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Backdrops for Photoshoots

Studio Backdrop: Textured Cyan

Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.

–Claude Monet
Andrea styled as a mermaid. She did her own hair and makeup for this photoshoot.

The textured cyan backdrop has primarily been used to photograph indoor mermaid photoshoots in the studio, although it has come in handy for retro-styled sets as well. I did not paint this backdrop, rather it was an inexpensive find on eBay. Score!

For indoor mermaid photoshoots, there are seven handmade crowns to choose from in the current line-up. Ironically, the crown Andrea is wearing was supposed to be a “simple” crown, a piece designed as “light and rustic” that could be worn in the pool. Ha! Somehow the crown took on a life of its own, as they often do, and I kept adding sparkly beads and strands of shells to the point of excess.

Nearing completion I still felt as if the crown needed some additional element despite “everything” that was going on with the design. My sister, Juliette, who is an artist extraordinaire, recalled having abalone stars that would be the final visual exclamation point, and went in search of them. Knowing we have something and then finding it can be a challenge for we sisters. Happily Juliette was able to quickly find the stars in her vast stash of beads and findings that she uses to make beautiful jewelry and one-of-a-kind art pieces. Scroll down to see photos of the making of the crown as well as additional images captured with the backdrop.

Behind the scenes capture by Valerie Pedersen.
I finished this crown over the Independence Day holiday in 2019 when I stayed with my sister, Juliette in Bisbee. We crafted for days and finished earrings and necklaces too (that we had started the previous year at the same time). I’m not quite sure where my mermaid crown obsession started but I cannot seem to stop making them.
The textured cyan backdrop is a perfect complement to Ashley’s retro styling. Make-up by Erika Christine Aguirre. Vintage hair styling by Maria Aurelia.
Mother and daughter, Lindsey and Campbell, in a retro-style mermaid setting. My sister, Juliette and I made the crowns, which I wrote about in the mermaid crown tutorial.
Savannah finished her fine art creative photoshoot as a mermaid. Hair by Claudia Ratcliffe and makeup by Areli Jones.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

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Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Teal

Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.

-Paul Klee
Andrea is wearing an olive colored shirt with fringe detail along with a turquoise squash blossom and a silver concho belt. This image was captured with a mix of natural light and a studio strobe.

One of the first things I learned about painting backdrops is that a backdrop isn’t finished until it is photographed. As you can see in the picture below, the backdrop is actually quite lighter in tone than how it appears in the above portrait of Andrea.

The base color of the backdrop is a blue gray color called Dragonfly by Behr. I wanted a turquoise hued backdrop but the name Dragonfly was a deal cincher. The color leans more towards teal than turquoise, if one wants to get into the nitty-gritty detail over it.

With the backdrops that I started painting towards the end of the project, I changed my technique and began mixing paint colors in the tray. It might be difficult to see in the photos (below) but the paints are thinned quite a bit with water. I didn’t have a formula for thinning the primer and paints, but generally I was aiming for a consistency of very thin pancake batter. I wasn’t stingy with adding water. I guesstimate that the ratio was around 40% water to 60% paint.

With some of the backdrops I added texture by using sea sponges to dab on color. At other times I worked in about two foot squares using a large brush that I sacrificed for the job of pounding two or more colors of paint together on the canvas. On the vintage pink canvas I employed a heavy duty spray bottle to apply multiple colors of very thinned paint all over the canvas. On the large charcoal gray canvas I splattered paint invoking the spirit of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock to create random texture.

The “teal” backdrop is comprised of five colors: dragonfly blue, charcoal gray, light gray, ocher and creamy white. The colors were applied to the canvas using the texture roller featured in the photo in the upper right corner.

I found that there is no wrong or right way to add texture. Just like there is no wrong or right way to take a photograph. At some point experience and instinct come together to create some magic. If you don’t like what you are creating, keep going, try new techniques and don’t stop until you are satisfied with the result.

My drawing 101 and 102 teacher at Saratoga Junior College in Northern California always said to not discard a drawing. She encouraged her students to work through dissatisfaction. Art, like life, is a series of decisions. Adjustments are made continually along the way as you learn and navigate the process. The great thing about painting is that if you don’t like what’s happening on the canvas, you can just let the layer dry and start afresh. Keep painting until you like what you see. Let the backdrop dry overnight and then photograph it the next morning. The camera will “see” the backdrop differently than your eyes do.

This backdrop has five colors, plus whatever colors they make when mixed together. When I thought that I perhaps went too far with too many colors the last thing I would do is create a light wash of the primary color. With a light hand I’d roll the paint (that was thinned a lot with water – perhaps 50%) over the entire canvas using the texture roller. I coined this step a “unifying wash” because that’s what it did. The primary color became a glaze on top of the backdrop and married all the colors.

Towards the end of the project I started adding leftover colors from some of the drops to the new drops I was painting. I felt that perhaps adding a bit of those colors would make a cohesive collection. Even if the effect is subtle I like the idea of complementary colors across the studio’s collection of backdrops.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

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Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Purple

Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

-Regina Brett
A full-length portrait of Andrea.

There are two types of people in the world. Those who like purple and those who don’t. I’m joking, of course, but it does seem as if the women I meet are rarely on the fence about the color. They either love it and seek it out, or despise it.

A couple of years ago I purchased a purple hand painted canvas backdrop via the internet. The color turned out to be not so much purple but periwinkle. In other words, the color had too much blue in it. I wanted more red in the mix for a darker, richer purple.

The difference between violet and purple is that violet appears in the visible light spectrum, or rainbow, whereas purple is simply a mix of red and blue. Violet has the highest vibration in the visible spectrum. While violet is not quite as intense as purple, its essence is similar. Generally the names are interchangeable and the meaning of the colors is similar.

Empowered by Color

The “easy” fix was to paint with a textured roller over the periwinkle backdrop with a variety of purple colors. I did not completely obliterate the original color, I just added more purple hues to the canvas until I was happy with the result. Purchasing paint samples from Home Depot came in handy. Not needing to buy a quart of paint for each desired color enabled me to be liberal with adding a variety of light, medium and dark purples to the canvas.

While painting I’d leave finished backdrops nearby, such as the rolled up vibrant green, so I could make sure that all the colors complimented each other. Sometimes I’d add bits of color from one backdrop to another. The apricot backdrop is in process on the floor. The backdrops need to be photographed in between coats because they look different on the floor versus in a photograph.

Purple combines the calm stability of blue and the fierce energy of red. Because the color purple is created with a strong warm and a strong cool color, the color retains both warm and cool properties.

-Jennifer Bourn, Bourn Creative
Selfie time. I was in the process of painting the chalk paint blue-gray backdrop when I noticed my purple t-shirt blended with the purple backdrop.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

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Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Vibrant Olive

Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.

-Pedro Calderon de la Barca
A three-quarter length portrait of Andrea. I particularly like how the dress matches her skin. The green backdrop has a touch of peachy orange tint to it.

A couple of years ago I purchased an olive green backdrop. I really liked how it photographed but didn’t use it often because it is small measuring about 4′ x 6′. It’s fine for photographing one person, but even then, most of the time I had to expand the backdrop when retouching the image in Photoshop.

The less time I need to spend in Photoshop the better. People seem to think there is a magic wand in Photoshop (which ironically there is a tool in Photoshop called magic wand but it’s powers are limited to making selections and masking… in other words, not a Harry Potter-style magic wand). All that sitting during retouching is slowly killing me – not joking – so the more I can get the image right in camera, the better.

Laura, a Wise Women: The 50 Over 50 Project participant, included her daughters, Valerie and Andrea, in two sets during her photoshoot. They were the first to be photographed on this hand painted backdrop.

This is a long way of communicating to you that the goal was to create a larger olive green backdrop that replicated the color of the small backdrop so I could photograph more than one person against it. As I described in the Old Masters Brown blog post, I brought the olive backdrop outside along with paint samples from Home Depot to assist with selecting the closest colors for the new backdrop.

For this backdrop I used a big brush to pound the wet colors together on the canvas to roughly blend and add texture. I’d refine areas using a sea sponge to blend.

The end result, interestingly enough, produced a more vibrant green than I anticipated. The smaller olive green backdrop is subdued and delivers almost an Old Masters oil painting tone for a background. The olive backdrop that I painted delivers a bigger punch of color that I did not expect, but quite like. It’s not what I was aiming for, but I’m happy nonetheless. Because this:

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

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Backdrops for Photoshoots

Studio Backdrop: Olive Green

For a warm earthy palette, add raw umber, cadmium red light, burnt umber and olive green.

–Lisa Buck-Goldstein
A full length portrait of Andrea.

Green is an interesting color in that it can be warmer or cooler depending upon how it is mixed. If a green has a lot of yellow, such as a lime green, it is considered warm. A green that has more blue, such as a Kelly green, is considered cool. I love that Pam’s dress below has both the warm and cool tones and how the green enables the red in the dress and lipstick to really pop. The bold print of the dress works well here, too.

Pam participated in the Wise Women: 50 Over 50 Project. The backdrop perfectly complimented the tones in her dress. Side note: Pam made the fabulous earrings she’s wearing in this photo.

This backdrop is small, only measuring about 4’x6′. I find I use it most when it is layered with other backdrops. In the two images above, the olive green backdrop is paired with the Old Masters brown, and a medium gray backdrop is placed on the floor.

With feathered light, the backdrop takes on a darker tone and is perfect for a painterly-style portrait. A painterly-style portrait is when we are intentionally making an image to incorporate qualities of an oil painting. In the following photograph, Miranda’s auburn hair looks amazing against the olive green color. The palette is warm. The soft tones subtly convey a mother’s love for her child.

Painterly-style maternity portrait of Miranda. The cohesive tones in this image are muted and beautiful. The studio has many crowns to choose from when adding a creative set to your stylized photoshoot.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

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Backdrops for Photoshoots

Studio Backdrop: Old Masters Red

There is a shade of red for every woman.

-Audrey Hepburn
Portrait of Andrea. Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Five hundred years later, his words are still true.

Red was the first backdrop that I purchased for the studio. I agonized over the decision for an entire day before hitting the buy button. Hand painted backdrops are not inexpensive items – especially in a larger size – so I could not be cavalier about the decision. A more neutral backdrop would have perhaps been the wiser choice, but I’ve never regretted the decision. When a girl wants a pop of color, she wants a pop of color.

Maddie in a variant of Marie-Antoinette styling. I decorated the wig on the fly, letting my intuition guide me on where the jewels, flowers and embellishments should be pinned.
Painterly portrait of Trina in the Old Master’s style. Trina visited the studio to be photographed for the Wise Women: The 50 Over 50 Project.
Ursula looking fierce and fabulous.
Ashley and Chris in a fun, stylized set.

If one says ‘Red’ – the name of color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.

-Josef Albers, Painter and Designer, 1888-1976
1920s inspiration for this high school senior session with Savannah.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

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Backdrops for Photoshoots

Studio Backdrop: Vintage Pink

Every woman should have something pink in her wardrobe. It is the color of happiness.

-Christian Dior
Andrea and I contemplated this color combination for awhile. We took the dress and hung it on the backdrop and stood back, assessing the colors together. I really like how her lipstick perfectly matches the color of her dress. Scroll down to see a more monochromatic pink on pink pairing.

I didn’t realize how much I like the color pink until I started photographing it. For as much as I love color, my personal wardrobe is filled with black, like my heart (just kidding… it’s what popped into my head as I was typing).

There are two reasons I predominately wear black. First, it is a slimming color. I feel my best when I wear dark colors. For the greater part of my adult life I have struggled with maintaining a healthy weight (which I confronted and addressed in 2020). Second, black camouflages stains. Unfortunately I tend to spill things on myself way too often so black mostly hides those pesky coffee, chocolate, red wine and crafting stains. #kiddingnotkidding

My color reference for painting the backdrop was this phenomenal tulle robe. Isn’t it dreamy and wonderful? Before declaring a backdrop finished, I hung and photographed it with a color reference to verify the colors between the paint and fabric were complementary. And this is how it looks in a portrait, just as I imaged how fabulous it would be:
Trina was so excited to wear the tulle robe for one her six looks. Doesn’t she look magnificent? She participated in the Wise Women: 50 Over 50 Project.

I noticed one day, while perusing through my portfolio, that I frequently photograph pink on both the gold and blondie silver backdrops, and in front of the Bay window to capture the ethereal look that I adore. And let’s not forget the flower wall, which has a plethora of pink and peach colored flowers.

Evelyn visited the studio to participate in the Wise Women: The 50 Over 50 Project. This is her husband’s favorite image from her portfolio. A scroll stopper for sure. Notice how the pink backdrop is brighter in this image and darker in the one above. The pink can be toned to match the mood of the image.

When I embarked upon The Backdrop Project, I decided that I wanted a pink backdrop. I ended up adding in a bit of a chocolate color to give the backdrop some depth. I also painted this backdrop towards the end of the project when I was feeling freer to experiment with painting techniques. Maybe it was from smelling paint fumes for nearly two weeks in a closed up house at the end of a very hot, almost monsoonless, July.

I added texture to the backdrop by spraying thinned paint through a heavy duty spray bottle that I purchased at Home Depot. The nozzle eventually clogged and gave its last spray. Fortunately, the death of the spray bottle was toward the end when I was questioning whether the drop was finished. I’m frequently asked how I know when a creative project is done. In this case, the sprayer was done so I was done.

The spray bottles worked overtime during The Backdrop Project.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

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Backdrops for Photoshoots Tutorial

Studio Backdrop: Apricot

Colours are the smiles of nature.

-James Henry Leigh Hunt
When in doubt, go monochrome. Andrea did just that for this image featuring hues of peach and apricot.

Back in the late 90s, my family and I lived in San Jose, California. My husband and I purchased our first home during a pro-seller market. Houses were selling quickly after being listed and often there were bidding wars. It was a dream come true to successfully navigate those nerve-wracking real estate market conditions and to finally own a home, a home that I could decorate the way I wanted. A home that had a large backyard with green grass and an enormous mulberry tree, a large cherry tree and two mature apricot trees that produced the most amazing fruit.

It was during that time that Pottery Barn introduced faux painted walls to the masses. I loved turning the pages of their dreamy catalog and seeing the beautifully colored and textured walls with admiring eyes. After living in rentals with white walls, I wanted to live with color. My sister, Linda, bless her heart, visited for an extended period of time and taught me how to faux paint after she had mastered the technique after experimenting with painting the walls in her home.

The completed purple backdrop in the background with the apricot backdrop drying in the foreground. Towards the end of the backdrop project I started mixing the paint colors in the tray and lightly picking them up with the textured roller.

Together Linda and I faux painted the living room apricot with accents of terracotta. The colors in the backdrop are similar except that the walls in my California home were darker. After the painting was complete, I purchased velvet curtains from Pottery Barn for the big window. My living room looked like it had been photographed for a magazine. I was in interior designer heaven.

Continuing on we faux painted the family room and master bedroom a subtle yellow, the color of a Bee’s wax candle. The kitchen’s accent wall was painted a reddish terracotta and carried through to the entry way and down the bedroom wing’s hall. The dining room and guest bedroom featured seafoam green walls. My daughter’s room was purple. The au pair’s room a light blue. It sounds awful, like a big color mishmash, but it worked.

During the month of July 2020, during the extended Covid-19 quarantine, I embarked upon what I coined, The Backdrop Project. I spent weeks painting photography backdrops in similar hues to the colors I chose for the walls of my California ranch home. (What goes around, comes around.) Linda and I only used brushes on the walls in California to blend and mix the paint. A textured roller from Home Depot was infinitely easier to work with to add texture to many of the backdrops, including the apricot hued canvas featured in this post.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

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Backdrops for Photoshoots

Studio Backdrop: Vibrant Gold

Why fit in when you were born to stand out.

—Theodor Seuss Geisel
Andrea was excited to wear black lipstick to match her black wardrobe.

As the proverb goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I purchased a gold backdrop many years ago and it is one of my favorites to use to help create painterly-style portraits. Its limitation is that it is small. I set out to paint a larger backdrop using the gold backdrop as a color reference.

I brought the gold backdrop outdoors into the sun and I laid paint color samples from Home Depot directly on the backdrop to help with the selection process. I chose three colors: a light, mid-tone and dark to blend together on the canvas.

I thought I did a good job selecting the colors but in the final analysis I didn’t quite nail it. The backdrop turned out to be a much more vibrant gold than I had anticipated. I decided two gold backdrops are better than one. The older, smaller backdrop is more subdued and the newer, larger one is more vibrant.

The small gold backdrop that I love so much is hanging in front of the unpainted canvas lying on the floor. It was there to act as a visual reference as I painted the new larger canvas.
My husband captured this photo of me painting the backdrop in our family room.
Oh how she glows.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

Andrea is wearing her own black bodysuit paired with the studio’s tulle skirt and lace stilletos.
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Backdrops for Photoshoots

Studio Backdrop: Gold

Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.

-Maya Angelou
As you can see from this portrait of Andrea, the gold backdrop – layered here with the blondie silver – is not large. On the bright side, the smaller size makes it portable. Andrea paired her shimmering top with one of the studio’s sequin covered skirts for an eye-pleasing mostly monochromatic look.

This gold backdrop has been a studio favorite since the day it arrived. It has strong texture which is ideal for creating portraits that have a painterly look. A painterly style in photography is a term used to describe characteristics of paintings, including colors and textures. If a photograph has characteristics of a painting, it is defined as having a painterly style.

Maddie with Marie Antoinette-inspired styling, traditional posing, unified tones and a variety of textures is intentionally painterly. Yes, that’s really a tin ship atop her head.
This legacy portrait of Ursula and her daughter is soft and beautiful and will be in their family for generations.
Lovely Devi is a Wise Women: 50 Over 50 Project participant. The Jessica McClintock blue velvet coat has been in Devi’s wardrobe since the 1980s. Velvet is always a great choice for a photoshoot because of the rich tones and resistance to wrinkles.
Sisters make my heart sing. They loved the Charlie’s Angels vibe.
Savannah is radiant in gold. The BCBG evening dress that she is wearing is part of the studio’s wardrobe collection.

Interested in learning more about what the studio has to offer? Click on the following links to jump to the studio’s portfolio of images, and download a digital copy of the studio’s Magazine and Style Guide to learn how to prepare for your photoshoot:

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.