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Creating a Photography Backdrop Using Vintage Materials

Image by Peter Ashton

A Guest Post by Gabriella Gallo

Coming up with unique backgrounds for portraits can be time consuming, and quite expensive. Vintage materials that can be found cheaply, will give your photos a new life, and keep your budget in check.

Using actual 3D materials will also give texture that is hard to achieve with the typical backdrop screen.

Vintage Wood Crates

Here in apple country, we see crates lined up along the orchards all year round. While the crates are functional in their box form, taking them apart and creating a wall has become a work of art that is now seen in homes and photography studios.

The beauty of the apple crate wall is that no two are alike, whether you choose a horizontal or vertical installation, the possibilities are endless, and gorgeous! You can typically find crates at yard sales and flea markets, or check your local Craigslist.

If you can’t find any crates, create your own wood slats by antiquing some wood using a mix of stains, stencils, and a hammer to make dents and scratches for an authentic look.

Vintage Ceiling Tiles

Subject in front of Vintage Ceiling Tiles

Lately, everyone is in love with vintage tin ceilings from farm houses. Tin tiles have been turned into frames, mirrors, back splashes, and more. As a photographer, taking the tiles from the ceiling and putting them on the wall will lend old world charm to your studio in an instant. If you want to take a shortcut, use foam photography backdrop tiles to build a wall to get the look of vintage tile. Much like the apple crate you can customize tiles, and create a vintage look by painting the tiles in your choice of colors and antique finishes.

Vintage Brick

One of the oldest and most versatile building products is brick. Vintage brick, with it’s coloring and unique personality, is a great addition to any photographer’s backdrops. The best way to gather bricks is by looking on your local Craigslist, or asking homeowners that may be removing a brick patio or driveway if you may have them. Using old bricks from projects will give an authentic look, and you are usually doing someone a favor by taking the bricks off their hands.

There you go! Three easy ways to use vintage materials as backdrops for your photographs. You’ll produce fabulous photos with a personal touch, and you’ll be doing the environment a favor by reusing materials that might otherwise end up in a landfill.

Gabriella Gallo helps photographers and others build professional href=”http://www.edecorativeceilingtiles.com/photography-backdrops/”>photo backdrops and other crafts from ceiling tiles.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Guest Contributor This post was written by a guest contributor to DPS. Please see their details in the post above.

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  • http://www.os-am.com OsmosisStudios

    Maybe its just me, but the example with the ceiling tiles looks like the subject and the chair he’s sitting on were pasted onto the ceiling tile background. In fact I;m certain of it.

    If you’re going to do that, at least make sure the two images are lined up so that it looks level.

  • http://photos.rickscheibner.net Rick

    There’s an abandoned auto repair shop by my parents’ house, made of brick, complete with an old fading “Shell” logo and a sign that says, “Magneto service”. :-) It’s a cool spot for portraits.

  • Mei Teng

    Love the vintage wood crates.

  • http://www.kerstenbeck.com Erik Kerstenbeck

    Hi

    I do a lot of studio work with a black or a white backdrop depending on the result I want to achieve. Your article about using a vintage backdrop is fascinating. I am actually thinking that “Vintage” is a new trend in modern photography! There are new SW packages out now that promote a vintage Polaroid or Film treatment. I saw a plastic Holga Lens for $30 to fit a Nikon DSLR! Hmmmm

    For this shot I used a decommisioned train as a backdrop, it helped to tell an interesting story.

    Condemned http://t.co/I3Cw4kP

    Regards, Erik

  • http://chewesmero.wordpress.com chew

    That wooden crate background is definitely a winner. =)

  • http://www.edecorativeceilingtiles.com Gabriella

    Actually the ceiling tile photo was taken by one of our customers, because the tiles are so lite they can be applied to a foam board which makes it easy to prop it different ways to get some more interesting angles.

    Erik – I love the condemned photo, signs make some of my favorite backgrounds!

    The best thing about wood crates is that no 2 are the same and you can take them apart and build custom designs, they are so attractive no matter how run down they are!

  • http://celesta.smugmug.com Celesta

    I like to use old fences and graffiti as a background. A fence, because of the relative flatness, is portable and can be installed and moved around in a studio.

    The shots below were shot using a green screen, with the fence and graffiti added in post-production, but they illustrate the idea:
    http://celesta.smugmug.com/Portfolio/Portraits/14179487_sCpJN#1048369921_u2hAV
    http://celesta.smugmug.com/Portfolio/Portraits/14179487_sCpJN#1046740428_DviiC

  • Peter

    I thought the idea was not to distract the viewer from the subject.

  • http://www.todaysphoto.org Rick Rouse

    Most anything out of the ordinary has the potential to be used as a backdrop. I know a couple who had their wedding photos taken in the midst of an orange grove with ripe oranges dangling everywhere, and it worked out quite well. Thanks for a wonderfully thought-provoking article.

  • ScottC

    The contributor’s link leads to a web site about Tin Ceiling tiles, the “apple crate” photo was taken in Cuba in 2007, and the portrait photo (no credited photog there) is so crooked it looks a Dutch angle attempt. I won’t even get into the lighting in the portrait, my on-camera flash can do better than that.

    I am lousy at portraits, but even I can do better than this and I try to keep distracting junk out of my backgrounds.

    This article is junk, written purely to promote the self-interest of the contributor.

  • http://www.thepixtakers.com/blog thepixtakers

    love the idea!!! must buy bigger house…

  • http://photos.rickscheibner.net Rick

    I am lousy at portraits, but even I can do better than this and I try to keep distracting junk out of my backgrounds.

    This article is junk, written purely to promote the self-interest of the contributor.

    But Scott, how do you really feel about it? :-)

  • http://www.blog.PhoenixRoseDesign.com Rose

    I like some of the ideas presented here, but wonder how practical it is for photographers who don’t have a studio. Perhaps the point to be taken away from this is that we should all keep your eyes open for great backdrops when we’re trying to put together a portrait session.

  • Low F-stop

    This was a pointless piece of space on your server. There are endless amounts of information that could have been expressed here about the use of industrial, post industrial, vintage, and contemporary backgrounds/backdrops in portraits. What were you thinking in writing this?

  • http://www.photography-backdrops.co.uk Clare Lockwood

    I really love the tin tiles, where would I find them in the UK and those apple crates are amazing I photograph new borns so crates like that would be excellent. Unfortunately in the uk they are not so easy to get hod of. The price of vintage crates on ebay is rediculous.

    Keep the good ideas coming, i’m gonna keep my eye on this page.

Some older comments

  • Clare Lockwood

    May 28, 2011 07:46 pm

    I really love the tin tiles, where would I find them in the UK and those apple crates are amazing I photograph new borns so crates like that would be excellent. Unfortunately in the uk they are not so easy to get hod of. The price of vintage crates on ebay is rediculous.

    Keep the good ideas coming, i'm gonna keep my eye on this page.

  • Low F-stop

    March 8, 2011 05:55 pm

    This was a pointless piece of space on your server. There are endless amounts of information that could have been expressed here about the use of industrial, post industrial, vintage, and contemporary backgrounds/backdrops in portraits. What were you thinking in writing this?

  • Rose

    March 6, 2011 08:26 pm

    I like some of the ideas presented here, but wonder how practical it is for photographers who don't have a studio. Perhaps the point to be taken away from this is that we should all keep your eyes open for great backdrops when we're trying to put together a portrait session.

  • Rick

    March 6, 2011 02:10 pm

    I am lousy at portraits, but even I can do better than this and I try to keep distracting junk out of my backgrounds.

    This article is junk, written purely to promote the self-interest of the contributor.

    But Scott, how do you really feel about it? :-)

  • thepixtakers

    March 5, 2011 08:52 pm

    love the idea!!! must buy bigger house...

  • ScottC

    March 5, 2011 08:20 pm

    The contributor's link leads to a web site about Tin Ceiling tiles, the "apple crate" photo was taken in Cuba in 2007, and the portrait photo (no credited photog there) is so crooked it looks a Dutch angle attempt. I won't even get into the lighting in the portrait, my on-camera flash can do better than that.

    I am lousy at portraits, but even I can do better than this and I try to keep distracting junk out of my backgrounds.

    This article is junk, written purely to promote the self-interest of the contributor.

  • Rick Rouse

    March 5, 2011 11:45 am

    Most anything out of the ordinary has the potential to be used as a backdrop. I know a couple who had their wedding photos taken in the midst of an orange grove with ripe oranges dangling everywhere, and it worked out quite well. Thanks for a wonderfully thought-provoking article.

  • Peter

    March 5, 2011 06:12 am

    I thought the idea was not to distract the viewer from the subject.

  • Celesta

    March 5, 2011 06:11 am

    I like to use old fences and graffiti as a background. A fence, because of the relative flatness, is portable and can be installed and moved around in a studio.

    The shots below were shot using a green screen, with the fence and graffiti added in post-production, but they illustrate the idea:
    http://celesta.smugmug.com/Portfolio/Portraits/14179487_sCpJN#1048369921_u2hAV
    http://celesta.smugmug.com/Portfolio/Portraits/14179487_sCpJN#1046740428_DviiC

  • Gabriella

    March 5, 2011 05:33 am

    Actually the ceiling tile photo was taken by one of our customers, because the tiles are so lite they can be applied to a foam board which makes it easy to prop it different ways to get some more interesting angles.

    Erik - I love the condemned photo, signs make some of my favorite backgrounds!

    The best thing about wood crates is that no 2 are the same and you can take them apart and build custom designs, they are so attractive no matter how run down they are!

  • chew

    March 5, 2011 04:53 am

    That wooden crate background is definitely a winner. =)

  • Erik Kerstenbeck

    March 5, 2011 04:17 am

    Hi

    I do a lot of studio work with a black or a white backdrop depending on the result I want to achieve. Your article about using a vintage backdrop is fascinating. I am actually thinking that "Vintage" is a new trend in modern photography! There are new SW packages out now that promote a vintage Polaroid or Film treatment. I saw a plastic Holga Lens for $30 to fit a Nikon DSLR! Hmmmm

    For this shot I used a decommisioned train as a backdrop, it helped to tell an interesting story.

    Condemned http://t.co/I3Cw4kP

    Regards, Erik

  • Mei Teng

    March 5, 2011 02:39 am

    Love the vintage wood crates.

  • Rick

    March 5, 2011 02:13 am

    There's an abandoned auto repair shop by my parents' house, made of brick, complete with an old fading "Shell" logo and a sign that says, "Magneto service". :-) It's a cool spot for portraits.

  • OsmosisStudios

    March 5, 2011 01:57 am

    Maybe its just me, but the example with the ceiling tiles looks like the subject and the chair he's sitting on were pasted onto the ceiling tile background. In fact I;m certain of it.

    If you're going to do that, at least make sure the two images are lined up so that it looks level.

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