Home Studio Photography - part VI


Welcome to part 6 of our series on home studio photography. This week we're going to discuss background materials ─ a subject that divides photographers right down the middle. Although there are a few more exotic alternatives, it's really a straight shoot-out between paper and vinyl. Don't worry though, both are excellent choices, and after reading this week’s article you'll be able to make an informed decision, and choose the perfect solution for your photography.


Vinyl background rolls


By far the greatest advantage of vinyl is its durability. It's incredibly hardwearing, and as long as you don't inadvertently rip it, it should last years. The latest vinyl backgrounds are very high quality too. Gone are the days of shiny surfaces that are horrible to light due to their reflective properties. Modern manufacturing processes give us a lovely matte finish to our backgrounds ─ perfect for studio photography! 


Vinyl is also much easier to handle than paper. Despite, or perhaps because of its weight, it hangs well from your support system and doesn't crease. This is a factor to consider if your set-up time's limited. Bearing all of these great qualities in mind, you may be wondering why there's any point even considering paper. Why don't we take a look...


Paper background rolls


Paper is fragile, temperamental, and can be a nightmare to work with, but it does have some qualities that make it the number one choice for professional studio photographers. If you compare prices it looks like paper trumps vinyl every time. A roll of decent background paper's probably a quarter of the price, size for size – but remember that vinyl will last for years, whereas a paper roll, even if cared for, will only last a handful of shoots.


So why are we recommending it at all? Well firstly, because paper comes in a multitude of colours. The choice with vinyl is usually restricted to black, white and grey, whereas paper comes in every colour of the rainbow – and then some! This isn't the primary reason pros choose paper more readily than vinyl though: no, the number one reason is the quality of the light it reflects. Paper backgrounds produce a smoothness that's hard to define, but is obvious to the trained eye.


In conclusion, you can see that there are good reasons to choose either background solution. It may be, that like many photographers, you'll find a combination of the two works best: paper for the more colourful shoot, and vinyl for the bread and butter stuff. Whichever you choose, you can be a sure that, if lit well, the finished photo printed onto canvas will look fantastic.