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Translum: A Studio Essential for Creative & Unique Photography

Translum: A Studio Essential for Creative & Unique Photography

Translum is a unique backdrop that gives photographers perhaps the most useful material available for making white backdrops. It also happens to be a photographer’s best friend when it comes to transforming light.

This translucent roll of wrinkle-free plastic is similar to vellum, the plasticized cotton paper that is popular for architectural blueprints and tracing. Because of its opaque properties, Translum works as a highly efficient diffuser when placed over a light source. Think of the frosted glass effect.


Translum’s ability to soften light helps cut down on unwanted reflections. Photographers often use it to achieve a nearly shadowless look that can be very appealing and difficult to get otherwise. It’s easy to use because if one piece doesn’t do the trick, you can simply stack pieces until the light looks right.


Translum invites improvisation in the studio. You can even position a subject and lights behind it to achieve a gauzy silhouette. Considering all that Translum is capable of, it’s no surprise that many photographers consider it indispensable for portraiture, product photography, and many other applications where you want nuanced control over lighting.


Versatile and Reusable

Translum offers a dynamic alternative to traditional white muslins or paper backgrounds. Whereas a muslin shows texture in its fabric, Translum is seamless and provides an even, smooth look. And while seamless paper is a popular choice for a white backdrop, Translum is a more durable material that can be cleaned with a mild soap to restore its original whiteness following a shoot.

Translum’s diffusing qualities make it an ideal choice for a backdrop. It’s perfect for high-key situations. Photographers enjoy lighting it from behind to create a soft white background that eliminates texture. A paper backdrop, however, would show its texture if lit in this fashion. When lit from the front, Translum will give excellent results similar to seamless paper.

When not used as a backdrop, Translum is perfect for on-the-fly light diffusion. Some choose to hang it full-length so that the Translum reaches from ceiling to floor to create a large soft-box with a pair of flash units. It can also be placed in front of a window or open doorway to diffuse natural light. No more harsh shadows from that sunlit window!


Translum’s versatility is only limited by the imagination of the shooter. A pair of scissors makes quick work of it, as Translum can easily be cut into any shape or size. Because it bends it can be manipulated into almost any configuration you might need. Some objects simply won’t work in a traditional table-top light tent, whereas with Translum, it’s never a problem to tailor a perfectly-sized tent for your shoot.

A roll of Translum is relatively inexpensive considering all that you can do with it, making it the most cost-effective means of creating customized light diffusers for your projects. And once your shoot is done, you’ll be able to reuse the pieces next time.

If you need a seamless light box then Translum makes this possible. By placing the Translum upon a glass box, or simply upon a sheet of glass supported by a pair of sawhorses, the Translum will allow light to flow through from the bottom up. If you’ve ever seen photos of glass sculptures or jewelry illuminated from below, it’s likely that you were seeing Translum in action.

As mentioned, you can also try placing your subject and lights behind a sheet of Translum so that a vague silhouette is produced. You won’t be able to discern details but therein lies the beauty of this technique for it creates more impression than realism. You might even have your model lean into the backdrop to allow the material to flex against the silhouette. It’s yet one more look that can only be had with this amazing stuff called Translum.