Everything You Need to Know About Collapsible Backdrops
Finding the right backdrop for your photoshoot can be a tricky process, as there are so many options to choose from. For product photography, you might want a seamless white backdrop. For portraits, you might choose a muslin backdrop for color and texture. One option for photographers who shoot in a variety of styles is a collapsible backdrop, which is a lightweight, portable backdrop that can fold up for easy transport.
A collapsible backdrop can be as small as two feet when folded, and as large as six feet when set up. Plus, they typically come with a different background on each side, so you can get two colors in one. Let’s look at everything you need to know about collapsible backdrops, from where to purchase them to how to set them up for an outdoor or studio shoot.
What are collapsible backdrops?
The simplest collapsible backdrop is the Impact black-and-white backdrop, which you can buy on Amazon for an affordable price. At five feet by seven feet, this backdrop is big enough for headshots and portraits, and it folds up into a portable round carrying case. You can set it up horizontally or vertically, and it has Velcro straps on all four sides to attach it to a light stand or another object.
A black/white backdrop is especially useful because you can easily switch between portraits on either background without having to roll out a different paper backdrop for each one. Plus, when you aren’t using it as a backdrop, it can function as a flag or reflector. The Impact brand also has a blue and green chroma-key backdrop that’s ideal for green screen shoots.
Where to use collapsible backdrops
Collapsible backdrops are ideal for shooting in small spaces or anywhere a full-size backdrop would be impractical. They make the perfect mobile headshot studio or photo booth, and they’re especially useful for outdoor or on-location shoots. If you’re traveling to a new city and need to rent a studio for the day, you can book a venue on Peerspace and bring your backdrops with you. Just take them down, fold them up, and you’re ready to go.
What if they aren’t big enough?
One of the downsides of using a collapsible backdrop is that it may not be big enough for every shoot. They work great for headshots and kids’ portraits, but you may not be able to fit a family or more than one model into the shot. Your model also might have to stand very close to the backdrop so that the frame can fully surround them.
Some companies sell the backdrops in larger sizes, such as six feet by seven feet, but if you need a full-size backdrop, then you’ll want to choose seamless paper or muslin instead. Remember, they’re meant to be easy-to-use and portable, but aren’t necessarily ideal for every type of shoot.
Setting up your backdrop
The appeal of collapsible backdrops is that they’re easy to take down and set up. Start by unfolding your backdrop from its carrying case. Ideally, you want to use a stand intended for this kind of backdrop, with a clip-on top to hold it. Use the built-in Velcro straps to secure it tightly, so the wind doesn’t knock it over or blow it around. There are also stands that can hold the backdrop using magnets, which is faster and more convenient to set up.
You can adjust the height or your backdrop by raising or lowering the stand. Use it vertically for tall clients or set it up horizontally to shoot two models side-by-side.
Alternately, if you’re using it as a flag or reflector, you can have an assistant hold it in place. The white side can bounce light from below to light up your model’s face, and you can use the black side to diffuse light that’s too harsh or direct.
Folding up your backdrop
To take down and fold up your backdrop, simply follow these steps:
- Hold the backdrop in front of you with your hands on the top.
- Bring the sides of the backdrop together, as if folding it in half.
- Gently guide the backdrop as it collapses into a circle.
You might find it difficult the first time you fold it up, but you’ll soon be able to do it in just a few seconds. If you store the backdrop for extended periods in the same position, it may take a bit more effort to straighten it out the next time you use it. To prevent the material from warping, try folding your backdrop in the opposite direction each time you store it.
What colors do you need?
The great thing about collapsible backdrops is you can take several of them with you to a shoot and they won’t take up much space. If you’re going to an office to take corporate headshots or setting up a photobooth at a kids’ birthday party, having several options on hand means you can use a different background for each model, depending on their clothing and skin tone.
You can stick to solid colors, or choose a mottled brown or grey. There are also backdrops that resemble brick walls, wood paneling, or patterned wallpaper. Giving your model a few different options to choose from can help them feel more invested in their portrait session.
If you use a blue or green chroma-key backdrop, you can replace the background later using photo-editing software. It’s a great way to shoot green screen shots while on the go.
How to care for your backdrop
Collapsible backdrops can cost anywhere from $70 to over $200, so if you’re buying more than one, it can feel like a big investment. Fortunately, if you store them properly, they’ll last for a long time. To avoid tears, be sure to not to leave them unfolded when you aren’t using them.
Most backdrops are made from translucent, waterproof material on a steel frame. The frame stretches the fabric out and holds it in place to prevent creases. If you need to, you can wash stains out with gentle soap and warm water. Use a steamer to remove any creases.
Take good care of your backdrops, and you’ll have a mobile studio with plenty of background options to take with you on the road for years to come.