Studio Backgrounds

Understanding backgrounds is crucial if you want to succeed in photography.

Backgrounds are the foundation on which we build our photographs. A background can make or break an image, so it’s crucial that you understand how to work with them.

There are a multitude of choices when it comes to backgrounds, both for studio photography and work on location. This photography class covers the main types of backgrounds and features a bonus clip on how to make your own.

In this class:

  • Commonly used materials for backgrounds
  • The most versatile background colours
  • How to change your background colours using lighting modifiers
  • Making your own photography background
  • Portable backgrounds for location work
  • Infinity coves

If you like this class, you may also enjoy Making a Canvas Backdrop.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


    1. Hi, I haven’t been able to acheive that myself, even my mobile wall has a thin join. The only way to do it would be to use plasterboard sheets and then have someone put a plaster render over all of it in the same way house interiors are done.

  1. Hola Karl estoy disfrutando mucho de los cursos, vi el video de los fondos y como fabricar un fondo con el canvas, pero no sé cómo o dónde encontrarlo, ¿me podrías facilitar el link? muchas gracias.

      1. Hi Kalr,
        Is the artist mount board a good background for small product photography? I mean, when I’ve searched for it online I found the Passpartout which goes arroud of a picture and also a “background paper”. Both of them has some notecible amount of visible fibers, which made me wonder if it would be visible when a light is hiting from certain angles, resulting in a non smooth enough background. Also Id loke to know thick it should be. Thabk you!

          1. Great! Another useful technique. Thank you so much.

  2. Hi Karl! I recently signed up and have been going through your lighting videos and have found them to be quite the resource. I look forward to going through your entire website. This is so much better than hopscotching from book to book, YT video to YT video. There are too many knowledge gaps using that method. Thank you for creating this website.

    So onto my question. Perhaps I missed it, but you didn’t mention muslin backgrounds in your video. What are your thoughts on those?

    1. Hi Emma, great to hear that you are enjoying the platform. Yes Muslin fabric backgrounds are an option but they are used more for portraiture and they are a material that can crease and fold. Sometimes this can be the required look, but when we think of backgrounds we need to think about what is the most suitable one for the subject being photographed. As you will see across many of my classes my decisions on backgrounds are based on the subject etc. My particular style is often for simple cleaner backgrounds to make my subject stand out.

      1. Based upon your work and how you craft your images, I can see that it is probably not the most desirable option. I am building up my business around serving the music community, specifically the classical community, which tends to favor a cleaner look as well. I’ll stick with the options you presented. Thank you for your response.

  3. hi , Karl, what do u think of washable matte PVC background… its really easy to handle, but sometimes I see reflections, not sure if its my fault or the background material generally have reflection.

    1. Hi Evelyn, if it is matte then you shouldn’t be getting direct reflections? We use matt acrylic and occassionally I’ve used PVC or vinyl but anything that reflects and image of the light source and doesn’t diffuse it isn’t really suitable as it’s going to make it difficult to work with. If you must use it and it’s wide enough then you can angle it away from parallel to see if that helps but that will reduce its effective width.

  4. Stephan Jarvis

    Hi Karl, I’ve somehow managed to fail at painting a sheet of MDF! I was wondering if you (or Tim) might be able to help. My board is 4 x 450 x 900mm. I got some matte paint (water-based as far as I can tell) and a roller (not foam which seems to have been a mistake). Rolled the paint on (rather conservatively and probably too aggressively), let it dry then rolled on another coat. However, it has dried all patchy, and more annoyingly the board has warped and won’t lay flat any more. Any suggestions so that I can do a better job next time would be most welcome!

    1. Hi Stephan, we use the short fluffy style rollers. The sponge ones don’t seem so good. Make sure it’s a decent brand of paint and is definitely water based paint. Make sure you mix your paint well before applying, we have perfect results with Dulux or Valspar paint. If it’s thin MDF or hardboard it may warp a bit but paint it on a flat floor and it should flatten out again? The only thing different here is we don’t normally paint sheets as small as you are describing, the smallest we’ve done is 120cm x 120cm 3mm hardboard. When we use actual mdf board it’s usually 9 or 12mm thick and won’t bend.

      1. Stephan Jarvis

        Thanks! I’m based in Japan, so no Dulux or Valspar paint for me, unfortunately 🙁 DIY stores here don’t have as much choice as in the UK. Will try again with a different roller and a thicker board!

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