GEAR REVIEW - LASTOLITE URBAN COLLAPSIBLE BACKDROPS
One of the biggest challenges of studio photography is being able to offer a broad variety of looks to clients or even for personal projects. While the desired clothing, makeup and lighting are all relatively simple to achieve in the grand scheme of things, having a set or backdrop that creates a scene is more difficult.
This problem can be greatly exacerbated if your studio isn't that spacious. There is only so much room to store light modifiers, props and equipment before it starts eating into your working area. Having lighting on wall mounted boom arms and vinyl backdrops on roller systems is a big bonus, but the plain black or white background can get old quite quickly, allowing boredom and stagnation to occur.
Thankfully Lastolite have come to the rescue with their newly designed range of "Urban" collapsible backdrops. These offer a wide variety of creative looks to photographers and include brick, stonework, rusted metal textures, graffiti and more. They are lightweight, easy to store and transportable if need be. Being reversible there is a different print on each side, so you get two looks in one, which makes their £160 price tag a bit more palatable!
The size makes them ideal for head and shoulders to three-quarter length shots. Some can be used horizontally whereas others like the brickwork would look a bit odd with vertical bricks. You could take full body shots against these, provided you can disguise the area where the floor and backdrop meet in some manner and it not look obvious in the photo. The floor would also need to be appropriate. No point having a graffiti wall with carpet under the models feet!
I currently own two of these and plan to add more in the future. They do make a valuable addition to the array of styles you can offer. While you may worry that certain ones will get a bit repetitive - with some fairly basic Photoshop skills you can isolate and change colours to suit, giving you a fresh look every time.
Each backdrop comes in its own heavy duty, circular, blue storage bag that Lastolite products are synonymous with. Some people may find them difficult to collapse down (as I did initially) but with practice and technique, it's fairly straightforward. I prefer to just leave them up and stacked against the wall behind the vinyl rolls, where they are quite safe.
There are cheaper alternatives out there. You could make your own DIY backdrops but again, if space is a limiting factor then the problem becomes storing them when not in use. As alluded to earlier, they are quite expensive but for the flexibility they offer, it's well worth biting the bullet and getting one at least. You're getting a Lastolite quality product and with care these will last for many years. They certainly make your photos look more dynamic, that's for sure.