Will Cheung Shoots Macro Photography With The Help Of MPB

Backdrops - a partial review & a lot of ironing.

JackAllTog Plus
14 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
20 Jan 2021 11:10PM
Given that lockdown seriously reduced the amount of (going to work) street, and other outside photography I got to do I've found my photography time drawn to indoor subjects.
What I needed was smallish backgrounds for table-top and maybe portrait photography as lockdown eases.

I'd tried repurposing the giant sheets of muslin/cotton that I'd previously used years back for full length people backdrops but they were just too unwieldly, did not look good close up and kept creasing and creasing. Bed sheets seemed to have similar issues to the larger muslin backgrounds so I rarely find these useful.

There are also the smooth seamless paper rolls for studio work but mine are buried in the loft and 3M wide - again an unwieldly size. I did look for smaller paper rolls as their bright colours are great, but the minimum roll length of 11Metres does not make them a cheap option even at the narrower 4 feet widths.

So off to the infinite stores of Amazon and eBay I went to find that perfect backdrop; There are some lovely printed backdrops out there that possibly look better than my actual final photographs but two questions presented themselves - Size and Material.

Size is important for two reasons, obviously you need something the right size to fill you need and your frame. 3 by 5 feet and 5 by 7 seem to be popular sizes.
Storage is the second reason; Unless you are lucky enough to be able to keep your backdrop up in place all of the time then you need to store it somewhere. And this means keeping it flat and crease free until you need it again. My preferred solution here is a small tube inside a much larger tube with all the Creasable backdrops rolled up inside all around each other. I've ended up with a 5inch diameter 6foot long aluminium tube to store my 5x7 backdrop collection.
And here is what forced me to write this 'review' - the humble IRON and it war with creases!

I've invested(wasted) far too much in backdrops over the years - I've more backdrops than photography bags, each purporting to be perfect for my purpose at that time.
Cheap vinyl backdrops and make do shower curtains that reflected any light source in whatever way they saw fit; they don't roll up very well, crease and crinkle and of course just melt away in the face of a steaming Iron.

Then came cotton bedsheets, and super wide cotton fabrics. pretty good when far away and out of focus. But only the really dark colours seemed to hide these creases and they got more creased and faded with age and ironing sessions. Now perhaps more useful just to kill reflected light.

Proper 3M wide seamless paper came next, not too reflective and many bright colours available this is really good; Though heavy and unwieldy they are great for clean clear backdrops. The trouble with smaller setups if that they don't seem to be available in the smaller more affordable and easier to use sizes - the smallest is 1.35M x 11M and that may be great if you like just one colour but 11M is very long for tabletop photography as its unlikely to get marked or worn out. If they could come up with a party pack of 5 colours each of 1.35 by 2M then this may be more suitable for our smaller projects and storage needs?

So back to amazon and ebay, a type of printed vinyl cotton seemed to be next for me - lovely background scenes, patterns and colours to complement my subjects and often for under £20, quite non reflective and rolls up smooth to store and reuse without creases. The only slight issue was that on delivery the folded product needed time and care to remove the fold crinkles from it being in the storage and shipping pipeline for perhaps a few months. Unfolding and rolling would almost do the job with a minimal cool steam iron through a tea towel. Sometimes the colours are a little muted, but this is a strong contender for a clean, easy to use backdrops that then rolls up nicely and doesn't sag on hanging.

Then a few weeks ago I saw what looked to be ideal - Bright colours and what was said to be a stiffish non-woven fabric, with some vendors saying its man-made or polyester; the micro texture looks great and it does not seem to reflect too much light - Almost a perfect material and indeed when it duly arrived Wow strong bright colours and a lovely professional crisp finish; BUT and this is the deal breaker - Big folds and creases, actually Big Stiff folds and creases. OK I thought I've seen this before, roll up tight for a few days in a warm cupboard, then unroll. but the creases were still there.
So onto the cool steam iron, but no, the creases though reducing persisted, and persisted and persisted; Slowly raising the iron's temperature then caused the inevitable melt and the surface started to become shiny, but the creases remined. This manmade plastic fabric stretches and deforms when folded for shipping and does not reshape back as folding permanently damages it the creases are permanent. Luckily my vendor gave a full refund once I'd explained the situation. So potentially a great product but only if you can buy it direct on the rolls. Its this product that made me want to write all this - as a warning to other photographers and as an opportunity for those suppliers that might in future supply this on rolls not folded.

I hate losing a good idea, and had a refund to spend so looked again and found what I consider to be a new brand and technology for backdrops - the material is called 'luxurious Microfiber' and although more expensive responds very well to the iron to get rid of shipping creases; It's a soft thick fabric more like a fleece which seems inherently to resist creases when loosely folded. In summery its bright, does not reflect light spots and hangs pretty well, though with a slight tendency to droop if not held taught. And so far it looks like storage and quick use is going to be easy whether the backdrop is lightly folded or rolled.

A picture taken with the new microfibre backdrop.

So Microfiber is my new fav material; However I'm still looking forward to possible smaller party packs of multi coloured seamless paper, and also those bright colours of the new manmade plastic backdrop if anyone starts to sell it on short rolls.

I hope you enjoy choosing your next backdrop and would be keen to hear your experiences ...
21 Jan 2021 11:10AM
I enjoyed reading this Jack, it made me realise that I am not the only person who finds the problem of backdrops a serious problem. Not only is it space to store them it is the actual visual aspect of them when they have been stored. Velvet doesn't crease much I have found but gathers dust alarmingly and silks, after being stored sometime, actually cracks which cannot be removed. But your solution sounds like a good one and as it doesn't necessarily have to be washed will not shed tiny bits of plastic to go into the sea and our sea creatures.
PRC 8 388 United Kingdom
21 Jan 2021 11:48AM
Having had just black, white and green muslin backdrops for a couple of years, I've just got a microfibre printed one from Kate Backdrop. Obviously it arrived folded, but with instructions from the manufacturer to put it in a tumble dryer with a damp cloth for 15-20 minutes. I didn't go that far, just ironed it and that more or less got rid of the creases. I'm very pleased with the backdrop (from my limited experience of backdrops). It hangs well and doesn't crease easily in normal use. I'm thinking of getting a length of drainpipe or something similar to wrap it around for storage. If only we had space in our house for a permanent studio!
mrswoolybill Plus
16 4.1k 2606 United Kingdom
21 Jan 2021 12:21PM

Quote:Velvet doesn't crease much I have found but gathers dust alarmingly

Quote:I'm thinking of getting a length of drainpipe or something similar to wrap it around for storage.

The only backdrop that I use regularly is a length of dark red cotton velvet, good for wedding flowers etc. I find it easiest to store it rolled, which avoids creases. Remember to lay your fabric on a carefully cleaned surface for rolling, in order to avoid dust!
21 Jan 2021 12:49PM

Quote: Remember to lay your fabric on a carefully cleaned surface for rolling, in order to avoid dust!

As soon as my velvet is removed from the package dust just clings to it. BUT I have a very old very hairy cocker spaniel whose tiny particles adhere to everything and the air is never free from them. Perhaps with air conditioning it may be OK but I don't want air conditioning!! so perhaps not the fault of the velvet!
PRC 8 388 United Kingdom
21 Jan 2021 3:57PM
I don't know about velvet, but for my backdrops I find the sticky roller thingies that Ikea sell to be quite good at picking off hairs, bits of fluff, etc. The same affect can be had by dabbing with sticky tape.
clicknimagine Plus
13 1.3k 105 India
21 Jan 2021 4:20PM
In this digital age, I am afraid to say, you should invest in a professional software to alter the background at your ease and as per your choice, you need not to invest in a backdrop that can take a lot of space too, IMO, and you should keep in mind the backdrop should be uncluttered and with a single colour before taking the shot the rest will be the job of that software...
21 Jan 2021 4:41PM

Quote:In this digital age, I am afraid to say, you should invest in a professional software to alter the background

I have the software and I have the patience and I also have plain walls but there is a world of difference between the idea of using plain walls and the reality of using plain walls - I do not have large rooms so even moving one or two items of furniture and taking down myriad pictures I also have lots of small windows (living in a cottage) so whilst that may seem to be the answer it isn't believe me I have tried. Do you have a wife Clicknimage? or a partner?
clicknimagine Plus
13 1.3k 105 India
21 Jan 2021 4:46PM
Oh, I have a wife and yes I can realizeWinkWinkWink...
21 Jan 2021 5:03PM
Most of my backdrops were bought pre-covid and most came from the Charity shops. Lengths of heavy, brand new, Damask style curtain material, bought for pennies.
And my lady wife who is a whiz with a sewing machine. Hang on the support for 1/2 hour before use and the creases mostly fall out.
I do own a few bought ones, but the creases are always a problem.
JackAllTog Plus
14 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
21 Jan 2021 5:55PM

Quote: do not have large rooms

I know this problem, and the time to make the space before and clear up afterwards.

I have 2 small eyelets in the ceiling of one room so i can hang the backdrop support bar in front of the pictures and wall fittings etc - this saves me some time pre & post shoot.
Its a real challenge sometimes finding sufficient clear plan space to act as a plain wall - especially if that wall has a tricky paint surface or other features on it. That's why I like backdrops, and also if backgrounds also come forward as table top foregrounds then the subject interacts with them.

Also personally I get more enjoyment getting more right in camera and spending less time editing where I can.
I also know that one day computing will probably one do away with much more of the process, and AI will generate much more of the image perhaps until photographers and subject/models are not needed at all..
JJGEE 18 8.1k 18 England
22 Jan 2021 7:43AM
Perhaps you should ask The Team if they could create this as a short article / tutorial ?

Some good advice / tips which might, being on the forum, hard to find again in the future.
PhotoLinda 4 802 United Kingdom
24 Jan 2021 9:22AM
Great thread. Good to know I don't struggle alone!

I usually use heavy black velvet. I store it hung up in the wardrobe. Fold it gently and without creases then clip it onto a trouser clothes hanger (the one with two clips rather than a bar) and Bob's your uncle. Just fold it wider than the space between the clips so you're not pressing any unwanted creases in. Hang it up with the party dresses. Et voila!

That seems to keep it crease and dust free for me. But I always feel there must be better options, so this was a really interesting discussion.

I have long considered buying a length of faux leather (pvc stuff). There's a local haberdashery that sells it on the roll so I should be able to get them to roll it instead of fold it at source. Just wondering if anyone has tried that? If so, was it successful?

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