How I complete my photography portrait sets using wall paneling and tongue and groove flooring from hardware stores
At the risk of my younger readers incorrectly groaning, “ok boomer,” I am going to start today’s post with a story from my not too distant past.
In 2004, I was hired to take photos at the second debate between President George W. Bush and John Kerry, Democratic candidate. When the challenger suggested Bush owned a timber company, he responded “need some wood?”
Fast forward to 2016 when I started shooting portraits with painted backdrops, and suddenly wood flooring became very important to me aesthetically.
So I’d like to offer some suggestions for you the next time you’re looking for some wood — flooring. While a number of photography-oriented businesses sell floor drops, the ones I have seen look very fake. However, I have found that wall paneling from a hardware store is the best solution to get the job done. The 4×8 foot sheets look like real wood in photos, and two sheets will give you a great platform to work with. Plus, you can swap out one pattern for another in seconds.
I store mine on top of each other on my concrete floor or I stack them on the wall with my V-flats.
Since most of my backdrops are about 7-feet wide, it seems like you could cut them down to 4×7 feet if you wanted to make them lighter and even more maneuverable.
Originally, I tired getting by with just one sheet per color. but it was too narrow or too shallow depending on how you oriented them in front of the backdrop. So, I ended up having to extend it in Photoshop with content aware fill or live with my subject casting a shadow on the backdrop respectively.
The one I use most is Weathered Barnwood, which I bought from Lowes Home Improvement for less than $20 a sheet. If you examine at it closely in person you’ll notice that it’s essentially an image printed on a manufactured base.
The other one I use is Gray Homesteader. At $33.48, it is a bit pricier, but that’s because the texture is “real.”
Home Depot also sells similar products, and while I have found some great options in other cities, I haven’t found anything that I like in the stores where I live.
Now These sheets may be too large for some people to maneuver in the studio or too wide for your space. Another solution could be using tongue and groove flooring which comes in packs of planks. You may need 3-4 packs to get the same coverage, which would likely cost more than the paneling. However, the planks often shift during nearly every step of the shoot, which will show in the photos and cost you time in post to fix gaps. I have used them on caret before, but I had to put down a subfloor made out of folding tables. Of course, large plywood sheets would have been better, but is not always available.
Lighter wood tones, may match your backdrop, but keep in mind that they will reflect more light and my make it hard for you to create a dramatic portrait.