Why Choose a Muslin Photography Backdrop?

There are a variety of different options when it comes to choosing the material for your photography backdrop. From paper to canvas to muslin, it can be hard to decide on which is best for any particular project. So why should you go with a muslin photography backdrop? There are a lot of reasons to consider.

What is Muslin

Model in front of solid grey muslin backdrops
Muslin soaks up dyes evenly making it a great option for solid backdrops.

Muslin is a cotton fabric. Its origins date back over one thousand years, when it was often chosen for clothing. In more modern times, muslin has become a mainstay for those in need of background materials for both on-stage plays and events, and for photography. The cotton used to construct muslin backdrops is in a far more raw form than the variety chosen for contemporary clothing. It is also sewn a bit more loosely. One of the benefits of muslin as a background material is that it accepts dyes and paints very well and holds the colors for years. Internationally speaking, muslin is classified by grams per square meter, or GSM. This speaks to the overall density and is an important factor when picking out a muslin photography backdrop. Many of the muslin drops on the market top out at around 125 GSM. These drops are suitable for some purposes, but the lack of density allows more back-lighting to show through and creates a less sturdy fabric. StudioWorld’s muslin backdrops start at 165 GSM, and become denser as backdrop type or design call for it.

Value

Model in front of pastel colored mottled muslin backdrop.
Proper lighting and denser fabric eliminate many back lighting issues.

The cost is usually a bit more up front, especially compared to paper, but if you are a long term value seeker, then muslin is your material. As they are woven from cotton, muslin drops hold up for years before they need to be replaced. Sure they will get dirty, depending upon where you take them, but a cloth, warm water, and a mild detergent is all you need to remove light dirt. Just be sure to test clean a small portion of the drop first so that you know how your cleanser of choice interacts with the paints or dyes used to add color and patterns to the background. Tearing and scuffing are not factors that you will need to worry about with muslin. To be frank, if you tear a muslin drop there probably isn’t another material that would have stood up to the treatment it received.

No Reflections

Your flash is there to create lighting for the subject of your shot, not lighting that becomes the subject. Muslin is a fabric that can absorb light, whereas paper and canvas have a tendency to reflect light back into the picture. If you are embarking on a project that will need chroma keying, a blacked out background, or you simply hate seeing your camera’s flash in your shots, then you should pick up a muslin background.

Versatility

The pliable nature of muslin makes it one of the most versatile background materials available. If you want a weathered look, all you need to do is wrinkle your drop and toss it in a bag for a while. When you pull it out, the drop will retain some wrinkles and add a very unique look to your shots. Not a fan of wrinkles? Take a moment to steam your drop (if it has any wrinkles in it) and you will have an entirely flat background to hang or clamp to supports. Neither of these options seem to be what you have in mind? As it is fabric, muslin can easily be draped atop any object, thereby adding a 3-dimensional look that is exactly the color or pattern that you want. On top of all that, muslin is possibly the most portable material in the photography industry. It is light enough to fold up and take with you from location to location, yet durable enough to stand up to being packed and hauled around.

Surely other materials do have their merits. However, if a professional yet classic look is what you are in search of, then you really should consider muslin. It is the one material that has withstood the test of time in the photography industry. Considering how many different patterns and designs can be applied to muslin, it will stick around well into the future.

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