How to Make Reflector and Backdrop for Photo Studio

Here is a quick video on how to make the reflector that doubles as a backdrop, as made famous by Sue Bryce.  This video will show you where to find the polystyrene  in your home improvement store as well as how I made the bases for the large reflectors to stand on their own.  The white reflectors create beautiful light if you are photographing people.  They also multi-task by doubling as a backdrop if you paint one side or even hang fabric from it.

However, if you are not a photographer, these are an inexpensive and lightweight option for other background uses.  I will show you, in other videos, how I pin flowers to these for behind a cake table or create wall art in a child’s room.  The possibilities are endless.  I even used this same material to create  no-sew cornice boards above my drapes.  Stay tuned for more videos using this cheap polystyrene!

Emily Nugent - Thank you for sharing this video! Its great!

Nicole L. Redwine - Fantastic! Thank you SO much for sharing.

[e·piph·a·ny] Photography. Design. Life. - I saw you on CreativeLIVE today…thank you for the awesome tips!

Lasik Bra - can I down loaded?

Amy Kwalwasser - What kind of paint do you use to cover the writing? How is it applied?

Chenese Bean - Thank you for sharing this. I’m a makeup artist and this would great as a DIY banner.

Chenese Bean - LOVE!

Tammy De La Rosa - Tiffney, such a great tip. I saw it on CreativeLive today. But, it wasn’t quit clear to me about the side that you paint. Do you paint directly on the plastic that has the writing on it? or do you peel off the side with the writing on it and paint directly on the polystyrene it’s self? And, if you are painting directly on the plastic, how well does the interior paint hold to it? Thanks for you help.. :-)

Logan McMillan - Do they ever get knocked and snap in half? :)

Erica Velasco - Awesome! What color are you painting the one side?

Chuck Johnson - A simple but great idea.

Elle Viral - Shame you can’t hear what she’s saying.

Richy Norman - @[1438601356:2048:Elle Viral] turn your speakers up..I heard her perfectly..:)…..

Elle Viral - They are up. In fact the sub and all six speakers are rather loud as I discovered when the next clip came on.
I could hear her fine at the start, then the camera moves away and she goes quiet and you can’t hear her. Then it comes back when she’s again in front of the camera but fades off when the camera moves again.
If you are using a directional on camera microphone, it’s a good idea to keep it pointed at the person speaking……….

Frank Tyson - Good idea If I was making one may add those plastic castors on the feet as I have a polished wooden floor also on side that is used as a back drop put a couple of bulldog clips on top in-case I want to change the colour with a drop of some description.

krista smith - I heard her just fine the entire time! Great idea, can’t wait for the next video!

inta - do you think wallpaper would stick on these walls? i need at least one wall with wallpaper but i’m renting my studio and landlord is against wallpapering one corner. it could be my solution.

Paul Keppel - I saw this on creative live, I like the idea of putting feet on the boards as we use poles that clamp from the floor to ceiling but are a nightmare.

DJRowell - Yes, I think it is a bolt and not a screw that she uses and it apparently goes all the way through the OTHER 10″ side of the shelf holder so both shelf holders are fastened with only one screw. Did I understand that correctly?

Andrew Giddings - So it’s a bolt, not a screw.

tiffanyangeles - Amy, I used an interior house paint in a matte or flat finish. It was applied with a roller but could be done with a paint brush.

tiffanyangeles - Chenese, yes it would! I use this material for a lot of different things!

tiffanyangeles - Tammy, in the states, the polystyrene comes with plastic on both sides. I have painted over the plastic as well as directly on the foam core so you can do it either way. The paint holds just fine either way. If you plan on painting a light color, you might need a primer or multiple coats to paint over the writing on the plastic. My paint was dark so it didn’t take much to cover the plastic.

tiffanyangeles - Haha Logan, only by someone as strong as you.

tiffanyangeles - Yes! I would double check that the wallpaper glue is okay for styrofoam, other than that it should be fine. If for some reason the glue is not okay, then just do the wallpaper over the plastic. Also, you could do a thinner piece of polystyrene and then hang them on the wall and put trim pieces around them. Great way to get a designer and architectural look without damage!

tiffanyangeles - Thanks Paul! Hope this works for you. I find them very easy to maneuver this way!

tiffanyangeles - It actually is a screw, but a bolt would be fine. Just make sure whatever you use is small enough to fit through the hole of your shelf L-bracket but the head is big enough to not pull through. The screw should go through both L-brackets and put the nut on the other side.

Tiffany Angeles - Amy, I used an interior house paint in a matte or flat finish. It was applied with a roller but could be done with a paint brush.

Tiffany Angeles - Erica, I don’t have the exact color numbers but I will see if I can get them from Sue!

Tiffany Angeles - Frank, I put furniture pads on the bottom of mine so I can slide them around the studio. I do drape fabric over them for backdrops and also since they are thick, large T-pins work to pin backdrops on as well.

Tiffany Angeles - Thanks! :)

Tiffany Angeles - It actually is a screw, but a bolt would be fine. Just make sure whatever you use is small enough to fit through the hole of your shelf L-bracket but the head is big enough to not pull through. The screw should go through both L-brackets and put the nut on the other side.

Tiffany Angeles - I had a mic on my shirt. However, the sound is in mono so it might only be coming out of one speaker. If that speaker on your device is blocked then it might be harder to hear. Unfortunately, I am unable to fix it now. Sorry!

Tiffany Angeles - Download the video? No, but you can watch on YouTube as well.

Frank Tyson - Ok cool the idea is a good one How long have you be using then be interested to see how they perform? As for your comment in the video about attaching feet to the Styrofoam you can buy threaded rod which you could cut 2 length then thread it through the Styrofoam (first however cut a piece of plastic tube to size and slide over it)then just put wing nuts on either side of the brackets also a small piece of ply or similar between brackets and Styrofoam would also help add stability and stop them breaking off

Tiffany Angeles - Been using them about a year and haven’t had any issues. We move them around quite a bit and have not had any break. But I am sure your option would work as well!

Frank Tyson - Ok

Pam - Great idea…would love to know how you handle the space at the bottom when you use it as a backdrop for seated children?

Michoude's Photography - What are the dimensions of the sheets? I know they are 1 1/2 inch thick but what is the height and width?

tiffanyangeles - Pam, I either do seated children on my roll out backdrops or have them seated on a box or other posing stool if they are in front of this backdrop.

Tiffany Angeles - The sheets are 8ft x 4ft.

Michoude's Photography - Thank you!

Anthony Byron - does anyone know where to get this in australia/brisbane ive tried all the home improvement stores liek mitre 10, bunnigns ect but come up empty.

Chloe Lee - Hey Anthony! Back in the olden days when my dad had hundreds of these – we called it styrofoam as opposed to polystyrene.. Maybe that’s what we call it in oz.. Not sure though!

Anthony Byron - thanks chloe ill hit google again with styrofoam! :)

Frances - Im just wondering how you create a v flat or “L” shape like Sue Bryce had on creativelive with the shelf holders. Wouldn’t the 2×4′s touch at the bottom?

Mel Brackstone - Hey Anthony, most big pet stores or fish tank suppliers have sheets of this…

Tiffany Angeles - Anthony, I know in Australia it comes with the plastic on each side. If not home improvement stores, see if you can find a styrofoam manufacturer.

Anthony Byron - thanks mel and tiffany i will have a look at those places to as i still havent found yet.

Melissa Chartier Surprise - Pinning this for future studio space! Thank you!

Erica Velasco - Thanks Tiffany!

Orsi Vilusz - Hey Tiffany, This is really cool if you have a studio or a constant place where you can shoot. I have to travel to my clients and it’s a bit of a drag to carry my own equipment let alone hauling a couple of these styrofoams around on public transport (no car) plus sometimes I’d have my 3yo in tow too. What’s the best way to make this set up portable? I was thinking of cutting them in half and tape them at the back so it would kinda fold down, but they’re still quite biggish for the bus and train I guess. I’ve been playing around with IKEA cardboards but they’re not very solid. They’re great as a reflector but not as a background.

tiffanyangeles - Hey Orsi, these are not the best solution if you have no car. Perhaps a white sheet or something that folds up easily would be a better option for you!

Vinish Saini - Hey Tiffany, Thanks for posting this. It is really helpful. I am looking for how to make backdrops that Sue is using in her studio? Or if that is something available anywhere to buy.

Thanks in advance.

Justin Hodges - How did you guys get them to connect like that to form the V with no seam really?

Sandra Salciute Photography - Hi Tiffany, just a quick question- is it OK to paint straight onto polystyrene sheet? The ones that I have found to buy, have no plastic cover as the one you feature in the video. Many thanks.

Blair - First off, I love the idea of this site. Please provide more content…I see this being my favorite place on the net : ) You are amazing. I went to home depot yesterday and realized that fitting an 8×10 board into my PT Cruiser was an EPIC FAIL…I will be renting a Uhaul tomorrow to pick up all my supplies. I had a couple of quick questions prior to investing so much money.

The largest polystyrene board they have is only 3/4″ think, is that too thin?
And they also only have the ones with foil on one side and writing on the other…so would I be able to peel the foil off to revel white or paint white over it, would it still reflect the same as the white boards you use?

Thanks : )

tiffanyangeles - Hi Blair,
Glad you like my site!
As long as you think the 3/4 won’t break in half when you move it around, it should be fine. It you are able to peel off the foil then that would be the best option.
Thanks for stopping by!
~Tiffany

tiffanyangeles - Hi Sandra, you can paint straight on the polystyrene! :)

tiffanyangeles - Hi Justin, there will be a seam when you place them in a V. I just clone it out at the top above the head. Thanks!

tiffanyangeles - Hi Vinish, this video about the polystyrene boards is also what Sue uses for backdrops. She just paints them. Hope that helps. Thanks!

Larry Gallagher - Hi — Saw the vide on creativeLive and no problem making these. However, how do you prvent the seam, where, the panels mee form shoing up in the pictures?

Wendy Tipene - I just picked up some from a polystyrene specialist in Rocklea yesterday :) I failed to find them at bunnings etc

Candice KausHagen - Thanks for the video! I have a question for you. Was your polystyrene wrinkled on both sides? Mine is terribly wrinkled (all of them were at two stores, two different brands) and I’m worried that its definitely going to show even after being painted.

Jonathan Duty - Very cool. :) I am doing some of these DIY projects at home for my own photographic ‘projects.’

Tony Schreiber - Sweet, $15/sheet @homedepot

Tara Oswalt - Tiffany, were you able to get the paint color Sue uses? I have purchased all the creative live courses, but can’t find it listed. Cheers.

Nicole Provenski Herda - Mine is wrinkled too – are they all that way? Or are there boards out there that are not wrinkled? Do they show in photographs? Sue’s did not look wrinkled on the video, but then they weren’t close up.

Farida Alvi - Hi, Just wondering if these will fit in my car, how did you get them home?

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