Sometimes you need a backdrop that’s ultra-portable and sets up and tears down in an instant. Especially when doing corporate type shooting where time is limited. And while setting up two stands and threading a crossbar through a muslin doesn’t take all that long, faster alternatives exist.
One of those alternatives is Calumet Photographic’s On-Site Portable Background System. It’s designed to set up quickly and pack up small for easy travel. Fully assembled it measures 8 x 8′ and requires a single stand. Using an X-frame fitted into reinforced, double-stitched pockets at each corner of the muslin, the On-Site does indeed set up quickly, even with one person.
The overall quality of the entire system is very good. The stand, like the rest of Calumet’s stands, is good quality—strong and light weight.
The X-frame, which keeps the background taut, is made up of eight slip-in sections and is easily assembled. Each leg of the X is comprised of two pieces that easily slip together.
At the center of the X is a round hub where each leg is inserted. If anything gave me pause, it was this piece. But after using it I learned to trust its adjustable screws on either side to stabilize the unit on the stand. The muslins are also decent quality, but bear in mind that all 10 of the available patterns do not darken near the edges as many other professional muslins.
Available muslins for the On-Site come in 10 different colors, all of which are sold separately at calumetphoto.com.
Setting it Up
You’ll need plenty of room to set this system up—a cramped conference room won’t cut it. You’ll need at least 8 x 8′ of floor space since you have to put it together on the floor, according to the instructions.
Assembling it on the floor doesn’t make it ideal for all situations, like if you’re shooting in a warehouse or other dirty location, but if you have the space to lay it down, it’s simple. Just spread the muslin out (face down), assemble the X-frame, insert each arrow end into the reinforced pockets, then slip the opposite end of each leg into the hub. The X-frame will bow up as pressure is added making it taut.
Then, simply lift the whole thing and drop the hub onto the stand. Finally, adjust the stand’s height to make sure the bottom corners of the background are resting on the ground. That’s it. Seriously simple.
- Set-up is quick and simple with one person.
- 8 x 8′ is plenty big enough for small groups of lawyers, doctors or other professional groups.
- Entire package is lightweight (12.8 lbs.) compared to typical two-stand background sets.
- Great for wedding formals, corporate events or formal dances.
- Wrinkled muslin (typical of all muslins). You’ve got a few options: roll your muslin into a ball so the wrinkles are consistent throughout; steam the wrinkles out; move your subject(s) farther away from the On-Site. That last one may require an extra light for the background, especially if your’e only planning on working with a key and fill.
- Not ideal for tight places—8′ ceilings won’t cut it to set this rig up.
- Limited to background only, meaning you can’t drape this thing down on the ground like a regular muslin. Which is fine for most formal type headshots and portraits anyway.
- Setting it up requires lying the muslin facedown on the ground (if you want to do it the easy way). If you’re shooting in a dirty, dusty or grimy area, good luck.
For what it is, the On-Site is great. Not ideal for all situations, but nothing really is. If your goal is light weight and quick setup (and you have more than 8 vertical feet to work with), the Calumet On-Site Portable Background System is what you’re looking for.
*Photos courtesy Calumet Photographic