Extending the Life of Your Vinyl Background
For the photographer looking for durability and cost-savings, vinyl backdrops are the ideal studio portrait background choice. Because they are tear and dent-resistant, rarely does a vinyl backdrop need to be trimmed to cut off a used portion. If your specialty is pet and children portraiture or involves messy or liquid food shots, vinyl backdrops are a cinch to clean up. White vinyl backdrops make it easy to produce beautiful hi-key portraits.
Although vinyl backdrops can withstand the test of a busy, high-volume studio, proper care is still needed for them. It all starts with the unwrapping. Be sure to remove all shipping tape and staples that hold the end caps in place using needle nose pliers. This prevents any damage as you slide out your roll. Hold on to the shipping tube. Storing your new vinyl backdrop in the packing is just one of many ways to ensure your backdrop stays intact and wrinkle-free.
Flat, Rolled or Hung?
Every type of photography backdrop is prone to damage and none should ever be stored lying flat. The weight will eventually collapse the roll leading to both wrinkles and creases. That leaves us with the vertical, rolled or hung options. No matter which you choose, all vinyl backdrops should be stored at room temperature as a cool room will make the material stiff and inflexible. If your storage room has cooled over night and you find a few wrinkles in the morning, simply hang and use a warm setting on a hair dryer to remove them.
Some photographers have success by placing the backdrop vertically in a custom made unit, or in a garbage can. Accessorizing either with rollers makes it easy to move them around in your storage area or brought on set. If you have the budget, you can also find numerous ready-made units that fit anywhere from 8 up to 50 rolls. While this technique may work for some, there is still the chance of wrinkling and denting on one end of the roll.
A better vertical storage solution for your vinyl backdrop is a foam storage clip, like the Paper Clip, that comes in a set of 2. Each pair holds up to 12 rolls and can be easily placed along any wall space. It also allows you to quickly find colors as well as take inventory and keeps the rolls clean and damage free.
Having multiple rolls available during your shoot is not only an efficient way to work but also a great storage solution for vinyl. There are many strong, but lightweight models available such as the Multiple Polevault Stand. It holds up to three rolls, requires no tools to set up and weighs only 15 lbs.
A third option is to cut a portion of backdrop off your roll and hang each piece on a speed rack that is mounted to your wall. This allows you to flip through each color and move away as needed. It works best if you know ahead of time how much background you will need and would work well when shooting headshots.
How to Keep Your Vinyl Backdrop Clean
Soil marks, paint, and dirt can quickly be wiped away with a damp sponge or clean rag. The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and a few drops of water also works nicely. Never use petroleum-based products. They will extract the plasticizers in the vinyl, leave it hard and brittle, and eventually cracking may occur.
Of course, preventing the dirt in the first place is the optimum best practice. To avoid scuff marks from model’s shoes, simply tape blue painters tape on the soles. The tape easily comes off and does not leave a mark. Another option is to have the model stand on shiny, white tile board.(3) You can find them for about $15 at a home repair store. This works especially well if you are shooting a high-key portrait and lighting the backdrop for pure white making the tile board blend in seamlessly.
(1) How Do You Store Backdrops? (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.bp4ublog.com/photo-tips/how-do-you-store-backdrops/ (2) Vinyl Upholstery Cleaning Guide. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://veada.com/vinyl_cleaning_guide.pdf (3) Working with Vinyl Backdrops and Keeping it Clean. (October 4, 2012). Retrieved from http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3278549