Bloom Photo Backdrops?

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Horse whisperer
Supporting Member
Jun 7, 2006
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Hey all,

I was wondering what everybody uses for backdrops when they take bloom photos. When I've been unlazy enough to move the plants to take photos, I've been using black posterboard. However, it's kind of shiny, so it often isn't black but more of a gray. I'd like to find something that pretty much absorbs all light.


Black Velvet is pretty much the standard for that purpose (and it's what I use :) )

However, just about anything dark will work, depending on your lighting situation. It is important to have the backdrop a couple feet behind the bloom, especially if you're using artificial lighting. I'm sure you know about the inverse-square law, when it comes to light behavior.

In the past, I've taken photos against a white wall and had the photos turn out with the appearance of a black backdrop, simply because the bloom had a lot more light falling on it than the wall behind it.

This photo, for example, was taken against a white wall:


So, my point here is this : Use black velvet if the subject and backdrop are getting even lighting (from a window or something).

If the backdrop is getting less light (and you can help this by moving it away from the subject), it doesn't matter a whole lot what you use.

- Matthew
How can that be a white wall?

I tried black velvet (back when I cared to try) but having a cat, made it almost impossible to keep clean.

Matt, I appreciated your hints in my Sander's Pride thread. This morning, I didn't have time to move the plant before I snapped the photo. One day, hopefully I'll put a little more energy into my photographs. :)
How can that be a white wall?

LOL :)

OK, for you skeptics... this one offers a better demonstration. This photo was taken in the corner of a bathroom (which had those frosted windows to help diffuse the light a bit).

The bloom is in the light from the window, as is the wall on the left side of the photo. You can also see the corner of the room... and the back wall, (also white!) is not in the direct light from the window... and you can see that it goes black very quickly. No photoshop tricks here :)


Hopefully that makes things a bit more clear :)

- Matt
How large a piece does one need to buy? I personally don't have any orchids over about 2 feet but other growers might have larger...
Considering that you will want to place the backdrop away from the plant to be photographed, you backdrop shoul be at least 4' x 6' in size -- maybe a little larger if you want to wrap it around a 4' x 6' piece of cardboard or foamcore.
it's all about exposure.

the human eye is able to process a much wider range of light levels than a camera (film or digital). with a photo, you get about 2 "stops" worth of light (as in f-stops). with the human eye, you get about 5-6. part of this has to do with the brain processing the image (ie your brain knows the wall should appear white, even if the actual image is gray--the camera just depicts what color is actually present).

anyway, if the white wall is sufficiently far away from the subject (10 ft or so), and you're using a macro lens shooting a small subject, and your light source is from directly above your subject and doesn't "fill the room," then chances are your background will appear black, especially if you use low ISO film. regardless, it will be blurry, but that has to do with depth of field.

I'm at work or I would draw some pictures to illustrate this.
I go to Hobby Lobby or walmart and buy about 2 yards. It works fine but be sure you can roll it up on a tube to prevent wrinkles-unless they don' t matter and sometimes they don't. I made a mistake in asking for something that did not wrinkle if I bunched it up and would wash and wear well. What they sold me looked fine in the store but in the photos it reflects. I think this is the same material that Captain Kirk's pants were made from. In any case, experiment, velvet and taffeta are nice but can create ridges and patterns on film. Good luck