Tips + Techniques

Watch: Cool DIY Tips to Make Your Portrait Backdrops Pop

July 16, 2019

By Greg Scoblete

Artturi_Mantysaari | Pixabay

Readers of a certain vintage are probably familiar with MacGyver, the TV character famous for using duct tape and a Swiss Army Knife to save the world. While portrait shooters may operate under a tad less pressure than our fictional hero, it never hurts to have a MacGyver-esque bag of tricks up your sleeve when going about your work.

Take backgrounds. While there are plenty of fun and creative backdrops you can buy, there’s ample of room for some DIY flourishes simply by adding some readily available materials to your existing backdrops.

In this video, Calgary-based fashion and portrait photographer Rafal Wegiel highlights a few of his DIY solutions for creating interesting portrait backgrounds.

Some key takeaways:

  • When creating a eye-catching background, pay attention to depth. The greater dimensionality of the background, the more interesting the look, since light has a chance to bounce around a bit vs. just landing against a flat background.
  • Use reflective objects, like tinfoil, since they’ll bounce the light and create interesting patterns and bokeh.
  • If you add tinfoil to your background, wrinkle it! Those wrinkles will add both dimensionality and more surfaces for light to bounce around on. (If tinfoil looks too chintzy in front of clients, silver fabric can also work.)
  • Clear, plastic wrapping (like the kind used to package flowers) can be wrinkled up and placed on your backdrop. When you wrinkle this kind of material it often produces different colors in the plastic, which adds a unique look to your background.
  • Balloons are another good option since they deliver a trifecta of dimensionality, reflectivity and color.
  • Shoot at f/4. Weigel says you’ll have an easier time keeping your subject’s entire face in focus.

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