Props & Accessories

Best Practices

Quite frequently Alba gets asked questions about what props would be suitable for certain backdrops.  Another issue is "How do I disguise the boundary between the backdrop and the floor if I choose to only buy the backdrop without a floor?".  Both topics are closely related as it would be hard to cover up the area where the backdrop meets the floor without having some sort of prop to do the job, whether it be a surfboard or a length of fabric.

Example of poorly matched floor

There are, of course, dos and don'ts in this arena like anything else.  The important factor is not to mix media such as putting Mylar with a woodsy scene or logs in front of an outer space backdrop.  You may think "Why on earth would anyone do such a thing?" but, in over 30 years of backdrop manufacturing, we've seen it all, believe me.  Keep the materials congruent to the theme or environment and you are off to a good start.  In the coming months, Alba will be taking on the task of suggesting props with most of our backdrops in our products pages.  There will be backdrops which we feel do not have the need for props.  There is such a thing as over doing it.  Event backdrops are meant to relay a story to or, at a minimum, evoke an emotion from the viewer.  Cluttering up a scene will only result in visual chaos.

When a photographer is scouting a given shoot location, he or she should be cognizant of a great many things in order to negate surprises during the shoot.  We will present an orderly list of those important things to be aware of at another time but there are some salient points which should be at the top of everyone's list such as ceiling height.  This can be really problematic if the shooting location happens to be on board a ship.  Don't assume that since the ceiling is ten feet tall that you have sufficient height.  If you are in the habit of using an umbrella, very often you will want the height of it to be greater than ten feet so as to create a "nose loop".  Another important point is "working" electrical outlets.  When scouting your location, take a outlet tester with you to be sure all are in working order.  Locate the electrical panel and ask if, for example, you will be sharing the output with the "sound guy".  The location issue that is pertinent to us here is the permission given by the facility where the shoot is to take place that allows you to use certain props for your shoot.  For example, can you bring sand in for the Tropical scene?  Will you be allowed to adhere your backdrop floor to the wood floor using duct tape?  Does the hay you want for your Sadie Hawkins dance have to be made fire-retardant first?  This list can be lengthy and it pays to get the permissions prior to your shoot.

Pure Country
Alba Backgrounds: Pure Country

Let's explore a couple of ideas which will solve both the boundary and the prop issue in one fell sweep.  We mentioned a Sadie Hawkins dance so, here is a take on how to disguise the boundary as well as create atmosphere in the foreground.  We have a backdrop of the sun to the right, setting on a field with a big, red barn off to left. Now the foreground.  Take two asymmetrical size boxes and place them just behind and either side of where the subjects will be photographed.  Then, form chicken wire in a semi-circle around the back of the subjects and on top of the chairs or boxes. Create a dip in the middle to expose more of the backdrop.  This will serve to draw the eye in to the background scene. Once that's done you then sprinkle generous handfuls of hay or straw atop the chicken wire, making sure all gaps are filled in.  Scatter the hay or straw all around the floor and place a bale in the middle horizontally, at forty five degrees to the camera.  The bale is a great posing tool and will give you a myriad of posing options such as having one person sit on the bale while the other stands behind with one leg up on the bale, slightly crouched over, resting a hand on the sitting person's shoulder.  Voila!  Simple but very effective.

I admittedly mentioned bringing real sand into a facility for a tropical shoot but that's not always a practical idea.  Disguising the area between your 10x10 backdrop and the floor can be handled in a couple of ways.  One is to create the appearance of standing on a lanai looking toward the lapping water (backdrop).  A couple of wooden pallets pushed together with palm fronds, real or fake, can be strewn over them with tiki torches standing either side.  Maybe a partial view of a surf board can be set on edge at one side and a large, colorful cooler on the other.  Props such as beach balls, towels, water skis, beach umbrellas and even a jet-ski, why not? Plus, these types of props can also be interactive with the subjects, like holding a basketball.

Holiday seasons can be as easy or as difficult as you wish them to be in terms of props.  I really enjoy it when I see one of our winter landscapes being used in conjunction with flocked trees, sleighs, skis etc.  Logs with artificial snow powdered atop just gives the scene so much atmosphere and realism. I've even seen picturesque, snowy backdrops with snowmobiles adorn gym floors made to look like the subjects were blazing a trail somewhere in the Bavarian Alps.  Mardi Gras, in recent years, has really taken off in popularity nation-wide.  I guess the rest of the country is somewhat jealous of the fact that New Orleans has all the fun at that time of year so, they just join in.  The occasion is so colorful and vibrant, why wouldn't you want to join in?  Using the traditional color scheme of yellow/gold, purple and green, images of majestic courts and fanfare come to mind.  Venetian masks adorned with pearls and gemstones in the brightest of colors all contribute in celebrating this happy, festive occasion.  Props might include, wrought iron bench and street lamp, balloons in the aforementioned colors, streamers, crazy large strings of beads, masks, court jester hats, king cakes, feather boas and voodoo paraphernalia.

Extreme Photography Locker Room
Photo Courtesy Extreme Photography-Yakima, WA

We look forward to adding prop suggestions to our product pages and we think that this should really prove an asset to all our customers.  We would very much welcome your input in this regard as well.  Our clients continually surprise us with their creativity and ingenuity.  Feel free to email us or use the contact page to contribute your own prop suggestions and ways you feel would improve our products and services.

Dedrick - Alba Backgrounds
"You don't take a photograph, you make it". ~ Ansel Adams

Main Photo Courtesy Extreme Photography-Yakima, Washington