|Same section of layout - one with my initial attempt at a painted backdrop, the other (below) with a commercial photo backdrop that has had the "sky" cut away.|
Yes, it's a question that divides otherwise peace-loving and agreeable model railroaders into two warring camps - do we use photos for a backdrop or go with a painted image?
Painting an effective backdrop is a skill - and a talent. It can be mastered but it's not easy.
Frankly, anyone can put a photo behind the scene on the layout.
And you'd think a photo, being a photo, would automatically be "better." It's not. It takes some skill and talent - and the right photos - to get a photo backdrop to look right.
Biggest issue I've seen with photo backdrops is the way the backdrop colors aren't even close to the colors of the scenery on the model railroad. Another issue is the photo backdrops can be just a little too much in the viewer's face, and there can be issues with light and shadow that are in a real photo but don't translate (or conflict) with the shadows and lighting on the layout.
Clearly there's no easy answer.
One of the most talented model railroaders I know who's built world-class layouts, has identified his limits and decided that plain "sky blue" with perhaps a slightly lighter horizon line with perhaps a very thin streak of "ground," is enough backdrop for him.
I decided to do a little experiment with a photo backdrop put temporarily in place of some of my attempts at painting.
I'm not sure what this proves, other than I'm not much of a painter.
I also haven't made a decision one way or the other - but I know what way I'm leaning.
In the meantime I have to finish prepping my clinic for Cocoa Beach, so I doubt I'll get this resolved before then.