Tech

Review: Westcott X-Drop Portable Backdrop

November 2020 issue

Review: Westcott X-Drop Portable Backdrop

Working on location, we often prioritize our gear based on how much we can carry. Westcott’s X-Drop Portable Backdrop System helps lighten the scales by offering a compact, portable backdrop that delivers professional results.

For this review, I tested the X-Drop stand and two wrinkle-resistant backdrops. Made from lightweight aluminum and weighing 3.5 pounds, the stand has a tripod-like base that holds three poles. Five telescoping poles with hooks on the end hold the backdrop taut.

© Betsy Finn

You can choose to set up the system as a 5x7-foot backdrop or a 5x12-foot sweep, which extends across the ground or floor and mounts to the stand with four or five grommets. The wrinkle-resistant backdrops are made of a stretchy fleece-like material, slightly textured on the front and smooth knit on the back. When I unfolded the backdrops, both initially had creases. Westcott recommends hanging new backdrops to release wrinkles or placing them in a dryer with a damp cloth. I opted for the former, and over several days of being stretched taut, the wrinkles faded. Since then, I’ve been storing the backdrops rolled up and haven’t noticed many wrinkles.

The X-Drop stand took about 10 minutes to assemble the first time, and once I got the hang of it, setup time greatly decreased. The stand is adaptable to small spaces. I was able to set it up in a room with 7-foot, 9-inch ceiling, for example. I was excited to find I could adjust the back leg of the tripod-like base independently of the other two legs so it becomes only 22 inches deep. This is a thoughtful design feature that allows you to work with minimal floorspace.

The X-Drop backdrop system is particularly useful when photographing headshots on location. With a 5x7-foot chroma key green background, the options are limitless. I found the 5x12-foot gray sweep background worked nicely for full-length studio shots, although I needed to use Photoshop’s fill feature to create the illusion of a larger backdrop in my final image. Westcott offers a wide variety of backdrops compatible with the X-Drop backdrop system. Wrinkle-resistant backdrops are available in black, white, gray, and chroma key green (5x7- and 5x12-foot); 5x7-foot matte vinyl and lightweight canvas backdrops are made in classic prints, wood planks, environmental textures, and other patterns.

© Betsy Finn

I found the perfect opportunity to try the system, since my current COVID-19 safety measures include working on location only. In years past, senior clients stopped by the studio for their yearbook portrait before their location session. With the X-Drop system, my clients were still able to get a studio yearbook portrait even though we weren’t at my studio. And I didn’t have to lug around my unwieldy heavy-duty backdrop stand. I was pleased with how the system allowed me to offer the same client experience while following my new safety measures.

For one of my senior sessions, the school required a specific blue-gray background. Since I already had this on hand in a 5x7-foot size, I added some grommets to it. My experiment succeeded, and the resulting yearbook photoshoot went smoothly, right in my client’s backyard.

The X-Drop Portable Backdrop System is well suited for client photoshoots on location, including both executive headshots and senior portraits. Though I didn’t have the white backdrop in my review kit, I can imagine using it creatively during a session as a shoot-through diffuser or even a scrim. For jobs where you want portability and might otherwise leave a backdrop stand behind, I can see the benefits of the X-Drop backdrop system. 

The X-Drop system’s biggest shortcoming is that it feels flimsy compared to traditional backdrop stands. If a nice breeze comes along, it’ll make a good windsail if it’s not weighed down or secured. So while it’s not ideal for jobs where you need a sturdy setup, like dance studio portraits, or prom photos, the X-Drop system is be a good investment if portability and easy setup are key.

The X-Drop 3-Pack Backdrop Kit, which includes the backdrop frame, black, gray, and white 5x7-foot backdrops, and a carrying case, is $179.90. The X-Drop stand retails for $99.90; wrinkle- resistant backdrops are available in black, white, gray, and chroma key green ($39.90 for 5x7-foot or $69.90 for 5x12-foot sweep). A variety of additional compatible backdrops are available in classic prints, textures, and other patterns.  

Betsy Finn is a portrait artist based in Dexter, Michigan.

Tags: backdropsgear

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