Thursday, June 01, 2006

Photography Tip- Dreamy Studio Backgrounds Made Easy

By Kenneth C. Hoffman

So you’ve got your basement studio all set up with lights, camera, tripod and a plain white background. Great. Wouldn’t it be terrific if you could add one of those beautiful muslin backgrounds you see in the catalogs and used

by the big studios? Yeah, right. Seven hundred dollars for one. Here’s a method to make a background of your own design at a cost of under twenty dollars.

First decide how you would like your background to look. Find a greeting card or postcard you like. It could be a forest of trees with sunlight slanting to the ground, a quiet lake scene, pine trees under a new fall of snow, an old fashioned garden in France or even a picture of yours that you love.

Make a slide or viewgraph transparency of your selection and prepare the surface for the artwork. An old king-sized sheet will do very nicely or you can use the wall itself. If using the sheet, stretch it firmly on the wall and project the transparency on it. Make sure the projector is firmly supported and square to the wall. Mark the position with tape in case it moves. Using a charcoal stick, trace in all the edges of the picture on the wall. If a removeable background is desired, stretch a king size white or light gray or beige sheet on the wall. Make sure it is firmly attached since you w will be drawing on it later.

Buy a gallon of white ceiling paint (for its matte surface) and some tubes of color. Mix enough paint of the needed colors in a few plastic buckets. With a two inch brush, paint the picture on the wall, using the photograph as a guide. You don’t have to be an artist since the rendition should be loose and a water color like representation of the chosen subject. Avoid using black or very dark colors and tone down any brightly hued colors with white or gray paint. If the scene is to portray a high key effect, one further step is recommended. Mix some white paint with an equal amount of water and roll or brush on a semi transparent layer over the dry painting.

If a more classic look is wanted, you may skip the transparency and paint right on the sheet or wall. Start in the lower center with beige and light gray
and work your way toward the edges, mixing the colors on the wall using veridian/brown, alarizen red/brown and brown/dark blue. These colors are sure to compliment skin tones. Use a four inch brush with either a diagonal stroke for the whole background or a quarter moon shaped overlapping brush stroke. Work fast, using the darker colors toward the edges. One warning: never go back to correct an effect after the paint has partially dried. One advantage of the classic background is that the edges can be extended around the corners of the room, allowing larger subjects to be photographed. The character of your unusual and beautiful background will be limited only by your imagination.

My home made backgrounds were so much in demand, other studios paid me $400 to paint one on their studio wall.

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