Backdrop Basics

Tip One: Hanging the backdrop the right height and putting the horizon line in the right place is crucial to making your images look realistic.  Since there is no hard and fast rule, try to imagine where it would be in real life and reference our galleries online for more help.  After you have done your best to hang your backdrop at the right height but then discover it is still not perfect, one trick for lowering the horizon line is to stand on a small step stool while shooting.

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There is no horizon line for a wall-and-floor backdrop, but it’s still important to hang it at the right height.  For these backdrops, where the wall meets the floor on the backdrop should be no higher or lower than where the wall meets the floor in your studio.


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Tip Two: To sweep or not to sweep?  If you have a wall-and-floor backdrop, hang your backdrop straight down and set the floor towards the camera at a 45 degree angel.  If you have a backdrop with deep environment and forced perspective, then hang your backdrop with a lot of sweep like the picture on the right, so that the camera cannot detect the transition between the floor background.

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Tip Three: Often backdrop shots will need both a fill light and a subject light.  The fill light is just so the backdrop shows up the right brightness in the camera and hides unwanted shadows.  Shadows can be one of the biggest give-a-ways that you are using a backdrop, so be vigilant against high shadows above the feet area.  Secondly, the subject light is so that the look of the person matches the look of the backdrop image.  If the backdrop picture has hard shadows to the left, for instance, then position your lighting according on the right to match that lighting scheme.



Tip Four:  Try not to place your lighting directionally on the same plane as the backdrop, where it grazes the fabric.  This will often result in unnecessary shadows emphasizing any waves or wrinkles there might be on the backdrop.  If you have your fill light positioned to light the backdrop from the front (so the light hits the backdrop straight on), then most waves or wrinkles will be eliminated.  Also, it’s often a good idea to place the foreground subject lighting so that it is isolated on the person, so as not to influence the backdrop lighting.

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Tip Five: After you have positioned your lighting correctly, make sure that the intensity/brightness of the foreground and background match.  If one is brighter than the other then either the eye will notice something is wrong, or you will have to do a little Photoshop work to make the foreground/background levels match. (see figure in Tip Three above)

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