I needed a backdrop for my Christmassy photo booth, so I headed to Photo Backdrop Supply Co. to see what could find. There were two red ones that caught my eye. The first had a nice, elegant pattern to it, and the second was a solid, classy red. I ended up getting both of them and decided to compare them side by side to see which one was more photogenic. The difference was night and day…
The solid pattern was flat and dull. It absorbed all the light and made the creases stand out like Justin Bieber in a middle school classroom. The other fabric, however, had a really nice reflectivity to it, and it had the unique bonus of not looking like a bed sheet. …both of them are curtains, in case you’re wondering.
So the thing to remember here is that fabrics will have a profound impact on the look and feel of your photos, and I’m not just talking about backdrops. Consider the clothes your subject is wearing. The two photos below are from one of the first lighting experiments I did. In the example on the left I’m wearing a pea coat, which absorbs all the light and explains why I look like a floating head. The image on the right, however, is much more interesting because of the way the light dances around the fabric.
It’s also worth noting that the color of the two jackets is different here. Black pea coat against a black background doesn’t even sound interesting. However, if I were wearing a black leather jacket instead it would look much better because leather has a subtle reflectivity to it. In situations like this it can be helpful to create even more separation by using a colored rim light. Color contrast between your subject and background should definitely be considered, but don’t neglect the fabric as well.