American Girl, keep giving us Dolls of Color for Girls of the Year.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Crafting Creatively: $15 PVC Photo Background Stand for Dolls

Tara's getting her picture taken. But she's not the topic.
Ladies, gentlemen, both and neither, you probably wonder where I take such plain backdrop shots of my girls. Well, it was my photo corner, which was basically three storage drawers with green non-pill fleece hanging from them. But that is a bit of a mess right now, hence a lack of reviews. Plus, I couldn't really move it around. Pictures had to be taken there, or they were taken nowhere. Okay, occasionally outside, but not with my green fleece. Well, that has changed. This pic of Tara--with Grace Brand clothing and earrings--was taken outside on my new PVC backdrop stand.

I've been spinning yarn, and one of the things I found a design plan for online was a niddy noddy--it's a way to wrap yarn to see how much you have--out of basic PVC pipes. I got it put together with all the sizes I'd want, and it's worked great and allows me to take it apart and store it as needed. So why not do the same with a backdrop stand? 

I can't take 100% credit for it, since I found a similar design on Dandelions on the Wall, for a $20 PVC backdrop stand. But I did--with the Bae's help because I can't measure for butts--work out the math for a short doll one. When put together it's a little over three feet tall. And well, this is something that I would like to share with other doll photographers. So as long as you point back here to show where you got the design, that would be sweet. Also don't make these to see on Etsy or eBay. This isn't for profit, it's for assistance.1

Below the cut for instructionables!


1/2" diameter PVC Pipe: Sort of a given. I mean, you could make this out of wood dowels or the like, but I used PVC and what I'm giving you is for PVC. This can picked up at almost any big hardware store. I went to Lowes. PVC pipe is either sold in lengths of  ten- or five foot. Mostly ten.

These are the lengths of pipe you need:

Two pieces, 1 Yard/36 inches long each.
One piece, 27 inches long.   
Eight pieces, 3 inches long each.
Four pieces,  6 inches long each.

This totals 147 inches, or 12 feet and 3 inches. If you have a hacksaw or pipe cutters, then you can cut this yourself. I don't so I very politely asked an employee cut the pipe for me. Some stores will require, if you need several cuts, to place an order that you would then go back and pick up. Generally if it's just a few, they'll do it, but be nice. You never got anything done for you in a store being a dick.2 Also you will pay for the full length of the pipe you get, regardless of the cuts.

2 Non-Threaded Slip-On Elbow (90 Degree) Joints, 1/2" Diameter: These need to be non threaded. That way you can pop lengths in and out easy without screwing. They also need to match the PVC pipe so that they fit clean and tight.

6 Non-Threaded Slip-On Standard T Joints, 1/2" Diameter: Same as above. Non threaded. They look like short, squat capital Ts.

Non-Threaded Slip-On End Caps, 1/2" Diameter: To, you know, cover the ends. Some stores will sell a "Contractor's pack" of ten caps that is cheaper than picking up eight. Keep the extra two, you never know when you have to replace things.

All this came out to about $12, tax included.

Backdrop Fabric:  Whatever you're going to put on for your background. I use non pill fleece. You can use anything, but you will likely want to make it machine washable or otherwise easily cleaned since you're going to be laying it everywhere. Get at least five yards and at least 45 inches wide. I go for plain colors to avoid distraction from the subject. You probably should do the same. You can also use blankets.

Pins: Safety or straight. I use straight. Use safety if you are worried about getting stuck.

Got all your stuff? Good!


The feet.
Feet: Two 3" pieces in the bar of a T joint. A 6" off the leg. Put the two 6" in an up-pointing T-joint. Cap all the open ends of the 3" pieces.

Do it again. You now have two feet.

The bar is set.3
Bar:  Put the 36" pieces in the up-T joint on the feet. Put elbow joint on the other end. Put the 27" piece between the two elbow joints.

Fabric: Drape the fabric evenly as possible over the top bar. Pin in place. Minimally, you want to pin near the corners and probably near the middle. If you want to pin all the way across, go for it.

Smooth the fabric out over the stand to minimize wrinkles. This is why I use fleece; it generally doesn't make stiff wrinkles.

Tara is ready for her picture.
Set your subject--doll, accessory, whatever--down on the background and snap your pictures like crazy. When you're done, the stand can come apart for easy storage. I keep the feet together and just pop the top bars apart.

Voila! Go out and take a million pictures on a nice clean background and feel just that much closer to being a professional. 


1 Can't stop you. But I can call you a dick.
2 Oh, but you did yell and got something done? You're a terrible person. I've worked customer service and retail. We do what you want, but then we all hate you and wish you would choke on muffins. Stop being a dick. 
3 Look at my apartment porch. And the wet ground. I live in Seattle, it's January, all it does is fucking be wet as shit. Whatcha gonna do.


  1. Thanks, Neth! I need this and also I needed something to read. Not feeling well.

  2. I just saw a post on backdrops, and I initially thought, "wow, that'd be helpful!," but that shit is like $65. This is going to help a lot, thanks!

  3. Yay! I can have a smoother background now! Thank you!

  4. This is a great idea! :D One question, though- why green? (Not doubting your backdropping abilities. I just don't understand how colors and art and photos work & want to learnnnnnn. Learning is fun.)

    1. Honestly, it was the largest piece of unpatterned fleece I had in the house at the time of me starting this blog. Any color would do, but I'd recommend something subdued and printless to not distract from the photo subject.

  5. Let me join the chorus of "This is great!" Thanks!


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