How to Use an Inflatable Pool as a Dramatic Backdrop for Portraits

Photo of kiddie pool backdrop

Here’s a clever do-it-yourself photography project to try out this summer. In the below video, photographer Irene Rudnyk shows you how she set up an inflatable kiddie pool in her backyard and used it as a dramatic backdrop for a portrait/fashion session.

“I actually tried doing this concept in my living room this winter, which was honestly quite a disaster,” Rudnyk admits. “It was my first time attempting something like this, so I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned and decided to try it again outside.”

We’re glad she did. With the temperatures warming up and COVID restrictions lifting, now’s a great time to experiment with different photographic looks to help catch the eyes of potential clients.

“I know this might seem pretty simple but there’s a lot to it,” Rudnyk says about her backyard swimming pool set-up. “The first thing is preparation: I inflated and filled the pool with the water early during the day to give it time to warm up for the evening shoot. Then I decided to cover the bottom and the sides of the pool with the fabric backdrop.”

The next step, she says, is “super important.” It’s adding a mixture of green and blue colors to the water using watercolor paints. “If you don’t do this, your water won’t look deep. It will look like a kiddie pool and that’s not what we are going for.”

To further enhance the oceanic illusion, Rudnyk climbs a step ladder set up next to the pool to shoot down on her two models, Sara Donnelly and Khadija Ghashghaei, who each take turns lying on their backs in the pool for the photo session. Rudnyk then adds fake flowers and artificial greenery in the water to provide texture. A white circular bounce is positioned on a light stand to the upper right of the pool to add some natural light pop.

“It’s all totally worth it because this looks insane,” Rudnyk tells her model when everything is in place. “This looks so good.”

Follow along in the video below as Rudnyk explains and demonstrates all the steps she took to make this head-turning watery backdrop for her shoot. Then try it yourself this weekend with whatever personal tweaks you’d like to make to the setup. All it takes is a trip to the dollar store, a few pieces of photo gear, and an open mind to, possibly, getting wet.

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