A canvas backdrop is a backdrop made, well, from a canvas. Canvas is a type of fabric that absorbs paint well, so it is often colored with textures, and this is what we are going to talk about today. We used canvases from Artery Backdrops, but what we say probably applies to all canvas backdrops.
I’ve heard canvases described in many ways, from cliche to regal and that really depends on how you use it. Annie Leibovitz has a canvas backdrop signature look, but so does those horrible portraits from the ’80s, so should you get one? Let me try and help.
The big thing about canvas backdrops is that they are textured. That texture creates a unique look, but it also changes the way light interacts with the backdrop. It is often less reflective than seamless paper backdrops and has a distinct matte feel to it. They are wonderful to work with. Sadly, they are not cheap (the ones from Artery are 250 Euro for the medium size, and up to 550 euro for the XXL size). I would put this at about 6X from a $49 seamless paper backdrop. Then again, they are gorgeous.
When you order, note that there are several sizes. Food/tabletop photographers will likely be satisfied with the portrait (50″ X 70.8″) or small (66.9″X110.2″) sized backdrop, and if you are shooting full body, larger objects you would want to get the XL (106.2″ X 122″) or XXL (106.2″ X 165.3″) variety.
It’s a commitment
But with a great price, comes great responsibility (I am sure that this is how this one goes, no?). The backdrops that I got from Artery (three of them) came in a
decent sized unbelievably huge PVC tube, and they were each mounted on a cardboard roll. Only they were not mounted to that roll. Two options here: either you roll them out on the floor and attach them to the bug tube, or, do what I did and realize that they are not attached to the roll and drop those precious pieces of cloth while you try hanging them. (That’s a Godox 600bm + 120cm octabox on the image above)
That brings us to the second issue, creases and folds. Whatever you do, don’t let the fabric crease. It’s not an endless piece of a seamless backdrop. You can’t cut and throw the creased parts. You’ll have to learn to live with it. Some of the creases on my backdrops are there forever, I could not make them go away n matter what I tried.
Lastly, overusing your backdrops is exactly how you move from Regal to Cliche, so make sure you use them only when they fit well.
There are two ways to mount those backdrops. The canvases came rolled on a bit cardboard roll (just like the one you get with a seamless backdrop), so you can mount them just like you mount a seamless, only remember to secure the fabric to the roll.
The other way is using clamps to stretch them. I am not a big fan of this method as it increases the chances of wrinkles and creases.
If you have the kind of clientele that appreciate the look, its worth the investment. They are also a great investment if you are in a production that is willing to cover the cost of art. If you just want to test the water, there are digital alternatives which you can apply on paper seamless backdrops. Sell those portraits until you make enough money to buy a real canvas backdrop