Over the past three years, I’ve built four new photography studios, and each time I find better and better ways to streamline my spaces. In this video, I want to share with you one of the coolest ways to mount your seamless paper or gravity backdrops.
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made when designing the final studio spaces is to hang my backdrops from the ceiling or the wall. This does away with all the bulky light stands and poles that become tripping hazards or just take up a ton of space. Obviously, if you’re just renting space, you might not be able to drill into your ceilings permanently, and if that’s the case, check out the video below where I show you how we temporarily mounted our paper rolls in our last rental space.
While permanently mounting paper and canvas backdrops to the ceiling is great for saving space and quickly changing your backgrounds, it’s still not perfect. Once your support system is screwed into the small paper J-hooks, you are not able to easily adjust the placement of the backdrop once you unroll it.
While designing my new tiny two car garage studio I started thinking “how can I creatively mount some of my Gravity sets to the ceiling to allow me to move them around to create tighter shooting spaces and wider?” The idea of having rotating backgrounds sounded simple enough, but what I quickly discovered was that no major photography company makes some type of modular background handle or stand. If I wanted to create a system to make my backdrops as flexible as possible, I was going to have to do it myself.
I’m not going to describe the whole process in this written article, as I think the video above does a great job of showcasing some of the challenges and concerns I had while building this backdrop stand. unique. However, if you don’t have time to watch the video or just want to quickly reference the individual parts I used, I’ve listed them below along with a brief overview of how each part was used.
Main components of my hinged bottom stand
1) Gravity Backdrop: These things look great and hold up so well. I kind of wish all my backdrops were canvas. I wonder if a solid color backdrop with touch up paint would be a thing…maybe we should look into that as well.
2) Fotoconic 10ft Backdrop Bar: These are great for mounting your canvas backdrops or even adding reinforcement to your Savage Paper backdrop rolls. I cut mine into different sizes to fit my specific use, but they break down into 3 small 3′ pieces for easy movement and transport.
3) Neewer Single Roller System “Tons of companies make these roller systems, but for my rotary system you will definitely need at least one roller and also one of the smaller J-Hooks to mount on the side rotation of the system.
4) Impact Three Hook Bottom System: Similar to the Neewer version above, this gives you the option of mounting three rolls of paper, or in this case I cut the longer hooks to use on the opposite side of my rotating support. If you cut off the longer hook like I did, you can also mount the remaining two hooks in a more traditional way, which I plan to do soon so I can hide all the chains and create a completely invisible wall system.
5) Kupo Paper Drive Baby Stand: This part is used to create the adjustment pole that allows me to move my paper bottom to the different positions without using a ladder. If you need to set up a portable background system that you carry around to the client’s home or to remote locations, it’s always a good idea to have a set on hand.
6) Manfrotto Metal Chain: I didn’t specifically mention this in the video, but I like to replace all of my plastic chains that come with the bottom kits above with these sturdier metal chains. They look better, feel sturdier, and are much sturdier. They aren’t necessary, but I definitely prefer metal chains to plastic ones.
7) Step Up Drill Bit: If you ever need to drill steel or aluminum, these little pyramid shaped drill bits are amazing. Because the tip is small, it’s easy to start your hole without it jumping all over the place. And because it’s tapered, you don’t have to figure out the exact size you need for your hole; instead, you can easily increase the hole diameter with precision without ever changing the bit.
8) Lag bolts and lag bolt covers: Hopefully you can just use the hardware that comes with the mounting brackets above, but if you really want to reinforce your hangers or need to mount them on concrete, definitely take some kind of system expandable lag screw.
9) The Punching Bag Stand: This is the best solution I’ve found to mount the paper roll while allowing it to rotate and tilt down for easy adjustments. The one I recommend can hold 600 pounds, which should be a lot of weight if fitted correctly, and because it’s designed to accommodate a huge punch bag and allow for 360 degree rotation, it’s more than enough smooth for occasional swaying of your backdrop. .
So, this is my do-it-yourself rotating background stand. I’m curious to hear what you think of it and if you can suggest anything that might make this stronger, more versatile, or practical. Obviously a big chunk of this is hanging a second large gravity backdrop in front of the paper rolls which will hide all the strings and make my “room” orientation more structured with a hard or semi-hard corner.
If you like these photography studio hack videos, I’ve created a YouTube playlist that will have lots of other little tips to make your studio space more convenient, cleaner, and more organized.