If you’ve worked as a portrait photographer in a studio, especially a home studio, you know how important your backdrops can be.
Portrait backgrounds are as diverse as the photographers who use them. Some are rolls of white paper. Others are handmade and hand-painted canvas that can be viewed as works of art by themselves.
In other words, the backgrounds you choose can be as simple or as complex as you are ready to create them.
Then we have KateBackdrop. They specialize in microfiber cloth backgrounds for professional and hobby photographers, whether on site or in the studio.
The folks at KateBackdrop were kind enough to send me some of their microfiber backgrounds for testing and review. I’d heard before that these backdrops are extremely versatile, lightweight, and great for the budget portrait shooter.
Let me share with you what I learned against this backdrop.
About two weeks after shipping, the two 240 x 430 cm backdrops arrived at my door. Given the size of my hanging system (more on this little adventure later), I needed a relatively large background.
The sets themselves were packed in sealed plastic bags. When I took it out of the box, I was immediately impressed with how light the backdrops really feel. Imagine a large, heavy-duty lens cloth and you have a good idea of the fabric construction.
I had noticed from other reviewers that the fabric of the backdrops arrived at the company slightly wrinkled and wrinkled. This has also proven correct in my case.
Fortunately, KateBackdrop states that the fabric can be ironed over low heat to remove the wrinkles. Since the backdrops were relatively large, I decided to toss mine in the dryer for about 15 minutes to relax those wrinkles. * It worked quite well as most of the wrinkles disappeared. In the future, I will likely use a portable steamer to further smooth the fabrics of the backdrops before any real client work.
* Tumble dryers vary widely in terms of temperature. Use good judgment when using a dryer to remove the wrinkles from your background.
All the seams, both on the edge of the backdrop and on the sleeve, were well done.
For the coloring I chose the brown oil painting and the abstract rusted iron.
My reasoning for this arose from my shots of as many black and white portraits as color. So I wanted to make sure the backgrounds worked well in a variety of wardrobes, eye colors, and skin tones, and were shot with either black and white film or black and white digital conversions.
This meant that a more colorful background like the rusted iron, which is essentially an abstract mix of blue and gold, could easily be set to black and white luminance using the HSL panel in Lightroom.
Hang and use
My original intention was to hang the backdrops with my roller system. However, there were some unforeseen obstacles (nothing to do with the backdrops) that forced me to assemble the backdrops easier.
Of course, showing you exactly how I hung and used these backgrounds is far more productive than just telling you about the experience. Check out this video that records the entire process from start to finish. There’s also a detailed breakdown of the images, lighting, and camera settings used towards the end of the video.
Here are some sample images from my tests against the background.
Reflections and observations
Some of you may think: “Microfiber? “Really?”I can fully empathize with this initial reaction.
Until I looked through these backgrounds, I had worked almost exclusively with paper backgrounds. Even so, I was incredibly impressed with the quality and price of the KateBackdrops backdrops, but also with the wonderful versatility they offered for a wide variety of lighting situations.
Here are some observations and considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether these great microfiber backgrounds are something to try for yourself.
- The backdrops are very light and are therefore ideal for location recordings.
- Watch out for wrinkles, especially when you first receive the backdrops.
- The microfiber has a similar texture to suede, so that directional “stripes” are possible. It would be a good idea to brush the backgrounds before using.
- Depending on the size of the background, there are options for a 5 cm or 10 cm hanging sleeve. You can also choose no sleeve.
Overall, I couldn’t have been happier with the backdrops I received from KateBackdrop. The backgrounds are very well done and the communication and support from the company has been top notch. Plus, you can order virtually any custom size background you want at no additional cost.
With KateBackdrop having over 3,000 backgrounds and other studio gear, you’re likely to find something that fits your particular application perfectly without spending hundreds of dollars.