There’s more to Step & Repeat photography than you might think.

 GOOD example of a full width backdrop: Evander Holyfield at a charity event. (image: Pretty Instant)

Adding a Step & Repeat to your event can seem like a no-brainer. The mere presence of a Step & Repeat will add a sense of red carpet glamour or VIP importance to your event. A well-lit, branded backdrop is the easiest way to ensure consistent, flattering photos of all but the most vehemently camera shy of your guests. Every time they share an image — which they’ll want to do because they’ll look great (more on that flattering light in a later post) — is free advertising for your brand. Win-win for everyone, right?

Right! Which is why it is important to follow these simple steps to insure your Step & Repeat is a success.

This article at a glance…

  • Recommended Backdrop Sizes
  • Backdrop Placement & Troubleshooting
  • Composing Your Shots with a Step & Repeat

 

We suggest a minimum of 8 feet tall by 10 feet wide, but the larger you can make your backdrop the better. Solo portraits or head shots can get away with as small as a 5 foot by 5 foot backdrop, but we wind up taking very few head shots at events like this. Even solo, people like to show off their outfits, and when people are having fun they tend to want their photos taken together in pairs and groups. As an event progresses, those groups tend to get larger and larger as guests reconnect or make new friends.

 GOOD example of a full width backdrop: Trade show activation — Las Vegas (image: Pretty Instant)

 POOR example of a full width backdrop — It was perfect for 2–4 people, but not the entire company :) Awards Show (image: Pretty Instant)

As photographers many of us have tried to limit the amount of people in a given shot based on how much room we have to work with in the backdrop, and here’s the thing: no one listens or cares. Literally, never. Doesn’t matter how stern we get or how absolute our instructions are. A group of 20 friends approach the photo area, and we tell them there’s only room for 5, and three seconds later, all 20 people are crowded in waiting for the photo to be taken…

This is great! People care more about documenting the fun they’re having with others than they do about the technicalities of fitting inside your backdrop. This is why you need to be the one caring about your guests fitting inside your backdrop.

 GOOD example of a full width backdrop: Mobile street activation in Union Sq. NYC (image: Pretty Instant)

Consider how large groups might form at your event; whether or not you’ll be incorporating any props (especially larger ones, such as picture frames or long banners); if any of your guests might be especially tall (such as professional athletes) and grouped or paired with more average sized guests or even children. To accommodate any of these elements the photographer will need to either back up or use a wider lens, and your backdrop still needs to fill the entire frame of the photograph. When in doubt, consult with your photographer about the minimum size backdrop for your event.

 

Backdrop Placement & Troubleshooting

If you thought your backdrop would be large enough but as your event begins you realize it might not accommodate all of your needs, you can make it work by placing it in front of a black backdrop or dark wall. (Photographers: always make sure each photo is as centered as possible, with equal amounts of black/dark showing on either side of the backdrop.)

 POOR example of a full width backdrop — Setting it against a black background and centering the shot makes it work! — Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox at a charity event. (image: Pretty Instant)

You’ll also want to make sure to your backdrop fits well with the traffic flow of your event and space. It’s important for it to be accessible and visible to your guests, but not blocking caterers or creating a bottleneck while guests wait to view their photos. We’ll be talking in more detail about ideal photography placement for flow in a later post, since it can have a big impact on the success of your Step & Repeat.

 

Composing Your Shots with a Step & Repeat

As arrangements for a Step & Repeat are made, photographers should make sure to be clear with event planners about the backdrop sizing and placement needs. When a backdrop is too small for an event the backdrop frame will show (and for whatever reason these frames are designed to be especially shiny and unsightly), as well as whatever is behind the backdrop — hotel furniture, glass windows, industrial doors, other guests or waitstaff. Regardless, the results will not look good. Both the client and the photographer want great images that reflect well upon the event, and advocating for what is needed to get those results is part of your job.e

TIP 1: As with most things in life, “get it right in camera, don’t fix it in post” applies here as well. Make your life easier, and deliver better images faster: compose as if there will be no cropping or editing later.

 POOR example of a full width backdrop & positioning: Had the photographer moved a few steps to the left, the photo would have looked great and you would have saved time on editing.

TIP 2: Make sure your photos are centered and level and properly exposed.

 GOOD example of a full width backdrop — POOR example of lighting— Unflattering even on beautiful people.

TIP 3: Take multiple photos of large groups to avoid awkward blinking/speaking shots — and always encourage play. It’s one of the most fun aspects of photo booths and Step & Repeats at events.

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