Pros and Cons of Using Cloth Backdrops

cloth backdrops

Over the past couple of years some photographers have seen a shift in what their clients desire from their portrait sessions.

This shift has come in the form of shooting on-location with natural backgrounds.

More recently however I've seen my clients ask if there's a studio setting available, especially when the weather looks bad for portraits.

When purchasing backdrops there are several pros and cons to be aware of.

Pros of Cloth Backdrops

cloth backdrop photo

The most appealing positive is the durability of a cloth backdrop.

With each use of a seamless paper roll, the used portion will need to be cut off because of shoe prints and other dirt remains.

A cloth backdrop can take a beating and still last for many years. If these drops get dirty cleaning it for the next session is simple.

Just grab a spray bottle of warm, soapy water and spray on the area. Use a sponge to help remove the spot and the drop is good as new! A Mr. Clean eraser can also do the trick. This is what I’ve found to work on my backdrops without damaging them.

Another positive of purchasing a few cloth backdrops is their ability to be transported easier than a seamless paper background.

If you don’t have a SUV or larger car, transporting an eight-foot seamless paper roll can get tricky.

Cloth backdrops can be rolled or folded to fit inside a bin, leaving tons of space in the vehicle for other equipment like backdrop stands and studio lights.

Cons of a Cloth Backdrop

I’ll be honest, It was difficult finding a negative that doesn’t get canceled out in the long term.

There's a startup cost to starting a backdrop collection, but any cost factor will even out and surpass its value in just a few bookings.

Before finding a backdrop provider that matched my style, standards, and (let’s be honest) my wallet, I would DIY my backgrounds.

This was extremely time consuming.

I remember one DIY background being very involved with individual paper flowers:

diy backdropdiy flower backdrop

That DIY is what I call my ‘turning point’ and I switched to professionally made backgrounds.

In the amount of time I used creating a single background I could have easily photographed and retouched five clients.

Ultimately, I lost money trying to save money by doing everything myself. I would hate to see you make the same mistakes in your studio. After the DIY was done I only had a handful of clients want to use it. They prefer cloth and other professionally made drops.

Professional backdrop companies are talented at creating beautiful backdrops because they understand a photographer’s passion for their craft as well as the technical aspect.

Just as photographer’s urge their clients to book with a professional and not “their friend who has a great camera”, I now urge fellow photographers to spend more time on what they're passionate about and accept help by purchasing quality backdrops.

Let’s start spending more time serving our clients and stop trying to do everything ourselves.

backdrop stand

Backdrops do require a bit more equipment if stands haven’t been purchased yet.

Luckily, this set is versatile and affordable.

With the length of this set’s cross bar it’s wonderful for backdrops measuring 8X8.

8X8 drops are my go to because I can fit a larger group on it without worrying about shooting off the backdrop. If it’s an individual portrait it gives me tons of space to photograph everything from close-up images to full length poses.

Just as backdrops last for years; a sturdy set of backdrop stands can last just as long.

Building a studio can be expensive on the front end, but the costs truly do even out after just a few booked sessions.

I love the choices I now have in my studio with my growing backdrop collection. It's opened more creative venues for my studio and I know it will do the same for yours.

Arin Phillips specializes in designing magazine style portraits for families, HS Seniors, and holds a few commercial accounts in Nashville, TN. Arin attended Watkins College of Art, Film & Design before entering her professional career as a photographer. She has 9 years of photographic experience and enjoys working on-location as well as photographing in her studio. When she is not photographing portraits, she travels Tennessee in search of that perfect landscape for a personal project she is currently exploring.


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