One of the best ways to add personality and style to your photography is a backdrop. Using backdrops helps to keep anything in the background from drawing attention away from your subject and distracting the viewer, so it’s a natural addition for everything from product photography to photo booths and press conferences.
However, selecting drapes for a backdrop is no simple task. There are endless styles of backdrops available. But before you go through different patterns and materials, you need to know what size backdrop you need.
What determines the backdrop size you need?There are a few things to consider when you're choosing the size of your backdrops. First, there's the size of your subject. And then there's the size of your studio or area that you’re using for the photo shoot.
If your subject is a child, you might only need a 3-foot or 6-foot tall backdrop. But if your subject is an adult, you'll want a taller backdrop, likely an 8-foot (or higher) set-up.
Keep in mind that your portrait subjects ought to be 3 feet away from your backdrop, too, for easy lighting and to prevent shadows. This distance will change when you're taking backlit/high key shots and overhead shots.
What is the recommended height and width of common backdrops?As we mentioned above, there are a few factors that determine the backdrop size you need. Here are some of the most common backdrop sizes and what their sizes mean for an idea of the required height and width.
- 3-foot tall backdrops. This backdrop size is the smallest and is the perfect choice for photographing small products, pets, or newborns. The crossbar width for this size backdrop will depend on the subject matter. For smaller sizes products, pets, etc., perhaps you would only need a 4-foot to 7-foot wide crossbar, although for more versatility, a 6-foot to 10-foot wide crossbar may be the better option.
- 8-foot to 10-foot tall backdrops. These taller backdrops are commonly found in professional studios. They're versatile and can accommodate portraits of kids and portraits of families. The crossbar width here will depend on how many people are going to be in the photo. A smaller sized family, say mom, dad, and the two kids, may be fine for a 6-foot to 10-foot wide standard crossbar. But if Uncle Joe, Grandpa, Grandma, and Cousin Beth are also going to be in the shot, then you’ll probably need a wider 8-foot to 14-foot crossbar.
- 12-foot to 14-foot tall backdrops. These even taller backdrops are essential for professional photographers. They allow you to take full-length portraits of individuals, children, couples, entire families, and larger products. The crossbar, like always, will depend on what you’re photographing. For large sized families (that is, the number of people, not necessarily stature...) and very large products, it’s possible that a single crossbar won’t suffice. In this case, your backdrop width will need to be extended with the addition of connecting kits. With connecting / extender kits, there is no limit to the total width that you can achieve -- it’s limited only by the room’s dimensions.
If you're struggling to find the proper drapes for a backdrop for your photo shoot, you're not alone. There are up to 140,000 professional photographers working in the U.S. and backdrops are crucial for getting the right shot. Now that you have an idea of the size that you’ll need, the right drapes are the next crucial component. See our other blog articles where we dive into the most popular photography backdrop draping fabrics, or contact us for assistance.