“Don’t think about making art, just get it done.”
~ Andy Warhol
For photographers, who shoot in studio or with a mobile setup, having that nice photo backdrop tends to be critical. There are an assortment of styles, images, textures, and fabrics that can be created for the background. These would vary in pricing and can become costly over time. It would be great to buy as many lovely backdrops as I find, but in reality, it is not always cost-effective, especially for startups and a one-person show.
Many artists make their living off creating beautifully handcrafted backdrops, like those of Oliphant. As they have dedicated time to mastering their craft, you can make your own handcrafted backdrop just like them—the DIY edition; and it’s actually a lot simpler than you probably think. By the time, I’m writing this, I’ve already finished a couple of backdrops myself.
My first backdrop
All you need is a canvas backdrop, brushes or rollers, a painter tray, and paint. Does it get messy? Yes. Will it take time? Yes. You may want to stretch and paint with a coverup or in your “fun clothes” as we would say to elementary school kids.
It is your backdrop, and you can paint it however you like. When first starting out, I would recommend a simple color gradient (one color with varying light and dark shades). If you’re already an experienced painter, have at it. This will be your large cup of tea.
When I painted my first canvas backdrop, I actually only bought plain white paint from Home Depot and used leftover paint from when I had repainted my living room because it was the same color family, I wanted. I would not say I’m an organized painter, but I had an idea of how I wanted to paint and started my way from the inside out. I find it best to work from light to dark, not only to save on brushes, but it is easier to paint over light than dark.
You want a nice big space, preferably outside or where you don’t mind paint. This is good, also for ventilation because paint of this amount does tend to have a strong smell. For me, this was in my garage. I unraveled the canvas and lay it flat to start painting.
It took about an hour or so to complete. It is hard to see the true color while the paint is wet but once dry, you can see how your backdrop turned out and decide whether to do touch-ups, keep or scrap. Of course, it wasn’t perfect—it was the first one, but perfection wasn’t the goal. I did learn that airing it is a must and if you have a UV light it actually helps with paint smell.
Some portraits taken with my first painted backdrop.
This backdrop still, turned out nice and is a nice beginning to my photo closet, so to speak. It photographs well and works well with warm photos. If you are interested in learning about my portrait sessions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to make your own photography backdrop, I highly recommend checking out the tutorial by Sue Bryce, which inspired this creative project. If you are a member of Sue Bryce Education, you can directly view the video here; and if not, check out her invaluable education courses.