DIY Paper Moon Photo Backdrop
Making a paper moon photo backdrop for our wedding was a labor of love, and totally worth it. Here's how I did it.
As an 8-year-old aspiring badass, I really identified with Tatum O'Neal's feisty character in movie Paper Moon. Ever since then, I loved the idea of getting my picture on a paper moon, but since the trend ended in roughly the thirties, I had to make my own! Here's how I did it.
Photo sources: Flickr, Flickr, and Pinterest
Materials: wood, skill saw, drill, screws, blue and white paint, brushes, adhesive velcro strips, glue gun, markers, pencils, string, foam board, box cutter, photo backdrop cloth and rig
1. I started with a sketch, but my measurements ended up shifting throughout the process to accommodate the resources I had on hand.
I studied lots of old paper moon photos, and decided I really liked the top two ones on the right. Notice how they aren't actually perfect circles - they're slightly oval, to better wrap around the subjects.
I planned to construct a wooden bench and support arm, and a moon out of foam board.
2. Next, I made my moon! Since I didn't have any advanced woodworking skills or materials (like a table saw) I knew I'd have to make my moon out of something lightweight. I used a 4x8' foam board from home depot.
Note: foam board is tricky to transport! It's really lightweight, and if you lash it to the top of your car, the wind will likely smash it into a dozen pieces. We wrapped it in blankets, put it between two big, flat boards, tied it securely to the top of our car, and drove home at 15 miles an hour. And we were still just stupid lucky it didn't break then - but it would break the day before the wedding.
So if you use foam, plan on having a pickup truck take your moon anywhere it needs to go.
To draw the outline, I make a make-shift compass tool with a couple pencils and a piece of string that measured about 2.5 feet. I tied the string to both pencils, staked one pencil in the center of the foam, and used the other pencil to draw the outline. I elongated the outline to make it slightly oval. The moon was wider than the board, so I cut off extra segments from the top and bottom and used a glue gun to attach them to the sides.
I cut the foam with a box cutter. It couldn't get a perfectly clean line - but it was good enough.
I used a marker to draw the contours of the moon. Note: the marker will leach through white paint! I'd recommend using a very light blue color. (You can see we used pink).
I bought a couple sample-sized containers of navy blue paint and light blue, the kind you'd use to paint a wall, and used that to paint the moon and its face.
3. I made the bench using scrap wood. Honestly, I was more proud of the bench than the moon. I taught myself to cut angles with my skill saw, and painted the whole thing a dark navy blue. If I did it again, I'd paint it black. It's much easier to find black photo backdrops.
I didn't use any existing benches (like a piano bench, for example) because I wanted subjects to sit fairly high off the ground, to try and get that little foot dangle detail.
I constructed a thin, L-shaped arm to come up from the bench and support the moon. I pre-drilled holes into it to allow it to be easily dismantled, transported, and drilled back together at the wedding venue.
Lastly, I got adhesive velcro to attach the moon to the L-shaped arm.
4. I assembled a photo backdrop with stars.
Photo backdrops are really affordable online - I used this one. I cut stars out of the leftover foam board and attached them to the backdrop with velcro. I also made a little foam cloud to cover a step stool, in case folks needed it to comfortably get on the moon.
This was a learning experience for me. Next time, I'd get a black mat or canvas drop cloth to cover the floor, and a black cloth to cover the bench legs.
And oh yeah - the moon broke on the drive over to the venue! We glued it back together the night before the wedding. If you use foam, and you don't have a piclup truck, you need to find a way to break it down - maybe design it to fold in the center, to fit it inside a car?
For the reception, I set up a camera on a tripod and had a shutter button so subjects could take their own photo. If you can swing it, get a professional to do this - it's a little tricky getting the focus and framing right every time.
Everyone loved our paper moon, and it was a huge highlight of the wedding for my husband and me. I edited the photos in Photoshop and Lightroom and mailed prints to everyone in our thank you cards.
Questions? Comments? Ideas? Please don't be shy in sharing! And if this tutorial is helpful for you, I'd LOVE to see your paper moons.