UPDATE, JUNE 2024: Strobist was archived in 2021. Here is what I am up to now. -DH


Home Depot Week: Backgrounds

This week we are working our way through the aisles of the Big Orange Store, but this stuff is not necessarily specific to Home Depot. Many of these things can be found at just about any big hardware store, and the idea is to think frugally and creatively when scrounging for lighting and photo gear.

I could spend all day wandering around a Home Depot or a Lowes store. So many possibilities: Hardware, lighting, backdrops, DIY supplies -- I get tingly just thinking about it.

Today, however, we are beginning in the paint aisle, looking for backdrops. HD has 'em in just about any size you want, only they call them drop cloths. These are washable canvas and they are dirt cheap.

How cheap? How 'bout under $10 for a 6x9-foot canvas?

More, including a link to a discussion on how to paint it and another way cool backdrop idea after the jump.

My photo "to-do" list is long, and growing. And one of the things on it is to paint a studio backdrop. I did one in college, and used it a lot. In fact, I got so much use out of it I had to pawn it off on another shooter, lest I become a 5'6" walking cliché of myself.

If you have the time and inclination, a roll-up painted backdrop is a no-brainer. $10 for canvas, $10 for paint and a coupla bucks for 2x2's at each end to form a roll-up structure. I'll be going into more detail on the process when I get a round tuit and make one, but no trip to Home Depot would be complete without passing by the bargain basement canvas backdrop aisle.

There is discussion on how to paint it here and more to be had if you do a little Googling. If you find a really good tutorial, throw us a bone in the comments.

Counter Culture

And here's another idea that's a little off the wall: What about counter-top laminate as a backdrop? I was looking at the selection in Big Orange and there were some very nice portrait backdrops if you think of those counters vertically.

They come in 4x8-foot sheets for about $50. I would mount them to a sheet of 1/2" MDF board and collect them, if I had a permanent studio space. Two holes drilled through at the top, and on one side, would make them very easy to temporarily mount via pegs in a wall.

Vertical for single portraits, and horizontal for group head-and-shoulders shots. (The 4x8' thing would be your limiting factor.)

Very durable, and pretty cheap. And the dark, shiny colors are great for those specular background shots.

And just to show you my sophisticated studio for shooting this kind of stuff, here's a setup shot:

My "light stand" came from the rag drawer, the soft box came from the printer (with a minimal amount of origami) and the flash is a 20-year-old SB-26. It was triggered using the slave mode from the on-board flash, which was gobo'd with my hand so it would not contribute to the lighting.


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