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Lately we’ve seen an increase in the number of clients booking our photo booth services who want to provide their own backdrop for the photo booth experience we’re providing them.

These backdrops range from Boxwood Hedge Walls to pallet walls, step and repeat backdrops, custom designs including arches and floral arrangements and many more. Many of these backdrops also include a neon sign, to be hung on the backdrop.

We understand the desire for a photo booth backdrop that matches your personality and the theme of your wedding or event and we’ve captured many amazing photos in our photo booths shooting into custom backdrops provided by our clients.

Some backdrops, however, create challenges that make capturing the perfect photo more difficult and, in some cases, not possible.

With that in mind we’d like to offer some advice on what to consider when choosing, buying, or creating the custom backdrop for your photo booth experience to guarantee the best opportunity for amazing event photos!

Consideration Number One: Neon Signs

Neon signs can be a beautiful addition to any photo booth backdrop. The neon signs being produced today, are generally not neon signs, but LED lighted signs made to look like neon. The LED lights are glued to a plastic backing. The plastic backing is either cut to the shape of the signs letters or on less expensive versions, cut to a general outline of the entire sign.

Open Air Photo Booth, Des Moines Photo Booths, Des Moines Photo Booth Rental, Iowa Photo Booths, Iowa Photo Booth Rentals, Smiling Dog EntertainmentWe use professional quality strobes to provide the right amount of light for the images captured in our photo booths and when the strobe flashes to produce the light for the photo, that light often times bounces off the plastic sign backing and directly into the camera lens leaving an ugly white “blob” on the photo.

To avoid having an ugly white blob in the middle of your photo booth images, you’ll need to tilt the neon sign so that either the top of the sign, the bottom of the sign, or one side of the sign is not lying flat against the backdrop.

Tilting the sign slightly allows the light hitting the sign to bounce off the sign and away from the camera’s lens (downward, upward, or to the side of the lens) eliminating the ugly white “blob” in your photos.

You can create this tilt by:

• Placing a small wooden dowel behind the sign at the top, bottom or on one side
• Securing the top or bottom of the sign to the backdrop tighter than the opposite side of the sign
• Add a small extra bunch of the floral wall or boxwood hedge wall material behind one edge of the sign

Done right, no one will even notice the slight tilt in the sign and it won’t be visible in photos and you won’t see an ugly white blob in the middle of your photos either.

Consideration Number Two: Backdrop Material

Much like the plastic backing on neon signs, some backdrop material, especially vinyl, causes light to reflect back into the camera’s lens leaving white “blobs” on the backdrop in your photo booth images.

Many of the cute, themed backdrops you see for sale on Facebook Marketplace, Amazon, Etsy, and through National Chain Party Supply stores are vinyl or worse yet plastic. Even some signs purchased through sign shops are vinyl, especially those designed for outdoor events.

Unlike the plastic backing on the neon signs, however, there is almost no way to eliminate the reflection of the light from a vinyl or plastic sign, meaning you’ll likely end up with less than perfect photos.

Whenever possible, we highly recommend you stay away from vinyl or plastic signs.

All of our backdrops, including those we use at outdoor events are stretch cloth backdrops that fit tightly over an aluminum frame to ensure no wrinkles, and no unwanted reflections.

We recommend, and have the resources to help you secure, something similar for your Step and Repeat or themed backdrop.

Consideration Number Three: Backdrop Size

When creating a custom backdrop for your photo booth we recommend talking with the company you’ve hired for your photo booth to see what camera orientation they’ll be using for your photos and what their suggestion is for the size of your backdrop.

We shoot photos for a landscape (photo width larger than height) orientation or square orientation while some companies prefer to shoot in portrait (photo height larger than width) orientation.

For us, when shooting photos for a landscape or square orientation we request a backdrop size of 8’ x 8’. This allows large groups to fit in front of the backdrop, without spilling out beyond the edges and ensures that we not be shooting over the top of the backdrop when photographing taller guests.

The backdrop size we recommend is to ensure that all your guests will fit in front of the backdrop, so you don’t see the walls beyond the sides or top of the backdrop in your photos.

You selected a beautiful backdrop, let’s make sure it is fully visible in all photos and no one is distracted by the Moose head behind Uncle Jim in that full family photo!

Consideration Number Four: Backdrop Color

A white backdrop reflects more color than any other color, while a black backdrop absorbs more light than any other color backdrop.

What does that mean for your photo booth backdrop?

If you have a white backdrop, you’ll need less light to produce a quality photo than if you have a black backdrop because light from the strobe (flash) or any other source will bounce off the backdrop and fill the photo. The reflection of the light off the white backdrop also helps to diffuse the light and spread it out more evenly across the photo.

If you have a black backdrop, you’ll need more light to produce a quality photo than if you have a white backdrop because the majority of the light that hits your backdrop will be absorbed by the backdrop and not reflected back into the photo.

The color of your backrop also matters in relation to other elements added to your photo booth background scene. For instance, we recently had a photo booth rental where the client provided a whitewashed pallet backdrop with a green and white floral arrangement across the top and down the sides. They wanted to add a white neon sign to the backdrop for inclusion in the photos.

Unfortunately, the white neon (LED) lettering of the signs, with a clear plastic background on the sign, did not provide enough differentiation in color to allow the sign to stick out from the background. The sign simply blended into the background and could not be used. Fortunately, the client found an excellent secondary location for the sign.

One other thing to consider is the color of your backdrop and the color of the wall in front of which you are placing it. The decorator for one of our clients created a tree arch, with dark colored bark, and a dark green floral arrangement across the top and down the sides. The arch was placed in front of a dark wall in a very dark reception hall. All of the dark on dark made it challenging to properly light the guests in the photos and the arch used as the backdrop.


Custom designed, built, and printed backdrops can help carry over the personality of the individuals hosting an event or the theme of any event. They can be simple, yet elegant or stunningly elaborate. They can be playful or purposeful and can enhance any photo booth or photo station experience for any event.

If you plan to have a custom backdrop for your photo booth, please consider the items listed above and their impact on the quality of the photos captured at your event.

When in doubt about a Neon Sign, the material to be use, the size, or the color of your backdrop reach out to your photographer or photo booth provider for thoughts and assistance. Having photographed dozens of events with custom backdrops, some of which were amazing and some of which could have been better, we at Smiling Dog Entertainment are happy to share our experiences and expertise to help ensure your custom backdrop is truly amazing and contributes to photos that you and your guests will cherish for years to come.

We can be reached at 515-446-9054 or for any of your photo booth needs!