Photography Backgrounds: Paper Backgrounds
This is a continuation of my Photography Studios Background Guide. You can find the previous article dealing with Muslin here.
Paper photography backgrounds, often called continuous paper backgrounds, are typically machine operated rolls of solid color paper. These rolls range from a variety of length, usually between twelve and fifty yards, and typically come in three widths: 107″, 53″, and 26″. These rolls are usually wound around a single core and shipped in sturdy cardboard or crates to keep them from getting bent or damaged before they are used.
Continuous paper backgrounds are actually fairly common among many high end photographers. This is because the paper used in photography studio backgrounds is a fine tooth quality paper that prevents reflection, allowing photographers to create a seamless background without having to over- or underexpose the background, as they would need to do with muslin or canvas. This makes continuous paper rolls a valuable asset to many fashion photographers, whose work requires a solid background that can be worked into advertising. Since the roll is continuous ones the current sheet the photographers are working with is dirty, torn, or for any other reason just needs to be replaced it can be torn away and a new background can be rolled out.
One major advantage to continuous paper backgrounds is that most are machine operated to prevent human error when rolling out a new back ground. Once the photographer removes the old paper background they can simply press a button to start rolling out a new sheet to the length they need. Many of these machines will actually roll up the sheets once the photographer is done shooting, providing that the sheet doesn’t need to be removed. A primary advantage to this machine is not only the ease of setup, but also by allowing the machine to work with gravity to roll out a background the paper will create a perfect floor to wall background with a slight roll making it impossible to define the floor from the wall.
Continuous paper backgrounds are the cheapest physical background a photographer can use in their studios, costing between $30-$50 per roll and allowing them to choose between a wide variety of colors. A rolling system itself is only a one time cost of $200-$300, as well.
The biggest disadvantage to a continuous paper background is quite simply: It’s paper. Which means is is among the least durable of all the background materials. A model who missteps will rip the background without even trying. While there are some higher end papers out there, they are still just paper. The cost of replacing these papers can get rather expensive depending on the number of colors and frequency of use you have. Even at $30 a roll if your replacing the roll once a month that is $360 a year for a single roll.
Another disadvantage to the paper background is that it is only really a viable background when dealing with certain scenarios, such as fashion, commercial, and product photography. If you are doing a regular portrait shoot then you run the problem that a continuous background looks very awkward in most portrait situations, making the image look flat, and not allowing any sort of background.