Since moving into the new, and this time permanent, studio I’ve been really eager to set everything up the way I always wanted. One of the things at the top of my wish list has been a way to easily mount backdrops so that during a shoot, it’s quick and easy to swap colors.
Previously I’d been using a backdrop stand like this. To swap a color out I’d have to lower the sides, lift off the top bar, pull off the roll, put a new one on, put the pole back on the stand, then re-raise the sides (which took an annoyingly long time if I was doing it myself as each side could be raised or lowered only a little bit at a time before switching to the other side, so they were never too uneven). This was especially slow and difficult for the 107″ rolls to do myself.
I could never find what I was looking for to purchase out of the box, so I hunkered down on the interwebs for some DIY solutions and came across this post. The idea is to hang two chains from the ceiling. Use a piece of PVC pipe to hold the backdrop roll with two screw hooks on either end to hang on the chain. In order to make changing rolls easy, the pipe is cut in half and connected with a PVC pipe connector.
It was very close to what I had in mind, and if I hung a few rolls on the same chain, I could prepare for each shoot by loading the backdrops desired and would only have roll up or pull down each color, needing no time at all for swapping. Then I thought, hey, I can also have a long chain off to the side for storage, thus ticking another box off my wish list – finding a good storage solution for the multitude of rolls I have (it’s a bit of an obsession).
My first attempt at this I stayed close to the recommended measurements in the DIY post. I used 1 1/4″ PVC pipe. For the 107″ rolls I used 10″ pipe cut in half. For the 54″ rolls, I used (to be hung on a separate chain) a 4′ pipe and a 2′ pipe (thought it might be easier to connect together than 3′ and 3′). I made them 6′ long instead of 5′ (which would have been sufficient) solely because of a measuring mistake. 😮
Here is what the pipe looks like for the 54″ rolls, my first attempt:
This worked well, especially for the 107″ rolls, but I decided to modify my approach with the smaller rolls. For one, I didn’t like using the connector in the middle. It fell out too easily and was annoying to try and fit together with the seamless roll on it.
For my second go around I modified the 54″ version (I kept the 107″ design the same – the connector kept the two halves together better due to the weight of the roll). This time I used 1″ pipe, didn’t cut it in half but instead, on one end used a screw hook and eye combination like this:
This way the roll could slide right over that side.
It still looks pretty rudimentary, and you’ll have to forgive the silver walls (a project for another day), but here are some photos of the set up so far:
Two sets of chains for the main area, one for 107″ one for 54″, so I can easily pull different colors down.
I got 3′ long chain for the main area which was probably too long (5′ long for the storage part was a good size). The chain I purchased was also way too heavy duty for my needs. I could have gone a lot lighter and cheaper (and, as two people already mentioned to me, make it look a lot less like an S & M studio).
The bottom two rolls are the original six footers. I much prefer the 5′ version, though one problem with using two different hooks for each end is that I can’t get them to hang entirely even. Next time I’d also look for different hooks (more s hook than the flatter hook it came with) since they don’t catch well and can slip off.
Other side of the pipes:
Pipe caps would help it look nicer too but the hardware store only had one in stock.
And that’s my current setup! Let me know if you have any questions or any improvements to suggest, I’d be happy to hear them.
Special thanks to my dad who helped me get started with the project (he’s a huge DIY-er, wood worker, builder – you name it). It can be intimidating building your own stuff but his support gave me the confidence I needed to stick with it! Stay tuned because the next project (after being inspired by this one!) is a custom studio photography platform for smaller dogs and cats. This time with even more help from the pops as the complication level is way beyond my level. 🙂
Oh and please forgive the crappy phone pics. I had a crying baby and impatient husband waiting for me upstairs and about 3 minutes tops to take this snapshots.