Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Easy Photography Upgrade: Tri-fold Board

Everyone likes a quick and easy photography upgrade, and this is one you might have already – particularly if you have school-aged children who have recently had to do a science fair project or other poster presentation. Yes, I am talking about the humble tri-fold board.

The tri-fold board in its natural habitat: school presentations

Tri-fold boards come in many different colors and are available at most stores that stock school supplies or office equipment. You can get one on Amazon for around $5 US. When you’re finished, you can fold it away and easily stick it behind a desk or bookcase or under your bed. (Plus, you know you’ll be prepared the next time a ‘this-is-due-tomorrow-and-needs-to-be-on-a-display-board’ request comes your way.)

Tri-fold board as backdrop, used for the images below

Bowmore Islay Scotch product photography
Very little work was needed in Photoshop to turn this into a standard high key product shot.
Scotch Product Photography by Archaeofrog on Flickr

The tri-fold board makes an excellent backdrop, particularly for ‘high key’ style photographs, which are notable for their all-white backgrounds. The set-up above was outside on my porch to take advantage of the bright afternoon sun. A piece of white paper on a box made for a seamless stand, and I was able to take this well-lit photograph of a new bottle of scotch. A little bit of cloning in Photoshop removed the shadow and the line from the edge of the paper.

Red Glass Vase Shadow Play
Comparison of set up with tri-fold board as well as picture from that set up.
Red Vase Shadow Play by Archaeofrog on Flickr

You can also use a tri-fold board as an indoor backdrop. Here I was again using natural light, this time through the window, to capture the colors and patterns of the reflection of this glass vase. The tri-fold board provided the backdrop for the shadow. Then, by zooming in, I was able to eliminate the shadows of the bars in the window and highlight the shadow itself.

Tri-fold Board as Easy Photography Background and Reflection | Boost Your Photography

The tri-fold board can be used as a reflector as well as a backdrop or background. With this set-up, I used the back of the board for the background and the flap as a reflector. The white of the board helped reflect additional window light back at the bowl of eggs and reduce the harshness of the shadow.

Coffee drip photography
Coffee Drip by Archaeofrog on Flickr

You are not limited to using the tri-fold board in natural light either. Here I used it with indoor lighting and a flash to capture the bouncing drips of coffee falling into the mug. The flash fired at both the mug and the backdrop, which helped create the bright, high key effect.

A white tri-fold board is an easy and inexpensive photography upgrade. It functions well as a background or backdrop for high key photography or any image where you want a bright, white background. It can also serve as a reflector for bouncing light back on your subject. Its tri-fold structure allows it to stand up on its own in many situations. You might even want to consider getting several boards, depending on the colors and your use for them. A black board would be useful for low key shots that feature an all-black background, while a colored board could add some pop to your images.

You never know when it might come in handy. Strobist published an article recently about shooting your own passport photos that featured white poster board. Of course, I used my tri-fold board for mine.

Passport photograph set up
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