Photograph: Easy DIY backdrop board


how to make a DIY photography background/backdrop board - double sided, two colors, for about $10!

When I started taking pictures, I spent a while looking for backdrops I could use in my kitchen, where I get great window light. I found lots of options, but most were fairly expensive (upwards of $100 each), and many would take too much space to store. I sometimes used blankets as inexpensive backdrops, but I really just wanted a flat surface in a couple of different colors that I could set up easily behind a child to take portraits with.

So I wandered Home Depot until I found the solution:

Sorry for the bad camera phone picture, but it’s a 4 ft x 4 ft piece of triply underlayment that’s fairly smooth on both sides, thin enough that it’s liftable, and (the best part) only $8. I bought two, wrangled them into the back of my minivan, and headed home.

I painted one side of one white, using paint I had left over from painting ceilings in my house. A flat white background is fantastic for getting photos like this one:

Or this:

I painted another side blue, using an 8 oz sample size can of paint from Home Depot ($3 in any color you want). If you are going to use sample size paints I’d recommend priming the wood first to make sure the sample size amount of paint is enough to cover the entire surface. I used a really brilliant blue for a fun pop of color in pictures like this:

I like to pair the blue backdrop with a 4 ft piece of white trim at the bottom, to get a more professional look. Just use a clamp on each end of the trim to attach it to the bottom of the background.

A third side got painted grey:

And the fourth side got left alone for a natural wood look:

Using and storing these backdrops is pretty simple. When not in use they live in my garage. I slide them behind my rake/shovel/tool organizer and they hardly take up any space. When I want to use them I simply bring them into the kitchen and lean one against the backs of two chairs and position my subject in front of them.

I often use these backdrops in conjunction with my 4 ft x 6 ft bamboo floor mat, which I found on sale for less than $40 shipped from Natural Area Rugs.

The 4×4 backgrounds also make it easy to use a blanket as a background – just clamp the blanket or fabric at the top sides and bottom sides of the background board – if you pull fabric tight, you won’t have to worry about wrinkles showing up in your photo.

Obviously, since the backgrounds are only 4 ft tall, they don’t work for standing adults/older children or large groups. However, they work great for adult headshots:

Older kids who are seated:

Taking pictures of Halloween costumes:

And up to four kids at a time if everyone gets cozy:

I’ve even used them as a floor for newborn shots:

(This is the grey one with a fun color boost and vignette added in post processing.)

These backdrops are easy to use and inexpensive to create. Here’s a few tips in case you decide to make your own:

– Make sure to position your subject far enough in front of the backdrop that they aren’t casting a shadow on it. Most kids will plunk themselves down with their backs right up against the backdrop. Ask them to move forward at least a few feet for the best looking shot.

– These work best with window light – trying to use overhead lights with these just won’t give the same results (see my window light post for tips)

– When using the white backdrop especially, be careful with your white balance settings. Generally if you are using window light on a sunny day, the auto or sunny white balance setting will be great, but on an overcast day you may want to switch to the cloudy setting.

– If possible, clamp the backdrop board to the back of the chairs it’s leaning against to be sure it doesn’t fall on anyone.

I’ve used these over and over and I still think they’re a great solution for a small space and a tight budget.

For even more DIY photography backdrop/background ideas, check out these posts:

20 DIY photograpby backdrops

DIY home photo studio (with 5 easy backdrops)

DIY home photo studio pt.2 (with 5 more easy backdrops)


Comments

  1. 1

    Denise says

    What a cute little boy model you have. ;) I love the background for the B baby — I can’t believe that’s just fabric!

  2. 3

    Kathy P says

    Could there possibly be new pictures of your baby girl that her grandma has not received yet? Just a stranger wondering.

  3. 4

    Amy M says

    nice idea! and good colour choices. what do you use to stand the boards up safely? and did you graphically edit the newborn in the fabric at all? it’s a great shot.

  4. 5

    autumn says

    Thanks Amy! I generally prop the boards against two kitchen chairs that are turned backward, then use clamps at the top to secure them to the chairs. When I’m doing older kids (or my own kids) I don’t worry too much about the clamps – the boards are light enough that even if they do tip over on someone they wouldn’t hurt – but safety first when photographing babies!
    I’m not sure which newborn picture you mean – the one with the newborn hanging in the cheesecloth is not edited at all – I find that’s a really hard to pose to get, so I think I was just lucky that time. The last newborn photo with the baby swaddled was color enhanced. Thanks for commenting!

    • 6

      Katie says

      I am wondering how flexible these boards are. I photograph at the shelter where I work. The last 4×4 diy backdrop wouldnt fit in my car.

      • 7

        autumn says

        These are not flexible – more like lightweight plywood. If you need something that will fit in your car you might want to try a nice textured blanket or a piece of black stretch velvet – I have a post on alternative backdrops coming up soon, so you might want to subscribe to the email updates so you don’t miss it.

  5. 8

    Jo Ellen says

    I love this idea!! These are awesome!! I love the gray one with the wood grain showing through. I just may have to buy some of these and try my hand at it. I am not a professional, just a Nana that loves taking pictures of my grandbabies. Thanks for posting this. I am loving your website. Lots of useful information I can use. Blessings!

  6. 9

    Talia says

    you have no idea how long I have looked around for a simple, cheap, yet easy to store backdrop!! this helped so much thank you!!!

  7. 10

    PJ @ Planned in Pencil says

    I love that the gray one still shows some of the wood grain, this is awesome! I would love it if you would share it at the Pinworthy Project Party tomorrow on Planned in Pencil, regardless I’m pinning now but I would love to share it with others there too!

  8. 11

    taylor says

    WOW you just saved me hundreds of dollars :) Thank you so much for sharing!!! Where do you buy the clips to hold the fabric to the backdrop?! I am going to go to Lowes Sunday to buy the boards do you think they will have them there? :)

  9. 12

    Tammy sweet says

    I just have to say great marketing with the little boys picture that shows up on pintrest when you are searching around. My first reaction was lol, he is so cute and looks like my son with an attitude…..lol, great pic

  10. 14

    taylor says

    EEEEK! Thanks :) I am so excited to try this out I would love to share my pictures with you once I get them taken probably tomorrow because she will be 10 days tomorrow!!!!

  11. 15

    Courtney says

    Thanks for sharing these are great ideas! I’m an amateur photographer on a tight budget & just getting started & have been looking for some cheap backdrop ideas as they are so expensive for me right now! & I love that they won’t take up much space I could slide these under my bed! Thanks again!

    • 16

      autumn says

      Under the bed would be a perfect place to keep them! I keep mine out in my garage, but under the bed would be even easier – thanks for the idea!

  12. 17

    Kaye says

    Great ideas! Just discovered your site from Pinterest. Will sign up for newsletters so I can read more of your posts. Thanks so much for all the great tips and tricks!

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