10 Tips to make Seamless Paper Backgrounds last longer & 2 DIY fixes for your photo studio backdrops


Seamless paper backgrounds are a staple item
for both amateur and professional photographers. They are versatile, reusable and affordable
and yet I find it surprising how many photographers don’t take care of them and dispose of them
much sooner than needed. In this video, I am going to give you 10 tips
for making your backgrounds last and I am going to show you two awesome DIY projects. One will help you weigh down the bottom of
your background so it doesn’t curl when you unroll it and the other is a super affordable
way to protect and store your backgrounds to keep them from buckling and to extend their
life. Stay tuned! Hey gang! My name is Joe Edelman and my mission is to
help photographers like YOU to develop a solid understanding of the HOWS & WHYS behind great
photography so that you can achieve your goals as a photographer. Seamless paper backgrounds – I purchased my
first one in 1976. And let me tell you for a young 16 year old
photographer – it was the coolest background ever! In case you’re wondering – it was a 107”
#20 Black Savage backdrop. To this day more than 40 years later – I still
use Savage Paper Backdrops as my go to brand and choice for studio backgrounds. Paper backdrops are a popular background solution
because they are available in a huge assortment of colors and with gels and lighting there
is an almost infinite number of possibilities. Another bonus to seamless paper backgrounds
is the price. They are more affordable than equivalent sized
cloth or painted backgrounds. That doesn’t mean you should think of them
as cheap or disposable, in fact just the opposite. Seamless paper backdrops are made to be used
over and over and with proper care and maintenance they can last for years. In case you haven’t already seen them – I
have shared videos in the past about some great DIY Background options for portraits
as well as an awesome DIY Background Holder. I also have a video explaining why GRAY is
my favorite background color – and that’s not as boring as it sounds. You can find links to these videos in the
description below. While the DIY solutions are great for simple
portraits, nothing beats a seamless paper backdrop for versatility. Also, full disclosure – I mention Savage Brand
Backgrounds because I really have used them for over 40 years. I have tried the cheaper brands and the paper
is thinner and wears much faster not to mention that the colors are not consistent and they
do fade. And to be clear – I am not being paid to say
that. This first thing to consider is what is the
best size for your needs. This is going to depend on the type of photography
you are doing and the amount of space that you have to work in. You wouldn’t just randomly pick a light
modifier before you shoot – you select the modifier that is going to give you the kind
of light you are looking for and hence the best outcome. Selecting a background should be no different. On the smaller side of things you can get
very thin rolls that are great for tabletop and product photography. These rolls are 26” wide by 36 ft long. 36 feet is a lot of background so if you are
only doing occasional product or tabletop shots, you may want to consider foam board
or poster board or even cloth background options. A great size for shooting portraits is the
53” by 36 ft roll. This is just under 4.5 ft wide and it’s great
for shooting kids, headshots and 3/4 length shots. You do have to pay attention when you shoot
three quarter length shots. If you have your subject extend their arms
too far – they will be off the background. Also remember – the farther away from your
subject that you place the background – the smaller it becomes in relationship to your
subject. So for my money – the 53” width is for headshots
or portraits only. The most common size found in studios is the
107in by 36 ft roll. This gives you a background that is just under
9 feet wide and long enough to roll out and have your subjects stand on it, lay down on
it or even jump on it. It works great for full-body shots and even
small groups. Savage also sells rolls that are 107” x
150 ft. Yes – 150 ft which is a monster roll and
wickedly heavy – but if you do a lot of work with seamless and find yourself replacing
your backgrounds often – this is a viable solution. Some Savage colors are also available in 86”
x 36 ft and 140” x 105 ft. I prefer to hang my backdrops from the ceiling
in my studio. Remember – my home studio that I showed you
in this video – only has 8 ft ceilings – so it is important to me to get the backdrops
as tight to the ceiling as possible If you have higher ceilings, you can easily mount
the backgrounds on a wall. I’ve included a link in the description below
the video to my blog article that lists my preferred mounting systems. If you need your set-up to be portable, you
can mount your background on stands and a crossbar. Unless you want to simply destroy you paper
backgrounds and always be fighting with the stands… don’t buy a cheap background stand
set. A 107” x 36ft seamless roll weighs 15 lbs.
the 150 ft roll weighs 49 lbs If you are going to use these big rolls on a portable setup
you need to spend a few extra dollars and buy a heavy duty set-up. Don’t think that using two light stands
and a homemade crossbar is a good idea for the big rolls. The 53” rolls only weigh 6 lbs, so you can
work with a much lighter setup and not run into problems. The DIY PVC stand that I mentioned earlier
works great for the short rolls. These are tips that I have learned the hard
way by damaging backgrounds and I assure you – they are worth the little bit of effort
they require. The ability to roll out a seamless background
and have your subject stand on it is a big part of what makes these backdrops so useful. This works great on hard, even flooring. If your shooting space is carpeted, you need
to place a hard surface like a piece of plywood or plexiglass between the paper and the carpet
otherwise the paper will pucker and crease – not to mention that the heels of your models
shoes will poke right through the paper if its not on a hard surface. Even if you have a roller system that prevents
the backgrounds from unrolling – A-Clamps are the most important accessory for your
backgrounds. Don’t buy them from a photo supplier – these
are not real photography gear. Get the 6” A-Clamps at Home Depot or Amazon
and if you’re smart – make it a habit to attach them to your crossbar – BEFORE you unravel
the seamless. I can’t tell you how many times I have pulled
a seamless down only to realize that I forgot to grab the a-clamps and of course the weight
of the seamless just keeps pulling the roll off the bar. Then you have to roll it back up – go and
get your A-Clamps and start all over again and by this time you have probably creased
part of the background. Avoid walking on the seamless. Your model can, but you and your assistants
should not! If you want your seamless to last, you can’t
cut corners on this one. When I am setting up my seamless rolls and
need to place light stands or props on the seamless, I always remove my shoes and only
walk on the paper in my socks. If you don’t want to remove you shoes, you
can get removable shoe covers. These covers are disposable, but in most cases
you could use them many times over. You can purchase 50 pairs of them for less
than ten dollars on Amazon. When it comes to my models walking on my paper
backgrounds – I always take a minute and wipe down the soles of their shoes while they are
in the makeup chair and a place a small bathroom throw rug right at the edge of the paper and
ask them to wipe their feet before they step onto the background. Do be sure to throw the rug in the washer
every so often so that it doesn’t collect dirt and transfer it back to the shoes. This is something you should already have
in your studio but whatever you do – when you roll that seamless out for your model
to stand on it – tape down the edges. When a paper seamless background is rolled
out onto a smooth surface – it slides really easy. If you don’t tape it – you better have some
really good liability insurance because you are placing your model at risk for a fall,
not to mention that Murphy’s law pretty much guarantees that your models high heel shoe
will find the edge of the paper and tear it as she walks onto the set. BTW – don’t use duct tape! Gaffers tape has a blended resin and natural
rubber compound that allows you to remove it without leaving all the adhesive on the
paper. Duct tape is cheaper but it will destroy your
background and leave adhesive residue on your floor. A 4 ft by 8 ft piece of plexiglass or clear
acrylic is a great way to give your floor a reflective quality. The 4×8 sheet is a bit tough to store in smaller
studio spaces – but if you have the space – I highly recommend it. I can’t tell you how many times I have dropped
or damaged a roll because I was in a hurry and trying to handle it by myself. If you have to work solo – take your time
and don’t rush. Ideally – get some help with hanging, changing
and rolling up your backdrops. They’ll last longer and you’ll curse much
less. I already told you how to prevent smudges
and dirt on your backdrops but the reality is that it will still happen from time-to-time. White latex free plastic erasers are great
for removing a lot of smudges. These erasers are used for removing graphite
on paper and drafting film and they are very soft and won’t damage the seamless paper. Just don’t rub real hard. Also helpful are simple Swiffer Duster cloths. I always wipe down the part of the seamless
that my model was standing on before I roll it up and store it. When you are ready to cut off some of the
roll because the end is worn beyond use, don’t use scissors, use a straight edge like a box
cutter knife or a heavy-duty arts and crafts knife. Since the seamless paper is thick and has
a curl – cutting it with scissors will always give you an uneven and random edge. I use two pieces of 1” by 4” by 10 ft
lumber that you can purchase at a hardware store for less than ten dollars each. I place one under the seamless while I use
the second one on top as a straightedge to guide my knife. This method also insures that you won’t
scratch or cut the surface of your studio floor. This tip applies to pretty much everything
photography – cameras, lenses and backgrounds…. if you are a studio photographer it is important
to monitor and control the humidity in your studio space. Humidity is not your friend, it can cause
fungus on your lenses and sensors and it can cause your seamless backgrounds to buckle. You can purchase a simple humidity monitor
for less than ten dollars. The ideal relative humidity is between 40
and 50 percent to prevent fungus. Don’t go too low with your humidity because
you will run the risk of drying out the rubber and lubricants in your lenses. If you have a hard time with humidity in your
shooting or storage space, be sure to stay tuned for my DIY storage tip. Seamless paper backgrounds will always last
longer if you store them standing up – vertically. If you store them hanging or even laying down,
the cardboard cores will eventually begin to sag in the middle and then the paper buckles
and becomes uneven. When you try to use them they will unroll
like this… Whatever you do – don’t just lean them against
the wall either. There are several inexpensive storage solutions
available including a super easy and very effective seamless paper storage clip by Savage. BTW… storing them in the cardboard box that
they were shipped in is not a great plan unless you are in a very low humidity environment. That corrugated cardboard that the box is
made from will absorb moisture and cause more humidity inside the box. I promised you two DIY tips. The first one is a counterweight solution
to stop the bottom of your seamless paper from curling when you hang it. Savage sells a Background Leader Bar which
retails for $75.00 and comes with a 107” x 36 ft roll of white paper or they also sell
a shorter version that is 4’ 8” and comes with a 53” roll of white seamless. Manfrotto also sells a Background Paper Counterweight
that is two pieces and works on 4 ft or 9 ft rolls – it retails for $32.95 My solution costs only $6.50 at your local
Home Depot. Just purchase a 10 ft by 1 1/4” pvc pipe
and two 1 1/4” end caps. Then cut off 8 inches so that you have a pipe
that is 112” long. This will create a little overhang on each
side of the seamless. Then using a table saw with the blade set
very low – cut a line 109” long. When I made my cuts I wiggled the pipe slightly
so that the opening would be a bit wider that the blade – this makes it easier to insert
the paper. Then all you need to do is place the end caps
on and your build is complete. You don’t even need to glue the end caps
and if you want to paint it – go for it. To attach the counterweight – you first need
to make sure that you have a clean edge at the end of your seamless. It is important to have the edge straight
and square with the sides otherwise your counterweight will hang crooked and cause the background
to buckle. If you are working with a brand new background
– it already is square. If you are cutting a worn or dirty end off
of an existing seamless, I have a very simple way to do it. Hang the background and make sure you have
it hanging level. If you have ceiling mounts – that is easy. If you are using stand mounts – use a bubble
level to be sure the roll is level. Then unravel the background just past the
point where you wish to add the counterweight. Take a Sharpie Marker and just run it along
the underside of the roll all the way across. Then go ahead and roll the background out
far enough that your line is on the floor or if you want, you can remove the background
and place it on the floor. Using a sharp blade – cut along the line that
was just drawn with the Sharpie. Fold back about one inch of seamless and press
the fold down tight to make a clean stiff edge. Then simply slide that edge into the groove
that you cut on the PVC pipe. I use a few small pieces of gaffers tape to
keep it in place as I go and then run a strip of gaffers tape the entire length over the
groove where the paper has been inserted. Once you have done that – you are good to
go. Re-hang your background or roll it up and
you have a counterweight that is level and much less expensive than the machined metal
options that are available online. I also promised you an easy DIY Storage tip
for your seamless backgrounds. If you are going to keep your rolls out in
the open – standing vertically of course – you should have a room with low humidity as I
already mentioned. If you can’t control the humidity and if
you can’t store your rolls vertically you can purchase 4” pipes to store them in. The common recommendation is 4” PVC pipes. I personally think this is a horrible solution. A 10ft length of 4” PVC pipe will cost you
over $20.00 and that doesn’t include the end caps – not to mention that it weighs just
over 20lbs. A better alternative is to purchase a 10 ft
by 4” length of corrugated drain pipe for $7.21. Purchase two 4” solid snap end caps for
$2.52 each. Then use a simple box cutter knife – cut off
the bell end – it’s the bigger end. I measure my pipe to 109” and cut. Slide your seamless roll into the plastic
bag that it came with and then slide everything into the pipe. Add the snap caps on both ends and you have
a durable airtight storage tube that only cost you $12.25 Now you can stack the rolls
or stand them up and you have a protected and humidity free environment for your seamless. Btw. – this solution weighs just 3lbs. So there you have it gang – 10 important and
helpful tips to make your seamless paper backgrounds last and two DIY projects to save you money
in the process. I hope you found this useful. Please hit that thumbs up and subscribe so
that you don’t miss any videos and until next time go pick up that camera and shoot
something because your BEST shot – it’s your NEXT shot, so keep learning, keep thinking,
keep shooting. Adios!

96 Replies to “10 Tips to make Seamless Paper Backgrounds last longer & 2 DIY fixes for your photo studio backdrops”

  1. Be sure to read my blog article at: https://www.joeedelman.com/seamless-paper-backgrounds/ for links to all of the items that are mentioned in the video.

  2. Hey Joe, great video. Quick question about storage. You say to store the paper vertically. Does this mean you remove the papers already hanging from your ceiling after each shoot?

  3. Another perfect video. Thank you very much for all your hard work to make even a video about background paper worth watching very much.

  4. Amazing tips!!! Thanks Joe! Quick question. By happenstance, I ended up with two solid stands (not light stands) and 3 rolls of savage paper. The person that gave it to me also provided me with PVC pipe, but that isn't a great solution. I had to use pvc piping with angles to get it to mount, and as expected, the middle sags. I checked, but it doesnt appear that savage sells the cross bar individually. I noticed other companies, like Impact, do. But do you have any suggestions? (or no, because you only have experience with them as a "package deal" so to speak)

  5. Your videos are so helpful and well done. We're not even looking into paper backgrounds right now, but now that I've seen this, I know I'll be ready when we do. Thank you so much for putting out such helpful and educational content. This small photography family thanks you so much!

  6. Hey Joe! I bought a gray 107" Savage seamless background after watching your other video and I'm having trouble making the background appear perfectly smooth from edge to edge. FYI, I'm using speedlights. Am I missing something?

  7. Hi mr Joe, I know you are the only one who will answer my questions, wich is,
    I'm using Nikon 800e , Nikon sb 900/910 , godox 360 , pucketwizzard plus3 , I've set my camera to hss mode and the triggers also , my question is , how can i shoot hss , I tried everything on book, still nothing I can't shoot HSS , can you help me with that please.

  8. How would you deal with the plastic the paper came in getting damaged? I had a situation where we were setting up everyday for 2 weeks and the paper ended up getting ripped due to the constant handling. I haven't got a good solution for a plastic cover for the paper…

  9. Joe, simply fantastic. Really. Thank you. Question: where to you get the acryllic sheets you recommend? Seems the delivery is pretty expensive from online stores. Any local type stores sell these?

  10. Hi Joe – great tips as always. What background roller system you are using? Anything not too expensive you can recommend? Thx

  11. Hey Joe.. loving the channel..

    2 questions.. how do you store vertically with 8 foot ceilings? Second.. at what distance do you have those DB800s from your background? And is that the 9 inch baby pin?

  12. When I used to do studio photography, at the end of a session, if the paper had gotten marked up and the subject had young kids, I would cut off the part of the paper background that the subject had been standing on, to take home. The kids loved it to draw on and their moms loved it too. As always, good tips!

  13. Joe, this video was super helpful and glad to see you rockin' your YouTube channel, my friend. 🙂 Last time we touched base, I was 19!!! Crazy how time flies. 🙂

  14. Hi Joe, quick question. In your video on tips to make seamless paper last longer, you talked about the counter weight DIY solution. The only problem in having at the moment is getting Someone to cut it down the middle. So far neither Lowe's or Home depot does that. Is there an alternative option to that cut that you could recommend?

  15. Wow, thanks Joe. All these tips were so useful!!!  I shoot dog/animal photography and have a horrible time with pawprints and fur. I am also disabled so I roll out my paper onto two large folding tables (high school-style cafeteria tables)….it both contains the animals and I don't have to bend or get on the floor to shoot them.  I have yet to find a good way to attach the front end of the paper to the edge of the tables. Clamps aren't big/wide enough.  Maybe put plywood over tables and clamp to that?  Anyway, the swifter is such a logical idea.

  16. Awesome pointers all around.I really love your inexpensive DIY solutions for the backdrops.If you want to keep the backdrops hung up could you replace the cardboard tube with a piece of PVC pipe?

  17. Hi Joe – I don't have a single place in my home where I could store a 9ft tall roll of paper vertically, and I prefer not to remove the roll every time I use it. Savage sells an Aluminum Core for their Seamless Vinyl backdrops that slides into the existing cardboard core. This is meant to prevent sagging. Do you know if it fits the seamless paper cores? It doen't say on the site. https://savageuniversal.com/products/backdrop-stands/aluminum-background-core/
    Thanks ~ Pat

  18. Hi. I'm looking for solutions on how to do group shots on location with portable backdrop and lights on a thight budget. The groups in question are dancers (from all ages and from different schools). What kind of material would you use for a very large portable backdrop (cost effective, durability and portability, especially if you need to carry it easily in in a car) ? What would you use to cover the floor and matching the backdrop knowing that they have to be photographed head to toes (in some situations, I know that the background might not be enough), and what lights and setup would you use for such shots with this kind of situation ? Also, what heavy duty stands would you recommend or will you be able to do a video on how the to build one (DIY) for this specific situation ?

    I hope that this can be used as idea(s) for future videos subject (which could complement this one). That would be really interesting.

    Thanks to answer

  19. Hey Joe , Question for you sir. I wanted to get some printed backdrops, now I've seen many on amazon but people always complain they are 2 short (5×7) specially the ones that have the wall and floor look. What would you recommend for me as i would use in different locations. Do you have a videos on that, that i missed ?

  20. So rad! I just bought my first background at 86” so I could store it vertically under 8 foot ceilings. I’m trying to find ways to make it last, so this is just what I needed.

  21. I've never used paper backdrops before but after watching this video I'm sold. Thanks for the great tips!

  22. Hello,i had just purchased the grey savage paper back drop for my indoor studio and im planing to do a modelling photoshoot and roll the paper to cover the surface.so i wish to know if the model stands on the paper will it tear or get damaged.My floor is a mosaic .Thank you

  23. Does anyone know why you'd need to use such large diameter PVC for the counterweight? What is wrong with like 3/4"?

  24. This content is priceless. I've watched a few of your videos and I have to say. This information is extremely useful and very very well made. Crisp and concise presentations with just the right blend of knowledge and entertainment. If you ever see this comment. Thank you. P.S. I forgot to subscribe a few times in the past and I had to search pretty hard to find you again. You are not in the search engines when looking for photographers on youtube. Get on that list man!

  25. i had no idea how hard seamless was to handle and was surprised i didn’t see more talk about it before i bought a roll. thank you for your video!! 🙂

  26. Great video… One problem I have is storing a 107 inch width roll upright in a house with 8 foot ceiling. I use models standing and need large width. No way possible to store it vertical… Big pain..

  27. I love ur videos, I have a question, i'm using the same mounts to mount my seamless paper rolls, but over time the roll is bending a little bit, can I avoid it!!!

  28. This was incredibly helpful – I wasn't sure what to expect (was afraid of yet another clickbait YouTube video) but thank you so much for sharing these tips! I've just started getting into using paper backgrounds for my photography so I'll be using your tips for sure.

  29. Wow!
    Just Stoked to learn all this. Really appreciate your talent and the opportunity to hear what your taking the valuable time to share.

  30. Thank you for a super knowledgeable and resourceful video. The tempo is perfect. I love your upbeat energy! You look and sound super young. I was so shocked when you mentioned the years and dates 😳

  31. I use straight edge razor blades for cutting papers, there’s nothing sharper than that . Mainly because I use to hang wallpaper, & that’s what we used.

  32. I have a dumb question… I'm not a photographer but I'm a new mom and obsessed with capturing memories of my little one.

    On the plexiglass does the color matter? Black, clear etc? Also how thick should it be.

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge and taking the time to put together this video. Blessings💌

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