Savage Seamless Paper and Muslin Backdrops

Those of you who follow me probably know that I got sponsored by Savage Universal a while ago. I've been using their backdrops for a few years now, and I figure now is a good time as any to give a little review/recap on the on this commonly overlooked element in studio photography. 

Fair warning though, not being too much of a technical person, this is going to be more of a how I use the backdrops than how smooth the paper gradients are in response to my light and stuff. :D

1. The Basics

The first backdrops I bought after moving to New York were black, white and gray. 

Regardless of brand, I think those are the best shades to have for a start as they are so versatile -- you can easily do the whole range of commercial, fashion, and moody. Adjusting the toning and lighting in post is also a lot easier with neutral shades than something that has color. 

Some examples with black and grays: 

Factice Magazine #19 cover, on Savage Fashion Gray Seamless Paper
ELLE Vietnam editorial, on Savage Black Seamless Paper
Sarah Dobson, on Savage Thunder Gray Seamless Paper

2. Monsoon Savage Collapsible Backdrop

The first great addition from to my inventory was the Savage Collapsible Backdrops.

I adore shooting portraits and beauty, and with the collapsible backdrops, I can easily accomplish the background set-ups by myself since they fold and unfold like a giant reflector. 

Savage Collapsibles, canvas backdrops, seamless and paper clips

Considering how often I do self portraits, small shoots and travel, this has made my life significantly easier. The backdrops are all sized at 5x6' and can be easily clipped onto their accompanying 8' stands.

My most frequently used are the Black/White, Light/Dark Gray, and Monsoon

The Black/White and Dark/Light Gray are great for portraits and castings, and as for Monsoon, I've been using it for Motherland Chronicles quite frequently. The shade and design on it is incredibly beautiful to photograph, and adds a painterly touch to a simple image:

MLC #21 - Her Resting Place
MLC #25 - The Raven Girl
MLC #12 - Winterland Fairytales II

3. Black/White Savage Collapsible Backdrop

I probably use the Black/White Collapsible way too much, but I love shooting on black so much and this makes my life so easy. 

The black is especially handy for when I want a completely dark background that has no light reflection.

Here's a direct comparison between the collapsible backdrop and regular seamless paper:

Black seamless paper vs fabric backdrop.

You can see the collapsible is almost completely black as it absorbs light from the strobe, whereas the seamless paper behind it catches and reflects a bit of light. Of course, with distance the light reflection won't be an issue (and you can even use gray or white to drop it to black) but for my little home studio this helps immensely.

MLC #31 - Book of Roses

4. Savage Paper Clip

The Savage Paper Clip is probably my favorite thing ever. It's a storage item that keeps your seamless rolls organized against your wall. 

For a while when I first started buying more backdrops I had difficulties storing everything behind my couch, but thanks to this, I can now keep everything in the little recess right next to my door, making it easy to access while saving space at the same time. 

Plus, I feel so neat every time I walk pass this wall in my room. :D

Seamless rolls clipped onto Savage Paper Clip

Each paper clip comes with an adhesive strip for you to stick the clip to the wall, and has slots for 6 rolls. I cut off one on the side to fit it into my a little corner so there's only 5 rolls here. 

But seriously, my favorite thing in my studio inventory.

5. Verona Hand-painted Muslin Backdrop

I also finally ventured into textured backdrops!

Muslin Backdrops: Verona and Dark Gray

After my experience with the Monsoon collapsible I'd been dying to get my hands on some full-length textured backdrops to shoot. Savage was very kind to send me the Verona and Dark Gray muslins.

Here's the Savage Verona Hand-painted Muslin used in "Ea":

MLC #33 - Ea
This is the first time I've worked with a colored backdrop in a long time too. Check out behind the scenes for the shoot here where I talk about my thought process from inspiration to final.

6. Savage Dark Gray Muslin Backdrop

Once started, it's really hard to not want textures in my backdrops for some reason. They so instantly make my pictures poetic :D 

Phuong My Fall/Winter 2013

This was shot with the Savage Dark Gray Washed Muslin Backdrop. Very subtle and adds a different type of dimension from my usual full-black backgrounds. 

I always find it incredible how a little texture goes a long way in images, whether on clothes, backdrops, image as a whole (done in post), etc... So I'm incredibly happy that I finally got to experiment with these. Thank you Savage for giving me to chance to test these out! ❤

And that's it for now, I hope this post has been helpful to who were wondering about the basics I started shooting with, as well as what I use and how these days. Pleas share if you've enjoyed it! Thank you for reading. :D

Check out more of my photography articles here, and my gear list here.

Some of the product links in this post will bring you to Amazon or my favorite camera retailer Adorama, where I'll receive a small referral fee should you decide to make a purchase. This helps with the time spent on articles and the running of this blog, so please consider supporting the website. Thank you!

Motherland Chronicles #32 - Ea

Motherland Chronicles #32 - Ea

Ea means fire. Inspired by Suemi Jun's paintings. ♥  

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Hair: Junya Nakashima
Makeup: Viktorija Bowers
Model: Germaine Persinger
Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Ernie Chang, Tiffany Liu

Headpiece: Harlequin Romantique

Backdrop: Savage Verona Hand Painted Muslin

Not often do I get to pinpoint specific inspirations for a piece of work. But I think this one is a little more deliberate than usual and is a rather good example. In this post I'll go over my process from inspiration to final image.

A little while ago, as I was musing about the lack of high fantasy anime/manga works in recent years, I started looking through Suemi Jun's works again.

Being one of my favorite Japanese artists besides Yoshitaka Amano, I thought, since I'm doing all these Amano-inspired pieces, why not explore something from other artists I love too? (Or in which I couldn't get Suemi Jun's works out of my mind for a couple of weeks.)

I first saw Suemi Jun's artbooks Gen and Haku at Kinokuniya in Singapore some 10-11 years ago. I fell in love with these covers:

They're so beautiful aren't they? ;_;

And thanks to the wonders of internet, I found this amazing collection of scans from Gen, making me wish I had brought the books with me to NY instead of leaving them back in Singapore.

So works re-discovered, I started thinking about how to put a shoot together.

I spent a few days looking at his paintings and then stopped completely, to think up the concept based on impressions his work left in my mind. Based around that, I gave directions to my hair and makeup team on the look to create. 

Then came the clothing and accessories. Fortunately, I'd already had them loaned to me so I didn't have to go searching. All that was left was just getting smoke and a backdrop for the mood I wanted for the picture.

For smoke I rented a fog machine. With it, I could achieve what Jun sometimes does in his paintings, where the edges of his characters' clothes and hair faded off to the background in loose strokes, as if there was fog or fire.

To compliment and complete that effect, I used the Savage Verona muslin backdrop to recreate the rich browns and reds Jun often uses in his backgrounds.

Featuring the Savage Verona Muslin backdrop

At this, I know some of you probably think the smoke and backdrops are unnecessary details. I get that. I know there's a lot that can be done in Photoshop, but I really like being able to direct each element in a shoot. It makes me feel as if I'm creating fantasy in real life. That authenticity and experience is something I don't quite want to lose to digital manipulations, and is an aspect of photography that I deeply enjoy.

But because of that we ended up spending the whole afternoon on just the one shot in order for me to get the smoke, wind and hair placements just right. T_T;;

And even though I shot it warmly, I couldn't resist going with my usual greenish tones during processing at first. I did go back to reds and browns for tones eventually though. 

Work-in-process thumbnails:

This is probably my new personal high for the number of states a photo has gone through before reaching the end result. Just look at how many times I fooled myself into thinking that it was the 'final' (starting at end of first row), so sad. T_T;;;

But still, I know all the minute changes were necessary and paid off, just hope that it won't be like this every week because sleep is sometimes really good to have too. .___.

Motherland Chronicles #31 - Book of Roses

Motherland Chronicles #31 - Book of Roses

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Styling: Phuong My
Hair: Junya Nakashima
Makeup: Viktorija Bowers
Model: Germaine Persinger
Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Ernie Chang, Tiffany Liu

Dress: Phuong My
Earrings: Harlequin Romantique

This was part of a shoot where I got overly ambitious and tried to do 3 completely different shots for Motherland Chronicles, when I usually do only 1 or 2.

I had the concepts and clothes all planned out, and even an order as to how I'll be posting the shots, only to realize on morning of shoot that the very first look was missing its dress, because I had forgotten to confirm with the designer I was borrowing from as I was super busy shooting the days before. I was so sad. T_T;;;

But!! I got to do braids and pearls, and books and flying petals, which is like all my favorite things combined. So not all is lost.

And my team has levelled up to professional petal-throwers. Which is rather awesome.

Here's a couple behind-the-scenes:

I like this shot a lot because it feels kind of poetic. But rather unintentionally, I realized later that it's a perfect a side by side comparison between a seamless paper backdrop and the Savage Black/White Collapsible.

Because the collapsible is made from light-absorbing fabric, it gives a much cleaner black background than the regular seamless paper backdrops which reflect light. It's also mobile and easy to set up since it folds and unfolds like a large reflector. Pretty handy. :D

Viktorija touching up makeup and Junya the hair. I love braids. ♥

Reviewing photos~

Going to L.A. this Thursday for more Motherland stuff! Can't wait to show you what we're working on. :D

Savage Universal Sponsorship

Hi everyone! Today, I am happy to share the news that I am now proudly sponsored by Savage Universal, a worldwide leader in backdrops and photographic products.

Since moving to New York at the end of last year, Savage has been my brand of choice as I rebuilt my inventory in the new city. Their abundant selection of backdrops are great to work with, and has become an essential part of my studio.

I am very excited about the possibilities this partnership will bring to my future work. As it is, you have probably already seen some examples of the products I've tried out in Motherland Chronicles:

"Raven Girl", taken against Savage Monsoon Collapsible Backdrop
"Winterland Fairytales II", on Savage Monsoon Collapsible Backdrop
"Lily II", on Savage Black Collapsible Backdrop

And fashion work too:

Fashion Gone Rogue Editorial, on Savage Black Seamless Paper
Sarah Dobson, on Savage Thunder Gray Seamless Paper
Factice Magazine #19 cover, on Savage Fashion Gray Seamless Paper

I love grays and black and white, they are so versatile for color-toning in commercial work, but there's just something a bit more genuine to the picture when you shoot with a color. I can't wait to try the new backdrops I'll be receiving soon. Stay tuned! :D

Find out more about Savage Universal on their website and check out the full press release here.

Press contact:
Savage Universal:
Zhang Jingna:


Motherland Chronicles #21 - Her Resting Place

"Here is my love.
Here is the sound of my heart.
Surely you will understand."
- Heart of Thomas

Motherland Chronicles #21 - Her Resting Place

Photography: Zhang Jingna
Hair: Junya Nakashima
Makeup: Gregg Brockington
Model: Julia Gorbach
Photo Assistant: Ngoc Vu
Backdrop from Savage Paper


In memory of L. 

Motherland Chronicles #18 - Julia

Motherland Chronicles #18 - Julia

Photography/Makeup/Styling: Zhang Jingna
Model: Julia Gorbach
Crown and choker by ArmStreet
Backdrop from Savage Paper

Did this on a Sunday night in my room after my trip back from Toronto. A lot of Game of Thrones comments on Facebook,  made me think I should've probably just title it Arya instead. :D 

Many many thanks to ArmStreet for the beautiful crown and choker, and Savage Paper for the gorgeous backdrop (collapsibles are so handy)!