Once I got the equipment out of the box, the entire kit took about 20-30 minutes to set up and break down. I'm expecting it'll be quicker once I've gotten used to it, but the kit's otherwise simple enough to handle. The backdrops are rather thin, but enough for my current needs. I'll need to be more aware of what's behind the muslin, and the sheets can be easily replaced by thicker material when necessary. The metal supports on the umbrellas are enough to keep the things open, but aren't very tolerant of, say, a klutz who knocks the stand over while setting up. (Nothing's broken, and everything's still useful, but... yeah, that bend wasn't there in the umbrella before.) The bag is sturdy enough for lugging things around, but it isn't padded - I've been using the muslins for that purpose. I'm keeping all the equipment boxes and plastic baggies to make sure things stay tidy, but if you wanted to, you could cut it down to just the containers for the light bulbs. Overall, pretty chuffed with this kit.
In the shot above I used a two light setup. The main light, camera left, is a Profoto D1 1,000Ws head inside of a 50 inch Westcott Apollo Softbox. While the idea of mixing what is considered to be a high-end strobe with a budget softbox my not sit right with some, I find the indirect lighting source from a Westcott or Photek to give a really nice and even light. The 60 inch Photek Softlighter, which I also enjoy using, may only cost $95 but gives a really nice, soft, and even light. If these lower cost indirect sources are good enough for the likes of Mario Testino and Annie Leibovitz, then they are good enough for me. Clay Cook did an great article on these lighting sources, "Lighting Like Leibovitz," that you can find here.
Even shooting on location you can achieve some background lighting magic. The sun moves around throughout the day — think east to west as well as dawn to dusk. Analyze what time of the day the sun will project the light on your subject at the desired angle. Note: Hard light (direct sun) will create darker shadows while diffused light (cloudy overcast) will create softer shadows.
The idea is to hang this backdrop so that some of the floor print is actually hanging up off the floor and this works very well. The full-length photo shows this way of hanging the backdrop. However, it also works very well if you just hang the backdrop so that the brick is straight up and the floor print is on the floor. The creases from the item being folded are not avoidable, but I did not do a thing to try to remove them and, as you can see, they did not cause any problems in these photos. I am very careful to fold the backdrop when I'm done with it on exactly the same creases so as not cause any further creases or wrinkles. It's easy to do, but a large floor area is very helpful when folding. The smaller sized one might be a better option if you shooting only single subjects. I bought the LimoStudio backdrop frame LimoStudio Photo Video Studio Adjustable Muslin Background Backdrop Support System Stand & Cross Bar, AGG1111and the two together are awesome. I truly love this product!
When it comes to special effect backgrounds, the chroma key backdrops are the most common used in tandem with special effects. The chroma key or key backgrounds are usually set to perfect blue or green helping a computer differentiate the background from the subject easily. This background can be used to superimpose a second image over the first one to show the chroma key color section.
Vinyl backdrops are thick, rolled and durable, and are recommended for professional studio work. They generally come in solids, but there are a few with printed patterns that can be very inexpensive. While most vinyl backgrounds have a glossy sheen, there are some (including a recently announced line by Savage, which includes the Savage Matte Finish Gray Infinity Series vinyl background) that have a matte finish to eliminate glare and reflections.
The key to getting those gorgeous big bubbles of light in the background is to locate your subject a decent distance from the lights while at the same time positioning yourself as close to your subject as you can be to get the shot you want and setting the aperture on your camera just about as wide open as you can. The further away your subject is from the lights, the closer your are to your subject and the wider the aperture…..the bigger the lights.