ALZO Digital Photography Equipment, Bethel, CT
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Photography Guides > Photography Backgrounds    

Selection Guide

Background Paper
Seamless Background Paper
Graduated Paper
Specialty Paper
Muslin Backdrops
Hand-Painted Photo Backgrounds
Chroma Key
Digital Backgrounds
Usage with Studio Lights
How To Set Up and Use Photo Background Paper

There are many advantages to using paper as a photo background:

  • Background paper provides a very smooth sweep

  • Paper is inexpensive

  • It can be easily cut to size

  • Color is very consistent from roll to roll

  • Ideally suited for product photography

When you purchase a roll of photo background paper for the first time, there are a few things you need to know that will keep it in good shape and prevent disasters that can damage background paper.

Read carefully:

Storing Background Paper

To prevent paper roll warping, always store background paper vertically. This requires a ceiling height greater than 9 feet high for 107" long paper.  Several companies sell a foam paper gripping system (shown here) with an adhesive back to allow simple attachment to a wall. Once the grip is attached to the wall, your paper rolls can be pushed into the openings and will be held in place vertically.

An alternative is to store the paper in 4" PVC pipe with end caps. See "Transporting Background Paper" below.


Background Paper Support

When installing a roll of background paper on a portable or a wall-mounted background support system, ALWAYS put the paper roll on a rigid horizontal pole. The cardboard tube inside the roll is not strong enough to prevent warping, it needs to be supported by a rigid metal pole. Many vendors sell a background roller support system without horizontal poles. If the paper roll is hung from the rollers only, it will quickly warp under its own weight, rendering it unusable. Warped paper is almost impossible to straighten and when warped paper is unrolled, the paper has horizontal creases across the full length of the roll. This happens within a few hours of mounting a roll without the support poles. The wall-mounted photo background support systems by ALZO Digital always includes horizontal bars (poles).

Avoiding Paper Roll Out

Once the roll is mounted on a pole, you're ready for the roll out process. If you're alone, you want to have a grip device, such as a clamp, ready, so you can lock the roll in position and prevent roll out. Stand on one side of the roll, use one of your hands to unroll the paper slowly, then attach the grip. It is important to never roll out too much paper in the beginning and to do it slowly. If done too quickly, the roll can completely unravel and leave you with a jumbled mass of paper. Its always better to have an assistant to help set up a background.

Cutting background paper

The best way to cut photo background paper is with an envelope cutter. Example shown here


Transporting Background Paper

If you are considering transporting 9' wide background paper, purchase PVC 4" drain pipes with end caps from a plumbing supply store.  You can find PVC pipes at United States Plastic Corp. The pipes can easily be mounted on a rack on top of your car. The pipes with end caps are watertight and protect your paper from the elements.  These pipes can also be used to store the paper laying flat.

Lighting a Background

There is a prevalent perception that a 3-point light system is the ideal lighting solution. Actually it is the minimum lighting configuration as it does not include background lights. Professional photography studios typically utilize more than 5 lights for subject and background illumination.

Background lighting can involve from 1 to 4 or 5 lights depending on application. Here are some examples:

  • 1 Up or 1 Spot Light - Low key, dark background, typical male portraits

  • 2 Side Lights - Small background, almost even illumination

  • 3 Lights - Larger background almost even illumination and contrast effects

  • 4 or 5 Lights - Larger background full illumination, White-out background,
    Chroma key background


Background Paper Manufacturers

Superior Specialties is the largest manufacturers of photographic seamless background papers made in the USA. Super Spec paper is available at ALZO Digital.

There is a variety of photo background papers available, such as seamless solid color paper, graduated paper, specialty paper, and hand-painted photo backgrounds.

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