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Hanging a fabric backdrop


Black velvet draped over a portable stand makes a quick and easy portrait backdrop.
Black velvet draped over a portable stand makes a quick and easy portrait backdrop.

HANGING YOUR FABRIC BACKDROP

You can tack your fabric backdrop to a wall or ceiling, but it is more practical to drape it over a horizontally-supported rod or one-inch wooden dowel.

You can make the support system yourself. Be sure to buy a rod that is longer than the width of the fabric, or go "professional" and buy a seamless paper backdrop support system from your photo supplier. These are essentially a pair of adjustable tripods connected by a rod. (Tristar Photo Industrial, Inc. makes a good portable background stand set that stows compactly in a carry case.)

In a pinch or on location, an assistant can hold a broom handle perpendicular to the ground behind your subject with the fabric draped over it.


SEW A CASING INTO THE EDGE

You will find that fabric, particularly lighter material, may tend to slide off the supporting rod. Large paper clips, safety pins or more-expensive spring clamps solve this problem.

A better solution that takes advantage of the full length of the cloth, is to sew a casing into the top edge of the fabric. Fold over three inches or so of the top hem and stitch it together, creating an opening to slide the supporting rod through.

If you also similarly sew the bottom hem of the fabric, it won’t matter which end is up when you hang it, and you will have created a fabric backdrop that can also be stretched horizontally between two upright supports for shots requiring greater backdrop width.


Black velvet is great at absorbing the shadows from creases and folds. Your enemy in using a fabric backdrop is the crease. A creaseless, foldless fabric will show up as a  flat color, and that is usually what you want.
Black velvet is great at absorbing the shadows from creases and folds. Your enemy in using a fabric backdrop is the crease. A creaseless, foldless fabric will show up as a flat color, and that is usually what you want.

FABRIC STORAGE

When storing the fabric, you want to avoid creasing it (because the creases will show up in your pictures), so be sure never to fold it in the same number of folds each time you put it away. Fold in 8 the first time you store it, then 6 the next time, then 4, then 8 and so on, so the crease locations are different every time.

Better yet, roll it up on a big tube so there is no chance of creasing. If you use it only occasionally, store it in a protective plastic sheath to keep dust off.

CREASES

Sometimes you end up with creases in spite of all your precautions. An effective way to get rid of them, if the fabric is not too large, is to place it in a clothes dryer with a damp cloth, and run the dryer for ten minutes. You can also use a steamer to eliminate creases from a hanging fabric.