Using Muslin Backdrops in Digital Photography

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Digital Photography, Photography Backdrops, Studio Equipment

Smoke Hand Painted MuslinPhoto by Eldeen Annette Portraiture

A muslin backdrop is light fabric background, which can easily be transported for on-location photo shoots. Not only do photographers like the light weight construction of the muslin fabric, they also like the versatility and variety of colors they can choose from when selecting a backdrop.
Muslin allows some light to pass through from behind it, and it also absorbs light to create a soft glow. Many photographers view this as an advantage of muslin photo backdrops. However, blackout cloth is available if you are doing a photo shoot where you would prefer to eliminate backlight bleed through or light reflection. Hand painted muslin backdrops are multi-colored and offer a unique touch to any background. Reversible muslin provides you with the convenience of two different looks from one beautiful backdrop, using contrasting, yet complementing colors. Retro muslin offers a vintage, elegant design to any collection of backdrops. Airbrushed muslinshows the richness and depth of color like the hand painted muslin but projects a more subtle mottling of the colors.


Determine the size of backdrop that you need. The size will depend upon the type of pictures- portraits, groups or products – you will be shooting. Also consider the number of people you will be shooting, as there are significant differences between small and large groups. You must determine these factors before selecting the correct photography background size. Common sizes are 10’ x 12’ and 10’ x 24’.

Setting Up

Hang the muslin over your backdrop stand. When shooting multiple people, make sure that some of the muslin covers the ground that will appear in the shot. Position your subjects approximately five feet from the photo backdrop. By doing this you will reduce the amount of shadows being cast onto the background from the subjects.

verona muslin backdropPhoto by Ryan Walsh


Take a few test shots to ensure a few things: your subjects are positioned in the right places, the muslin covers the entire background and the lights are properly placed. If possible, set your portrait area up before your subjects arrive and set a timer to shoot a portrait of yourself.


The photography background and the subject are key factors to every portrait session, but so is the lighting. The easiest option you have when working with muslin backdrops is natural lighting. This can be done when there are a lot of windows that allow natural lighting in from the outside. If necessary, you can use reflectors to enhance the effect that natural lighting plays on your portrait session.
Artificial lighting can be used to add some extra light to your subject and the muslin backdrop. Use a combination of fill flashes, backlights and other studio lighting. Generally, two studio lights and a backlight are all that you need when shooting with artificial lighting.

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in reading more about muslin backdrops? Check out Advantages of Seamless Paper, Muslin and Digital Backdrops!

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