Studio Time

Last week I decided to buy a gray backdrop to use on the wall I where I shoot photos in my little office, and on Sunday afternoon I took it out of the bag to iron out the wrinkles and get it hung. I have a white and a black backdrop I bought off Amazon called “mega-cloth” by Cowboy Studio, and while neither one was wrinkle-free by any stretch of the imagination, they were both less wrinkled than the cheaper backdrops I’ve bought in the past, and what creases were there hung out well and did not show up much in photos. However, the mega-cloth only comes in white, black, and chromakey green, so I had to buy plain muslin to get a gray and I stupidly decided to buy a cheaper one, thinking I could iron it before hanging and it would work fine. Wrong!

studio1
Not my backdrop, but an impressive simulation

First of all, the fabric was so stiff I could hardly stand to touch it, plus it was little more than a super-sized bedsheet. The wrinkles came out a little when ironing, but not nearly enough to feel encouraged to see the project through to completion. The backdrop was 10 x 12, so it was pretty damn big, and after 30 minutes not even half of it was ironed out. Not to mention that each ironed section ended up pooled on the floor no matter how hard I tried to keep it stretched out and wrinkle-free, and the whole damn thing was getting creased again after ironing. Eventually I got so frustrated with the entire process I wadded the stupid $30 piece of scratchy material into a ball, stuffed it in the trash, and called it a day.

i-am-comfortable-really
Not my backdrop in the trash, but a reasonable facsimile

This put me in a pissy mood, because I’m bored with the black backdrop that’s been hanging on my wall for almost two months, and I don’t care much for the white one. It also set me to brooding over how difficult it always is to get these backdrops on the wall – I can’t do it myself because I’m not tall enough to get the fabric flush against the ceiling like my husband can, but I don’t like depending on someone else to get them hung and would prefer a method I can execute myself. Not to mention that even with the good cloth there are wrinkles to content with, especially when first out of the package, and then there’s all the furniture I have to move, and there’s the pin-holes all over my walls from all the taking down and putting up of different ones, which got me thinking perhaps it is time to buy a really high-quality backdrop, like Titanium Cloth, that I can hang up and forget about even if it is an over $200 purchase. If it’s as wrinkle-free as it claims to be, then I could get one in, say, a solid neutral gray, hang it once, and forget about it, right?

studio3

But that didn’t quite feel like the solution either, because there’s still the hanging and the unfolding and getting the length right and rolling out the floor portion every time I use it, and the cat getting back there and clawing around every time I pull the whole thing out to take photos, and so on. In short, I am quite tired of the whole backdrop “thing” and ready to make a new move. Yep, I think it’s finally time to let go of my remaining resistance against turning this office into a full-fledged home photo studio and get it done already. It means my office, where I spend the majority of my time, will no longer be “homey,” something I’ve been reluctant to give up until now, but I’ve finally gotten tired of moving everything around that I can, and working around everything else, when it’s time to take photos. I am ready for it to be a studio, full time, full stop.

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Yep, this is about the size of it

What this mostly entails is getting rid of furniture and painting the walls, which, after reading up on the subject, I’ve decided to do in gray (and leave the ceiling white). There are different ideas about wall/ceiling color, but almost all of them fall into the black, white, or gray camp. A simple Google search brings up a lot of discussion about what gray is best and what to do with flooring too – I think I am going to get the carpet yanked out and just leave the concrete for a floor, possibly paint it gray too. Then I need to get rid of the furniture (which is all cheap and throwaway, so thank g-d for my lack of taste and/or interest in home decorating as it’s working in my favor here) except for my computer desk, and maybe get some rolling drawers for storage – anything that I can move in and out the room easily. I already have lighting, and know well how to use this space to its best advantage, so it really is just moving things out and getting the painting done and it all feels very do-able. I’ve only been reluctant because it eliminates the homey touches that makes this room a cozy space for reading and whatnot when I’m not on the computer, but the truth is I’ve finally turned a corner where I’d rather have a workable photography space more than a sofa to sit on and a coffee table to prop up my feet on while I watch Downton Abbey on my iPad or pet my cat. I can always get some big throw cushions or something  to sit on so that it’s not completely cold and lifeless when not in photo-use anyway. More importantly, when it is time to shoot I will have loads more room, and a lot less setup, not to mention having a wall I can shoot against without having to hang fabric anymore.

so-much-room

I’m sure I’ll have to get used to the look of my shots against a wall instead of a draped backdrop, and will still want to hang fabric or paper on occasion, but somewhere down the road I think I can get something installed that would make that easier too. The nice thing is, I know exactly what I need now, and what I want my studio to look like, and that hasn’t been clear until recently – I now know with gray walls and floors, I can make my studio work. I know I don’t need elaborate backgrounds for what I like to do, and from what I’ve read I can use gels to get color out of a gray wall anyway. So I think this is the right time to do it. I also think this is something I can do fairly quickly, and without too much expense. Probably not much more than the $200 I would have spent on the backdrop! And, I don’t have to do it all right away. The painting is the main thing, and believe me, this is not a big room I’m dealing with here. I’ll probably pay someone to do the work because on my own I’m both sloppy and lazy, and the work to rip out the carpet will be paid for when we replace it throughout in the house, which we’d planned to do this summer anyway.

Photo-Studio
Gives new meaning to the phrase “shooting a gun”

I even started a Pinterest board to gather ideas for how this will look, so if you’re interested you can check it out here: Home Photo Studio Ideas. My first step is going to be clearing all the stuff off the old, cheap bookcase I have in here, so I can get rid of that thing, which takes up one whole side wall no one ever sees in the shots but is actually quite an added limitation to the space.  I have all my weights on that bookshelf so I’ll need something to store them on, but that can be easily found; the rest is old textbooks I don’t really need and will probably throw away as well as random stuff I’ve thrown there rather than putting it where I should. I know I’m just thinking out loud at this point, but I’m pretty excited about this now, whereas before it sort of bummed me out to think about turning my cozy little office into a cold empty studio. Now I’m ready to de-clutter and move forward.

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A studio in progress with 18% gray wall – supposed to be the best color for photography

I’m even thinking that on a second wall – one that has a doorway into my bathroom – I could hang a paper roller and use it to take photos against different backdrops, like this guy did in this little video – he just installs the roller right over the doorway and when needed, the paper covers it completely, creating a whole new wall:

That would definitely be a step 2, but it would actually work. Here’s hoping I can get going on this soon!

10 thoughts on “Studio Time

    • Ha ha it would probably be video of other people setting it up LOL! I have tried to get into video but it’s never really “taken” with me – too much I don’t know…

  1. This sounds like a lot of fun. 🙂 You could do all kinds of things with the floor, like putting down interlocking flexible “rubber” or industrial painted cork tiles – the kind used provide a cushioned surface for people who stand a lot (like those giant tiles at playgrounds, but meant for interior spaces) or a huge remnant, if you didn’t want to have concrete or wall to wall. It is always exciting to change decor even if it means sacrificing some features. If the room has a closet, I have seen people make entire offices in a closet. The gray background sounds wonderful too. Someone told me once that all walls should be painted “drab” – an official color that supposedly makes everything and everyone look fantastic. We haven’t done it but I am tempted!

    • I will probably leave the floor concrete but use different flooring options for photos. No way I could make closet into an office, as it’s my clothes closet!

  2. I wonder if window roller blinds would do as a good back drop, then you could just fix the standard roller blind brackets and take the different colour roller blinds down when you’ve finished with them?

    • One of the problems I always have is that for the type of photos I take, my backdrops have to be MUCH bigger than average – I need essentially an entire wall and most paper rollers aren’t nearly that wide. I will probably have to get something custom done for rollers and then figure out where to get paper.

  3. Sounds like a great idea and can’t wait to see the finished results.
    You probably already know this, but if you decide to keep any kind of cloth backdrop, steaming works far better than an iron. I purchased a stand up model from Walmart a couple of years ago for by “Green Screen” backdrop that I had to keep taking down and folding. I just re hung it each time, fired up the steamer and it was wrinkle free in a few minutes. The steamer is pretty big and holds about a half a gallon of water and has a pretty long hose with brush attachments on the end. Think it was around $40.00
    I too also wanted to paint a wall bright green so I would have to go through the hassle of the cloth backdrop, but the green in question goes with absolutely nothing, decorating wise.
    Anyway, have fun painting.

    • I do have a steamer, but I don’t have anywhere to hang these huge backdrops to get them steamed except for directly on the wall, which Doug said was possibly ruining the drywall so I had to stop doing it 😦

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