With so many awesome qualities, it’s no wonder vinyl backdrops have become the new standard for product and food photographers. Available in unlimited colourways and a huge range of replica textures, these contemporary studio staples are also portable, durable and easy to clean…
Needless to say, we at Club Backdrops can sing the praises of our product all day long, but although we can promise many things, we cannot claim that they are indestructible! If you want to get the most from them, and prolong their life for as long as possible, there are a few very simple rules to follow. So keep reading as we check out five things NOT to do with vinyl backdrops!
1. Don't forget to prep your surface
When inspiration strikes, it’s tempting to get started shooting as quickly as possible. But if you want to keep your tools of the trade in top condition it’s important to do a little housekeeping first. Yes this sounds exactly like your nan telling you to wash behind your ears, but guess what? She was right!
Before getting your backdrop down, give the supporting surface (eg. tabletop) a wipe to ensure it is free from grit and debris. Similarly, before placing anything on top of the backdrop, sweep a soft cloth over it and clean the underside of props which will make contact with the print.
One of the ways that vinyl backdrops commonly become blemished is during storage. If multiple backdrops are to be rolled or stacked together, it is vital to clean the back, as well as the front, of the vinyl. This prevents dirt from the underside of one 'drop damaging the top print of another. So just remember to give the supporting surface AND backdrop a clean each time you switch the scene up, and never forget those back sides! 😋
2. Don't use with a heat source
At the end of the day, plastic is plastic, and that’s exactly what vinyl backdrops are made from. We suggest that you exercise caution when using with items that are above room temperature, and NEVER in direct contact with anything warmer than you could comfortably hold in your bare hands.
If you are looking to use them with ‘hot props’, the simple addition of a chopping board, slate or plinth between the backdrop and heated surface will prevent it from becoming damaged. Another trick is to add a sheet of glass on top of the backdrop, which creates a shiny, reflective look while protecting the vinyl from heat.
3. Don't use with oils or pigments (without testing first)
Vinyl can take all the water-based liquids you can chuck at it. From honey to salsa to exploding beer cans — you can feel free to get as messy as the shoot requires. Even a little extra if you’re feeling in a filthy mood! But when it comes to oil-based or heavily pigmented substances, there is always a chance that your backdrop will become permanently stained. This risk is increased by the amount of time that the stuff sits on the surface.
If using a liquid or pigmented powder for the first time and it’s going to touch the print directly, we would 100% recommend doing a patch test in advance. Apply to an area which is out of the way (like the branded corner) and leave for the same amount of time as it will be in contact with the surface.
Once again, you can consider using a sheet of glass or perspex on top of your backdrop to shield it from oily or discolouring spills.
4. Don't bend or fold
There’s no coming back from the dreaded CRUSH. Once you crushed it, you bust it! While very durable with proper handling, there are certain treatments that vinyl backdrops just can’t tolerate. We’ve tried massaging creases out with a warm iron before. We’ve tried hot water and a rolling pin. We’ve even sent them to a spa retreat for the weekend and they still come back bust! So handle them respectfully and roll them with care…or accept your losses.
5. Don't fix permanently to a surface. What's the point!
Ok, so this one is not a hard and fast ‘NO’. But really, what is the point? Permanently fixing a vinyl backdrop to a rigid sheet of wood may feel right for five minutes…the five minutes before your indecisive client wants it switched out for a different design. And then you are left with a whole bunch of heavy, unportable textures taking up much needed space in your home or studio.
Vinyl backdrops should be lightweight like Tinkerbell, and move like Jagger!
So now we know the 5 things NOT to do with vinyl backdrops, it's simply a case of treating them right! Like all professional equipment they come with certain limitations, and we at Club Backdrops are familiar with the no-no's. However, by simply following these rules you will be certain to enjoy a long and happy working relationship with these rather awesome tools of the modern photography trade!📸