DIY Custom Photography Backdrop

One of my biggest struggles as an Etsy seller is taking attractive pictures of my products.  I don’t have a DSLR camera, a studio set up or any training or experience at taking great pictures.  As a result, my pictures have been less than stellar, which is a major drawback for my business!  Attractive pictures are what get people interested in seeing what you have to offer.

But I have resolved that I am going to improve the photos for all of my existing items (currently on clearance in my shop!) and take better pictures of new items that I’m adding to my line-up.

A big part of this is the backdrop.  For right now, I will still be using my Sony Cyber-Shot 16.2 megapixel camera.  I really like the background defocus setting for taking close up stills.  So since I’m not upgrading my camera right now, the backdrop will be my primary area of improvement.

Recently, I decided it was time to get rid of all the big plastic storage drawers in our play room in favor of a used piece of furniture I could repaint.  I found this cabinet on a garage sale website for $40 and saw some serious potential!

We removed the hardware, drawers and doors and painted the cabinet in Valspar’s Color of Money (Signature Line ar2010).  When it was dry we reassembled it and changed out the hardware.

So much better, right?  The only issue is that the top is easy to scratch and green isn’t a great color to photograph on!  So the next project I came up with was a new top that would sit on top of the cabinet and be a much better backdrop.

This project required a trip to Lowe’s for more supplies.  We used:

-11 premium furring strips measuring 1″x2″x8′ ($0.98/each) for $10.78
-2 pieces of 1/4″x3/4″ Aspen board, 48″ long ($2.76/each) for $5.52
-1 piece of 2-1/4″x8′ decorative chair rail for $12.82
-1 box of 100ct 4×3/4 phillips screws $4.58
-1 half pint Cabot stain in Early American (from the mistints and clearance shelf) $1.00

Also needed for the project that we already had at home:
-220 grit sandpaper
-polyurethane
-paint brush (ours was 1.5″)
-saw, power sander and drill
-clamps

We measured the top of the cabinet (53″ x 16″) and decided to make the piece about 1/2″ bigger all around. 

Michael laid out the strips, clamped them together, and then attached them to the cut-to-size pieces of aspen with a screw in each board.

Once he attached the two outside pieces, he evenly spaced two others between them for stability.

 Once the planks were secure, he cut the whole thing to size and sanded it thoroughly.

I brought it inside, propped it up on top of a large piece of cardboard, and after a couple of trials on the scraps to settle on a color of stain, gave it two good coats, waiting overnight in between (this would not have been my first choice of project location, but our garage is about a thousand degrees!).

Once the stain was dry and I decided two coats had achieved the color I was looking for, Michael gave it the first coat of polyurethane (he’s much better at it than I am).  The next day after plenty of drying time, I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and gave it a 2nd coat of poly.

He then secured the top to the cabinet with 2 screws in the center (the top was a bit bowed because the furring strips weren’t quite straight, but securing it down fixed that problem and also made it safer for the kiddos).  After measuring to determine the proper height for the decorative trim, I chose an ornate piece that Michael cut to size with mitered corners.  Two coats of stain, one coat of poly and we were ready for the final assembly!

 So what do you think?  I’m really really happy with it!

The whole set up, with 2 backgrounds for picture taking and lovely afternoon light.  I’m looking forward to updating my shop pics soon!

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