How to steam a muslin

Photo backdrop muslin

Ben Franklin once said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. In photography, the ratio is more like an ounce of pre-production is worth one ton of post-production.

The muslin is usually used as your backdrop (let me know if you have another cool use!) and a clean muslin removes the need to do background removal (or in extreme cases, color correction) after the photo session. Or for purists that use film, it makes the difference between getting the shot and not focusing on your subject.

If you are Googling for “how to hotoshop out backdrop wrinkles” or “how to photoshop out the background” then this is already going to be a long day for you!

The Game Plan

The basic process to steam a muslin is very simple:

  1. Lay the entire muslin flat, using one fold if necessary
  2. Use an upright steamer
  3. Address any fold marks first using large, very slow strokes
  4. Make large downward strokes for the remainder

Total time required: 10–15 minutes for 3 by 4 yard sheet (after the machine is warmed up).

Other Tips

It is OK to lay a second muslin on top of the first after the first is done. And this is recommended if space is at a premium.

I have found that using a steam press or iron and working on different sections to be a complete waste of time.

After your steaming is done, I like to lay the muslin loose. Then, during the shoot (which is usually the next day) I lay down weights in the corner to make the backdrop taut.

Further Reading

Written by William Entriken 2016-08-06 with links to Udi Tirosh, Courtenay Pollock, Julia Kuzmenko McKim, Joe Edelman, Aaron Hockley, Ashley Dellinger.