Could you tell that photo was on a $20 vinyl backdrop? There aren’t too many idyllic settings for family pictures in our house or yard, so I thought I would make one! I’m inspired to get busy taking photos with my new camera that my old camera just couldn’t handle, so first order of business was to make an easy-to-set-up home studio on a mega budget. This post is for you too if you need to take consistent product photos or even if you’re thinking about Christmas card pics!
I found vinyl backdrops on Amazon for $20 and was skeptical, but ordered one anyway to try. Boy, was I surprised! They’re so much fun! Check out all these options.
I thought about setting up shop in our garage but we’ve pretty much used up every square inch in there. Then I had a light bulb moment and decided Clara’s room would be perfect. She doesn’t have too much furniture in there and there is a big white wall across from a window.
I’ve never had a professional camera before, so I’m still learning all the ends and outs. This is just my hobby, and this post is aimed toward my fellow amateur photographers. If you are a professional, though, I’d love for you to weigh in on what you use or give us any tips.
I’ll show you the fun I’ve been having before I jump into all the details:
I need this to be easy to set up and take down. I can’t leave cords and equipment up in a two-year-old’s room, so each time I want to take pictures I need to set it up and take it down. Here’s how it works.
When I cleaned out Clara’s closet earlier this year I found there is a lot of leftover space — perfect for storing some of my photo gear! My stuff is on the left and the backdrops are up top. So let’s take a look specifically at what I’m using:
Where I spent my $107
- lights $53
- tripod $23
- backdrop $20
- command hooks $3
- grommets $8
This lightweight and easy-to-use lighting kit has four and a half stars on Amazon after 3,942 reviews! I’ve never worked with lighting kits before, but I’m glad I gave this a try. What a huge difference. The photos came out evenly lit (which can be tricky on white backgrounds) and kids’ eyes are lighter and brighter in pictures. I can even take pictures in the evening now instead of waiting for the perfect light.
Oh, I probably don’t have them in the perfect triangle position, but it’s all a fun learning game from here.
A tripod is essential to these kind of sessions. I don’t use one every day, but when there are edges and parameters you are confined to, this is the way to go. Plus, kids are fickle. You don’t always have time to squat or get into position when they finally have the perfect Blue Steel pose, you know? This way I can play peek-a-boo behind the camera and talk to them and just keep pressing the button without even looking through the view finder.
I LOVE the backdrops, but I have had two problems with them: 1) they come folded and it’s hard to get the creases out and 2) the kids wrinkle up the part that rests on the floor when they move positions.
I got most of the wrinkles out by setting the iron to the lowest setting and ironing it. Leaving it hang all night helped as well. I got this heart backdrop the day before I took these pictures and you can still see some wrinkles that I did a poor job of trying to retouch.
The way I solved the kid messing up the backdrop resting on the floor was a rug pad. This was Marcello’s idea and it worked perfectly! I cut an old pad I already had, but I just so happened to see they have 18 x 24 inch pads at the Dollar Tree right now!
I added a thin spritz of adhesive spray on the top of the pad to make sure it stayed. The star is telling me that is sticky-side-up.
This heart backdrop is 5 x 7 feet and part of that length is on the floor, so this would not be tall enough for an adult. The other backdrop I have is 5 x10 and is long enough for adults. My point is to pay attention to the size of the background you order.
First I bought a backdrop support system ($35) to hang my backdrops, but then I returned it when I realized Command Hooks would be an easier and cheaper solution for what I need. I chose small clear ones that aren’t even noticeable so I can leave them up all the time. Command hooks are perfect because you can adjust them without making holes in the wall!
I cut three small holes in the vinyl backdrops — in the center and two ends. If you put the holes in the same spot for each same-sized backdrop you can interchange them easily. My holes are 1.5 inches from the top, in the center and 28 inches away from the center in both directions.
I currently have two backdrops with two different heights so I have two sets of hooks on the wall.
I took the holes in the vinyl backdrops one step further and added grommets to they won’t tear and will go up in a snap. I didn’t follow the directions exactly because I was impatient and in a hurry. I ended up just hammering the sides together and smashing it, but it worked!
I take a lot of photos when I’m shooting. I’m still in the experimental stage of photography and I figure if I take 50 photos one will turn out well, right?! I use Photos on my mac to edit most of my photos, just like on the iPhone. This is the process I use for almost every photo. I addition to these steps, this time I also used the White Balance Tool to make sure my white was true. I also used the retouch tool to take out any grommets that might have been visible and to smooth out some of the wrinkles my iron missed.
Did I miss anything? What questions do you have? Better yet, have any photo tips yourself?