Quite a way to sell a product, isn't it? Recently, I got the idea that I wanted to start including some sort of backdrop into my work. Babies look much better in front of a solid background, rather than just in some person's living room, or something that wasn't supposed to be in the background of the photos, and...who knows....maybe one day I'll have a need for a photobooth! Originally, I picked up the CowboyStudio Backdrop Kit which came with cloth (muslin) backdrops, a frame and stands, and a few shoot-through umbrellas. Actually, I want to say it was this kit, but that's really beside the point. The kit got to the house, and while it's served its purpose, I wasn't completely happy with the backdrops. Little did I realize that the muslin backdrops were going to be as thin as they were, and that I would want to replace them as quickly as I did. The issue with the backdrops existed in the fact that if there was ANY light source behind the backdrop, it was going to show through, and a lot of that was going to have to be removed in post-processing.
The actual stand, frame, umbrellas and light stands were fantastic, especially at that price point. It was a low-cost, start-up studio light kit and, considering I had no plans to ever open a studio, it would serve its purpose. At some point in time (probably during one of my shoots), after having ironed the backdrop for the umpteenth time, I realized that I wanted to get something better.
I should take a moment to mention that I've always been a fan of the CowboyStudio products. They sell cost-effective equipment for photographers who don't make millions of dollars for their work, and with a little DIY knowledge and elbow grease, can actually produce some stunning photos. A lot of the equipment that I take with me on shoots is CowboyStudio product, and I don't think I've bought a single thing that I wasn't happy with (despite my qualms with their muslin).
With these thoughts in mind, I picked up the CowboyStudio 9'x15' Seamless Vinyl White Backdrop and added it to my photographer's toolbox. I wanted to review this product, after having used it on a few shoots, in the hopes that I could provide some insight for folks that may be searching for a similar product!
I should say, first and foremost, that this product gets two thumbs up from me. If you take nothing else from this review, know that I love this product and I am really pleased that I picked it up. I have very few complaints about it and think that it's probably one of the better items sold by CowboyStudio. So, let's break it down, shall we?
The first thing you might notice about this item is the price. You're getting 135 sq. ft. of seamless, white vinyl for a mere $55. That's pretty tough to come by these days, and an incredible deal. The item really is seamless, and that's fantastic, coming from what was more-or-less a really wrinkly bedsheet. With a little exposure adjustment, and proper lighting, you would swear you were looking at a completely white wall in any photos you take against the background. Wrinkles only exist if you fail to smooth this out when you put it up on the frame, and with the proper preparation, you'll have a background that looks like something the pros might use!
While never having used paper, I can say that this product is pretty heavy duty and, unlike paper, isn't easily ripped or torn. Since it's vinyl, you can simply wipe marks and stains off of it with a wet rag (something you cannot do with paper or cloth). This product works a lot better on hard surfaces, but can also work on carpet. On a recent shoot with a young child, we thought it would be a great idea to sprinkle glitter and confetti on him. A simple once-over with a broom, and the vinyl came clean.
What Doesn't Work?
First off, you're going to need to add a few items to this to make it a complete package. The backdrop only comes with the backdrop. I would recommend picking up the CowboyStudio Frame and some sort of muslin clips. All of the shots that I took for this review were done with an external flash and the lights in my basement, nothing more, nothing less. You could add some sort of umbrella setup, but it's not necessary.
I would probably also list the fact that this is just a piece of vinyl as a negative. It doesn't come on any sort of stable, sturdy tube, instead arriving on a flimsy cardboard tube akin to that which holds up Christmas wrapping paper. A 9' piece of PVC would work wonders, or you can just keep clipping it to the frame. There are a lot of DIY solutions to that problem, it just requires a little googling!
I really have to recommend this product to anyone who needs a backdrop, wants to experiment with backdrop photography, or just has an extra $55 laying around. It's sturdy, heavy-duty, and absolutely solves just about every problem I had with the original cloth backdrops. I may even pick up a black colored piece, just to complete the set. Pick this bad boy up and add it to your tool set at your earliest convenience!