Photography with Kristen~Make your own backdrop

Changing up the scenery is a great way to get images from ho-hum to awesome! I am a big outdoors-y gal when it comes to portraits, but every once in a while, I get a hankering for the backdrop set up.  I still use all natural light, so I have to situate my backdrop in a room near a window for that optimal light. There are some beautiful fabrics out there, and I see many photographers using just that–fabric for a backdrop.  Because fabric is more narrow, it may only be used well for headshots or babies. 

But quilts, sheets, duvets, even shower curtains offer the width you will need for a child or even an adult.  I recently purchased 2 fabric shower curtains at Target for $10 each and used them here:

I just draped these over the back of a chair and tried to show my daughter exactly where I wanted her.  She moved around a lot, which lends itself to wrinkling the material, but we made it work.
Below, we have the quilt I made as a backdrop:
To get the good blur on a patterned background, the subject has to be a few feet away from the blanket and you will need a lower f*stop on your camera. I was taking product pics of the cute headbands above.  To see more of them, click here
Another fun thing I did was to tape a bunch of newspaper to the wall.  I maybe should have spent more time to flatten the creases, but I kinda just slapped it up on the wall and floor with some tape.  I didn’t take a pull back shot, but you can see from this shot below how it is on the wall/floor:
In the future, I might put a large piece of wood under the paper on the floor so it won’t bend as easily. Here is a great close up with the fun texture of the paper behind:
To see more from this session, go here.
(All of the above images were taken by me with Natural light)
Lastly, here is a sample of a really fun duvet I found at Ikea.  I think it was $20 or $30–can’t quite remember. I planned to use it in my room, then didn’t care for it as I thought, then tried to return it, but Ikea doesn’t take returns on opened bedding!  So, I use it as a backdrop.  I am happy I got to use this on my 29 year portraits:)
My friend, Mariel Reyes took this in her home studio (with lights).
She has a setup with wood floor pieces, and a long piece of moulding (you can buy at hardware store) to make it look like a true wall (I didn’t crop out the side that shows how it works a bit).  I love that!
Now go get creative with backdrops (and share with me your ideas)! 
P.S. A bunch of people have left comments recently asking questions on topics that have already been covered.  Click on the icon that says Kristen Duke Photography Series on the right and it will take you back to my archives on this blog.


  1. Amy says

    great ideas!! I used a large piece of black craft felt for my backdrops at Christmas. It was SUPER cheap!! I also bought some white craft felt, but I really had a hard time getting it to look white and not gray. Any easy fixes for that? I did only use a manual setting on my camera… I don't have much confidence in my abilities yet :P


  2. [email protected] says

    I'm looking forward to reading about your photography ideas. Thank you for being willing to share with us all. LOVED your peony headband. Just ordered it this morning. Thanks for the backdrop idea. I need to figure out my camera and get shooting! Have a great one.

  3. Scrapmuch says

    JC Penney has some sheets (search for "splash sheets" and they'll come up) that are mottled like a painted photographers canvas. They work great! I've found similar "crackled" prints at Sears too – once in the $20 bin for a whole set. I removed the elastic from the bottom sheet and sewed it to the top sheet – made those king size sheets into a full length backdrop!

  4. Just Rhonda says

    GREAT tips today Kristen!!! I LOVE that quilt! It makes me want to quilt a cute one just to use for pictures! :) I have a curtain that I used. And I am just editing some pictures where I covered a wall with sheet music (it was for a professional violinist – i'll send you a link when I get finished editing them!!)
    And oh my how I LOVE those headbands! WOWzers!

  5. Leslie P Photography says

    I love these ideas! I have always wondered what I would do if I absolutely had to shoot indoors. I think I could find a place in the house that I could bring in enough light by window and use a fabric backdrop! Question though – what do you attach the fabric to the wall with?

  6. lindsey says

    Thank you for sharing these ideas! It really gets me thinking that I dont need to spend tons of money on getting my kids pictures taken at a studio. I can try it out myself first!

  7. kaTie says

    I L.O.V.E the newspaper. That is soo cute. I may have to make me my own backdrop with that.

  8. **Amy** says

    How clever you are! I love the newspaper as well as the quilt too! Well all of them really! I could really use some more creativity in my backgrounds. I am now on the hunt for some fun sheets, etc. Thanks Kristen!

  9. The Popes says

    If you want to sell the duvet cover, I would LOVE to buy it from you! We are about to redo our bedroom and I LOVE that pattern and color!

  10. Kristen Duke Photography says

    I should have mentioned the black/white backdrops…black is MUCH more forgiving than white. Unless you have a light set up, it is difficult to get a truely white backdrop. With black, I'll often take my burn tool (in photoshop) and burn the lighter edges. You can use the dodge tool for white, but it doesn't give the same effect.

    To attach the fabric, either tape or thumb takes or drape it on something like hooks or a couch/chair(got it on ebay). I do have a backdrop stand, but I am often too lazy to set it up.

    Rhonda, can't wait to see the sheet music images!

  11. Kristen Duke Photography says

    Popes–tempting…I love it, but rarely use it. Email me, let me think about it:)

    Amy–I bet you have some fun quilts around your home. I want to buy so many quilts, but can't justify it for one photo shoot.

  12. amanda says

    Kristen, you are an endless source of inspiration. Thank you!
    I have this long picture ledge in my living room, 2 of them actually, and the lower one is just below eye level. The other 3 walls in the room have windows, so it's a fairly okay s lit pot. Anyhow, I've used painters drop cloth and different fabrics, just tacked them up on that photo ledge. But most recently when I attempted indoor photos, I used a couple of shower curtains I'd picked up on clearance here & there.. It actually was a lot easier just having the thumb tacks spaced on the ledge & putting the large grommets of the shower curtains on them. (made for quicker change than trying to tack fabric up each time.)
    I'm with you – I mostly stick to outdoor photos. But in northern Minnesota we have this thing called "harsh winter" that is really long lasting. I'd like to get more comfortable shooting indoors from time to time.
    PS: I love the photo of your daughter with the light aqua background!

  13. Susan says

    Love the newspaper idea! I go to a discount store like Big Lots and buy panel curtains or draperies (usually around $5-8) for my backdrops. Most of them are synthetic, so just tossing them in the dryer with a damp towel, and hanging immediately, gets out all of the wrinkles. I like them because I can clamp them tight for a totally “flat” backdrop, or gather them a bit and let them hang loose for a softer look. Sheer panels and “scarves” work really great for adding dimension and softness, especially when shooting babies or small children….or pregnant mommies!

    Thanks for all your great tips.

  14. molly says

    how do i get backdrops that could have an adult stand or lay down not sure what size id need also how do u hang them and what do i do about indoor lighting when i have a cannont2i so it tech had auto flash? plz help

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