It used to be that to get a really great frame-worthy photo of your child, you had to go to a photo studio and pay someone to take the photos and then pay even more for every single print you wanted. These days you can get great photos of your kids are home with two things: 1) good light, and 2) a great background. I’ve shared a number of DIY photography backdrop options in the past, but if you want the most professional looking photo, a seamless paper backdrop is the way to go.
***Ok, quick disclaimer: if you really want a professional looking photo, your best bet is to go to a professional. There’s a reason pros are pros. However, if you don’t want to pay for photos every time you want to update your wall, you can get great photos at home with your own camera if you learn a few tips.***
Seamless paper is used to create a plain background that goes behind the subject of the photo and also extends to the floor under her feet, like you see here:
It’s commonly used in professional photo shoots, and you’ll often see it in catalogues, because the plain background puts all the emphasis on the subject. But it’s perfect for home use too! Seamless paper comes on a roll like wrapping paper but it’s much thicker and more durable. It’s sold in different widths; the width I use is 53 inches (so about 4.5 feet wide) and costs $25 per roll at B&H Photo or around $36 w/free shipping at Amazon. You just roll out the amount you need for your photoshoot, and then roll it back up when you’re done and reuse next time. If the part you used gets dirty or wrinkled after a few photoshoots you can just cut it off because each roll has 12 yards of paper on it.
In the past I’ve often photographed my kids in front of a plain wall in my house, which works fine, but just look how much cooler photos on seamless paper are:
The 53 inch wide rolls work great for 1-2 people at a time (maybe 3-4 kids if they’re positioned very close together). If you want to photograph groups, you’d probably want the wider version (107 inches for about $45/roll), but the 53 inch rolls are the easiest to manage in your own home. You can purchase backdrop stands for seamless paper, but they’re a bit of an investment ($100 and up). Don’t worry; next week I’ll show you a whole bunch of easy and inexpensive DIY ways to hang seamless background paper. Or you can just cheat and do what I did for these photos: just roll the paper out on the ground then up a wall and use masking tape to keep it in place while taking photos:
Totally not the best way to use seamless paper, but it works for now since we’re in a short-term rental and I can’t actually mount anything to the wall. If the floor you’ll be on is at all slippery it’s a good idea to tape the paper down to the floor to make sure it doesn’t slide when people step on it. Sweep the floor first! Then set things up and have your subject stand right in the middle of the paper:
Zoom in so the paper fills the entire frame, or plan to crop and do a bit of cleaning up in post processing.
If you’d like to use seamless paper in a room with carpet, you’ll need a piece of plywood or some other hard flat surface to put down on the carpet first before you roll the paper out on it, otherwise the paper will get crinkled and ripped when someone stands on it.
Be sure that the paper makes a nice gentle curve away from the wall where it hits the ground; if the paper comes straight down the wall and bends out in a harsh curve at the ground you’ll end up seeing a dark shadow there. I should have had the paper pulled out a little further from the wall in this next photo – you can see how it looks dark behind her legs because the paper was tucked too close to the corner where the wall and floor met. Still a cute photo, though.
One of the best things about seamless paper is that it comes in a gazillion different colors, so you can choose whether you want a nice neutral background or a beautiful pop of color. This photo was taken with Baby Blue seamless, which I love!:
This one with Thunder Gray:
And here’s one on Super White:
To show you a few more colors, I asked a few pro photographers if I could share some images. This first one is from HM Butler Photography in Bunbury, Western Australia. The color is carnation pink:
This next one is from Little Bubbles Photography in Gainesville, Virginia. The color is mocha:
And this last one is another example of white seamless by Tout Petit Pixel in Marseille, France.
The last thing I want to mention is light. For good photos inside your home, you need lots of natural light coming in from windows (open all the blinds and even any doors that lead outside if it’s not too cold to get as much light from as many sources as possible). Overhead lights should be turned off – they cast weird shadows that don’t look good in photos – and DO NOT USE your on camera flash. You want to take photos in a room that gets plenty of light from large windows, and you want to take photos at the time of day the room is brightest without having the sun shining directly in it. Read this post for more info. If you find that you’re getting a very harsh shadow behind your subject that means light is shining directly in the window and you need a different time of day. A soft shadow generally means your subject is standing too close to the background and should take a step or two forward.
One of the best places to get great natural light is in your own garage. Read this post to find out how to set up a super simple garage photo studio: DIY garage photography studio
Remember to brighten your photos, especially when you’re using white background paper because if you’re shooting on AUTO your camera may underexpose photos with a white background.
Anyone ever used seamless background paper? Tell me what colors I should get next!