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The Woman Who Paints the $1,000+ Backdrops Used by Top Photographers


Sarah Oliphant is a backdrop painter working in New York City whose highly sought after $1,000+ backdrops are used by many of the world’s top portrait photographers. Here’s a 47-minute interview by portrait photographer Peter Hurley, who sat down with Oliphant at her new studio in Bushwick, NYC to see how she works and to learn about the woman behind the paintings.

If you’ve never heard of Sarah, let alone backdrop painting, then it’s definitely worth checking out her work on her website. Sarah offers backdrops ranging from simple color gradients to entire cityscapes, and they alone are beautiful artworks. It’s no surprise though, considering her wealth of experience having started her studio in 1978.

Speaking of a good choice in a backdrop, Oliphant suggested “a classic medium value and organic texture, not anything stupid looking like a K-Mart drop.

“A good backdrop will make it easier to make a good photograph, but it’s no guarantee. You still have to know what you’re doing. Just because you have an iPhone doesn’t make you a good photographer.

“If you’re a portrait photographer who wants to travel, an ideal drop is a 6 x 8. You can travel internationally with it, you can take it anywhere. The length doesn’t matter, it’s the width.”

You’ve likely seen Oliphant’s backdrops in the background of celebrity photos without knowing it. Here are some image shared through the Oliphant Instagram page:

The classiest lady we know. Photographed by #AnnieLeibovitz for @voguemagazine , here's your #TBT photo for the week.

A post shared by Oliphant Studio (@oliphantstudio) on

@vanityfair Photographer: #AnnieLeibovitz

A post shared by Oliphant Studio (@oliphantstudio) on

@netflix #GilmoreGirls Photographer: @joepug Set Design : @robstraussstudio

A post shared by Oliphant Studio (@oliphantstudio) on

@voguemagazine July 2015 Photographer: #AnnieLeibovitz

A post shared by Oliphant Studio (@oliphantstudio) on

Watch the video above for an engaging and interesting interview, into a world that most photographers probably haven’t even thought about.

(via Peter Hurley via ISO 1200)