Most “fresh out of the box” photographers are faced with essential decisions when it comes to purchasing equipment. The best camera body and the matching glass for their photographic needs, lights, stands, carrying cases… the list is bountiful. One of the most time related decisions for long-term deciphering is whether to utilize a cloth or paper backdrop. Here are some pros and cons of each choice:

Cloth
Pros: It’s durable and can withstand a potential sharp item, such as a heel, attempting to pierce it. It can also be washed if stained and folded for later use.
Cons: It wrinkles easily and, in most if not all cases, requires a portable steamer. It is also a fixed length therefore limited to its dimensions.

Paper
Pros: No wrinkles. This is grave benefit in terms of pre- and post-production. It is solid and even texture captures light smoothly to produce effortless gradients. It’s the perfect additional for personal studios that require no transportation. Paper rolls typically come in lengths of 12 yards (36 feet) therefore unusable portions can be cut off and fresh portions can simply be rolled out.
Cons: It can be punctured or marked and cannot be cleaned. In addition, it is a fixed width and cannot be folded unless pre-cut, but folding will give it creases which defeats it primary benefit. It is more of a hassle to carry when traveling, especially those reaching 9ft in width.

Personal Recommendation
Paper all the way! Granted I still have my cloth backdrops from the moment I purchased them years ago and have had to purchase multiple roles of paper of the same color, but the time paper has saved me is well worth the cost. I spend a fraction of the time with paper than I did with cloth on set steaming wrinkles as well as in Photoshop removing them. When working on 20 image projects, every second not spent in post-production cleaning up wrinkles or lint is a happy one. My paper backdrops help me shoot smarter, not longer! 😉

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