News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for February 11th, 2010

Affordable Studio Backgrounds

by on Feb.11, 2010, under Photography

In the past, flash was something that I considered a necessary evil – a nasty, hard, blue light that you fired at people if the ambient light was horrid and yet you just had to get a picture. After reading both of Joe McNally’s excellent books and going through the tutorials on David Hobby’s Strobist site, however, I’ve decided that this needn’t be the case and have become rather keen to learn a lot more about using flash properly. Couple this with my goal of taking more people pictures and no doubt you will see where I’m going – time to learn some studio portraiture.

While I’ve been using fill flash quite a lot recently (isn’t high speed sync fabulous!), I’ve not yet done much work where flash is the main light source. To try this out, I have a project in mind but, although I have the lighting gear required, I didn’t have a decent background. For the project, I want a solid white background but the price of the required stands and the background itself had put me off. To work around this, I had been playing with the idea of using a couple of lightstands, a bedsheet and wire or a pole to hang it from but this didn’t really seem a particularly tenable solution. Late last week, however, the situation changed.

While reading some blog or other (I can’t find the link now that I am looking for it, of course), I noticed a mention of a great bargain background stand available from Amazon. At $109 for two Ravelli stands, a 12 foot crossbar and both black and white 10’x20′ backdrops, the price was about 1/3 of other products I had seen and was definitely worth a look.

I expected a fairly cheaply made product but what arrived today has very pleasantly surprised me. The stands are study and apparently well made. They come in a very solid carrying case made of thick nylon with metal zips, no less! The backcloths are large, hemmed and pocketed and seem up to the job. The only downside I’ve seen so far is that the stands are rather larger than I had visualised – perhaps I’ll save them to use in a church hall rather than our front room?

Now I have no excuse not to take some studio portraits and put my reading to use. I’ll start practicing once I get back from next week’s trip so look out for some portraits in the not too distant future.

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