but certainly should be considered when thinking about putting together backdrops for a photoshoot.
Hard or Solid surfaces
Consider surfaces like these. They are great for the photographer who has a studio and a place to store them. These backdrops are generally quite expensive and heavy since they are built, not printed. If you’re good at DIY, you can spend a little time on Pinterest and put together your own special option.
This is an option that is on the rise. With a little poking around on YouTube, you may find that digital is the right choice for you. There are thousands of backgrounds that are designed to be projected on a screen and look as good as many of the actual physical backdrops.
Some of the most popular and sought-after designs to use in the studio currently are going for that ‘outside’ look.
- Shiplap or Wood
- Brick, White or Natural (sometimes even ‘colorful’)
- Lake or Waterfall
- Farm and Woods
These backgrounds provide the ease of in-studio photos with the look of being outside. They can be most often be found in lightweight to heavy vinyl, which is perfect for easy cleaning and handling. Ranging from about $10.00 dollars for a 5 x 7 to $100.00 for a 10 x10. Vinyl is easily the go-to fabric for quick and beautiful photoshoots. You can find them on sale at specialty outlet stores for about half the price with the same quality.
Besides projected and specialty backgrounds, there are green screens (chroma key) that can do the trick nicely, especially if you are going to edit the photo in post anyway.
Where to Shop for a Backdrop
There are a lot of options for purchasing backdrops. The cheapest will be found at large retail stores that can easily print your favorite photo to use as a backdrop. They are limited in size availability, but they are usually relatively quick, convenient, and inexpensive. Camera stores, local printers, and trade shows will give you plenty of options for backdrops but plan on paying more.
This is really the way to go for the largest selection of backdrops in both visual options and prices. The quickest and easiest online choice would be Amazon’s Backgrounds – Photo Studio: Electronics. Their collection is huge and you will be able to quickly order and receive your favorite pick.
If you are needing a one-time use backdrop and don’t want to spend the money to have one made or won’t need it again, consider renting. Many local photography studios and camera shops will rent backdrops at a reasonable rate. You can also rent them online and have them conveniently delivered to you for use up to 14 days.
With the myriad of options out there today, I’m sure you can find just what you need to take that perfect picture just the way you imagined it. Decide on your goals and budget and then buy the backdrop you need to do what you really want — capturing beautiful photos.
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