Project 52: Brown Backdrop

Chloe with brown background

The theme for this week’s Project 52 photo is BROWN.

I have to admit that I was pretty uninspired by this topic. I mean, I like UPS as much as the next guy, but brown just doesn’t do that much for me. Which, honestly, is kind of surprising because much like Bert on Sesame Street, I’m so boring I find oatmeal exciting.

“The only color I don’t have is navy brown.”
— Yogi Berra

The irony of the situation in which I found myself is that I used to have a plain brown backdrop. It was really a hideous shade of brown; if a dog pooped on it, it would blend in. That’s the shade I’m talking about.

Not having a brown dog, and not having a brown backdrop, I began to look around the house for something brown that would look good in a photo. I knew I would have to get creative.

What I really wanted to do was to shoot a portrait with a hand-painted brown backdrop. But I don’t know if you’ve ever priced one of those—they usually run in the hundreds of dollars. That was clearly out of the question.

What Would MacGyver Do?

You know MacGyver. That classic 80s series about a guy who could build a death ray if you gave him a deck of cards, a paperclip, and a gum wrapper. (I refuse to acknowledge the current

incarnation of MacGyver. O.G. Macgyer is the only Macgyver. Jus’ sayin’.)

So I asked myself what would MacGyver do? If you look at a photo of me, growing a mullet is out of the question, so I got back to figuring out how to “hack” a brown backdrop.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Hattiesburg photographer
No mullets for this lovable mug.

Let’s Table This

I headed to our junk room, I mean my office to see what I could scrounge up. Surely there was some twine, a rubber band. a coconut-laden European swallow—SOMETHING I could use to MacGyver the crap  (to keep with the brown theme) out of this photo.

There it was! In all it’s junky glory. A card table. But not just any card table. The card table of my dreams. It was sorta a shade of brown. And even better, it had that genuine 70s Naugahyde  surface (no naugas were harmed in the making of this photo). Very little MacGyvering would need to be done. Which was good, ’cause we were all out of gum wrappers.

The table I used for the background
The table of my dreams.

Now I just needed to set up my “studio.”

The only room in my house that had enough space for me to setup was in my daughter’s “playroom.” She’s old enough now that it isn’t really a playroom, but we still call it that.

You Light up My Life

Now lights. How would I light this?

I had recently shot some baby photos, and, trying to keep things simple, I used a one-light setup. I wound up with some shadows I didn’t like, so I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen. How do you do that? You need multiple lights.

So as you can see from this behind-the-scenes phone photo, I had a key light, a fill light, and (not visible) is a background light behind the footstool.

Behind the scenes of how I shot my photo
It’s not pretty, but it’s the end result that counts.

I have a brown background (sorta), a brown blanket over a footstool, and I dialed in the settings on my speedlights. What was I forgetting?

Oh yeah, the dog!

So I scooped up Chloe off her perch atop a chair, and plopped her down on the blanket-covered footstool. She didn’t like that at first, and you can see some of her nervousness in the photo at the top of this post.

She finally relaxed, and I was able to make this:


dog with brown background
The background is kinda brown.


… and this:


black dog on brown background

I couldn’t decide which one I liked better, so why not post both?

I was excited because this came out exactly as I had planned. One of the best feelings in the world is when you imagine something and you are actually able to create it!

Oh, Susannah!

Up next in the blog circle is Susannah Maynard from Pet Love Photography, serving Greater Cincinnati, the San Francisco Bay Area, and destinations nationwide.

I wonder what Mr. Bojangles is up to this week?

Remember, it’s a blog circle, so follow the link at the bottom of Susannah’s post to the next blog, and so on until you get back here!