How do I make an awful photo backdrop?
January 30, 2008 8:48 PM   Subscribe

Help me create the ultimate in awful senior-portraitesque photo backdrops!

My friend and I enjoy photography and somehow we got it into our heads that it would be fun to take mock senior portraits of ourselves (we look like twins).

The catch: we want them to be excruciatingly cheesy. Not just the average "Oh, it's a typical senior portrait" cheesy but "Oh my god who in their right mind would pay for something like that?!" cheesy.

I've got the lighting aspect down and I'm pretty confident we can find some ridiculous outfits at a thrift store, so the only major thing left is the backdrop.

I've got a roll of grey seamless paper (9' x 80' or so) and I think painting it could produce what we're looking for. Does anyone have any good resources on painting backdrops (or examples of super awful ones)?

I'm also wondering if any painting we do will dry quickly enough; my friend and I live several hours apart so we'd have to do all this in a single weekend. Is it realistic to paint on a Friday night and use the backdrop on Saturday?

Any other advice on creating the most spectacularly terrible senior portraits is welcome (though we're both college students so anything too expensive is probably out).
posted by sjl7678 to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered using the background as it is, and compositing in a backdrop with photoshop?
That aside, my high school senior portrait was on this fantastic black velvet background with streaks of bright red, blue and green.
posted by SECONDHANDSMOTE at 8:56 PM on January 30, 2008

Oh god. I have a hideous picture from grade school that has a background that would be AWESOME. There was a black backdrop with a black Venetian blind hanging in front of it. Then, behind the blind, they shined down a colored light that MATCHED MY SHIRT. So there's doofy old me wearing a yellow striped shirt, with futuristic yellow laser beam shafts of light in the background.
posted by web-goddess at 9:07 PM on January 30, 2008 [4 favorites]

Home Depot.

Cheap canvas drops, paint them as cheesily as your little heart desires.

I'm thinking the faux-field or faux-library are your best bets - but try this for inspiration.
posted by god hates math at 9:10 PM on January 30, 2008

This selection of Olan Mills portraits will surely be inspiring.

Also, tons of stuff here.
posted by extrabox at 9:11 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

sorry god hates math, i didn't preview!
posted by extrabox at 9:12 PM on January 30, 2008

The cheesiest senior pictures, IMHO, involve your graduate year (big 97 or something to lean on), your truck, your animal, or your instrument.
posted by k8t at 9:16 PM on January 30, 2008

Don't forgot the post where the person is looking over their shoulder, and right behind their shoulder is a rose. That was mine. Horrendous.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:17 PM on January 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

The cheesiest senior pictures, IMHO, involve your graduate year (big 97 or something to lean on), your truck, your animal, or your instrument.

Oh jesus. I had one where I was perched, like a catcher, behind four instruments - a banjo, a mandolin, an upright bass, and a 12-string guitar. I didn't even like bluegrass that much...

no worries, extrabox!

posted by god hates math at 9:25 PM on January 30, 2008

You can get butt ugly backdrops for cheap on ebay!
posted by miss lynnster at 9:26 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ugh. I think the worst one I ever had was a black background with a sort of Dark Side of the Moon-inspired prism / laserbeam motif. And the extra bonus headshot floating in the corner, staring off in profile. You'd want photoshop for that, with the special KPT mullet filter.
posted by mumkin at 10:10 PM on January 30, 2008

no matter what you do, make sure to get a GIANT pencil.
posted by heeeraldo at 10:27 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

This isn't a backdrop, but I once posed for a pic, dressed in rather Gothy gear - surrounded by stuffed toys. Er.

Here's some inspiration.
posted by divabat at 10:31 PM on January 30, 2008

I think you'd be remiss if you excluded some Parthenon-evoking Greek columns.
posted by mdonley at 2:25 AM on January 31, 2008

Smiling/staring blankly off-center and upwards at a beam of light. (the Olan Mills site has a example of this at the bottom)
posted by artifarce at 5:24 AM on January 31, 2008

Some more inspiration
posted by fermezporte at 5:55 AM on January 31, 2008

The cheasiest photos always had cheap rear projected backgrounds which had low contrast and were slightly out of focus. Extra points for the colors looking as if the projected slide had aged ungracefully. I think a good added touch would be if the image was slightly askew with the ubiquitous hair/fuzz on the slide.
posted by JJ86 at 6:19 AM on January 31, 2008

I was going to say Ebay too, you can get the most horrible, kitschy backdrops for pretty cheap. I don't know who buys that crap but there are a lot of them on there too.
posted by bradbane at 7:19 AM on January 31, 2008

For inspiration, you should seriously take a look at the Denny Manufacturing Co. catalog. This is a collection which blows my mind... I can't imagine what photographer in the world would pay good money (and thier stuff isn't cheap!) for this crap. Awful. Terrible. Probably exactly what you're after! :)
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:15 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

In junior high we had the option of a brick wall backdrop with the year graffitied on, one foot up on a chair, and a jacket slung over the shoulder. There may or may not have been Ray-Bans involved. Each portrait might have looked okay (if more than slightly cheesy) on its own, but since half of every class did it, the yearbook became ridiculous.

I went with the plain blue.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:26 AM on February 6, 2008

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