It’s a big day, the one where a photographer finally makes the decision to open up their very own photography studio.
As soon as the lease (or property sale) is signed, there’s important purchases to be made, like new studio equipment and gear material. Instead of purchasing rental equipment or loading up your car with portable gear, you’re finally able to unpack and settle.
Depending on which direction you’re looking to take your photography in or which concentration you specialize in, your photography studio should be stocked with the best. Quality equipment to ensure proper advancement in your field.
Whether gear that will help you feed into your creativity or practical applications that ensure proper lighting or photo adjustment, it’s vital to cover all basis. Read on as we breakdown the complete guide of must have photography studio gear, as some items in our guide may surprise you while others are completely free of charge.
What Are You Capturing
Before diving into photography studio gear, it’s crucial to lay out exactly what style or type of photography you are planning on capturing. Most likely, if you’ve made it to a place where you’re opening up a photography studio, you’ve narrowed down your subject matter.
Photographers who market themselves as specializing in overall branding or advertising have to cover a wider range than those who focus their art on a particular practice like product or still life imagery. Why? Because brands will want to sign overall larger contracts that cover photography like: lifestyle, editorial, headshots, and product. This is more difficult, not only do photographers have to craft their art to perfectly execute each style, they have to have a wide variety of gear to cover shooting each. By specifying what you plan on shooting and narrowing down (but not too much) your trade, you’ll be able to invest in quality photography studio gear and not break the bank.
What Camera Are You Working With?
The most crucial element in photography studio gear, the camera. The Digital Photography School, expresses the importance of getting the perfect camera for all your needs. With the pricing of affordable DSLRs (versus in prior years), the accessibility is way more approachable than ever before. Not only will investing in a DSLR improve image quality, adaptability, speed, and a larger ISO range, it will last for a good amount of time.
Some major points who want to review before investing in new camera is, does it work with any of my preexisting gear (i.e. lenses, tripods, etc) and can I build on it in the future. We’ve all started from somewhere and we’re looking to work our way up to someplace, so your camera should reflect that. Some cameras are limited to the compatibility of the accessories they work with. Keep this in mind when out shopping, and make sure it’ll suit all your current and future needs. Below we’ve broken down a mini guide on some of the best DSLRs out there for entry level shooters, experienced, and advanced photographers.
- Nikon D3300: One of the best camera for those who are new to DSLR. The price point is affordable (under $400) and is easy to learn off of. You may have noticed we listed the D3300 versus the updated D3400. Why’d we list a previous model when a new one is on the market? Because not only is the D3300 a hundred dollars cheaper, it covers (pretty much) the same facets and is not worth the jump for the price. This camera is also accessible to many lenses and accessories as your expertise continues to grow.
- Canon EOS 5D Mark IV: Relatively on the pricier side and meant for those who are expert level at operating DSLRs, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is of the most all encompassing cameras on the market. It delivers an advanced AF system and a 30.4 megapixel sensors.
- Nikon D7500: Perfect for those who are intermediate level when it comes to working with DSLRs as it covers a wide range of functionality and is moderately priced. With an impressive 51-point system and a 20.9 megapixel sensor, you’re guaranteed to get top quality images.
Investing in Lenses
The biggest difference between lenses and cameras is that you outgrow your camera, but you never outgrow your lenses. The root of lenses comes down to the camera’s body (otherwise known as the SLR — the camera we have listed above). The better the camera, the more sharp and vivid your lenses are going to be. So for that reason, lenses are an investment. If cared for, quality lenses will last forever. This is where a big chunk of change will be spent on, as quality lenses changes enhances everything about final image. In fact, it’s recommended (if looking to save costs) to buy a lower end body camera and top quality lense versus buying an expensive camera and a low quality lense. When looking to purchase lenses look out for the following terms:
- Distance Indication: The operating range of the lens.
- IS/OIS/VR: These three components help stabilize any vibrations.
- ASP: Otherwise known as aspherical, not necessarily a must have for new or entry level photographers.
- CRC: These lenses are best for short range images as the CRC stands for Close Range Correction.
Now that we’ve addressed the logistics of the camera and the associating lenses, it’s time to dip into the helpful camera accessories every photography studio owner needs on their set. From balancing tools to equipment holders, there’s a whole world of camera gadgets that will help transform your space into a top notch photography studio. Why are these supplies necessary? Just like the importance of the staple components of a camera and lenses, there’s many different aspects that go into creating perfect imagery.
Now that you’re opening a photography studio, whether in a part of your home or a completely separate space, you’re going to want to maintain organization, care for you camera and lenses to keep them lasting longer and to create ease while on set with clients. Read on as we dive into a couple of our favorite and must have camera accessories for your photography studio.
- Tripods: Now that you have your own official space, it’s time to set up residence with your own official tripod. This will help stabilize your camera safely while keeping your arms relaxed and your hands from shaking — a win win if you ask us. The meFOTO Globetrotter is the perfect all around tripod; it’s sturdy and can hold over twenty six pounds of camera equipment. On the rare occasion (since you have a studio now), where you have to shoot away from set or on location it’s completely portable as well. For those travel occurrences, this tripod can also double as a monopod for ease of use. Plus, it comes in different colors, and who doesn’t love the extra creativity and pops of color in their studios?
- Cleaning Equipment: Don’t forget one of the most crucial pieces of equipment needed for your photography studio — cleaning. While our brains might be focused on the fancy and expensive equipment, there’s nothing that can ruin a photograph more than a dirty camera lens. So, one must invest in proper cleaning equipment when running a photography studio. Some of the most standard and easy to use products when it comes to cleaning off camera equipment includes air blasters, wipes, and pens.
- Cases and Holding Gear: Just because you now have your own photography studio does not mean you should ignore using cases and holding gear for both your camera and lenses. While you’re not moving around from place to place, you’re still using and handling your equipment in your space. The perfect comparison would be your phone, just because you’re in your home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect it with a case.
- Hard Drives and Memory Card Readers: Regardless of where you’re shooting, you’re still shooting. For you photography studio, make sure to have many external hard drives and memory card readers around. They help when dealing with clients and looking through selects while simultaneously storing all your work. This leaves your computer to move quickly and not be bombarded with extra GB dedicated to a large photo library. For those who like keeping their images on the computer and do not have the storage, try signing up for a large capacity on storage sites like iCould or dropbox.
Sometimes All Your Need Is Your Camera
Many photographers when first starting out, don’t mess with many accessories. They have their cameras, their lenses, and standard accessories to keep everything protected, safe, and steady.
But isn’t there more that goes into a studio then that? It depends.
Many photographer spend a great deal of time scouting the perfect location with natural light coming in through the windows with a painted wall serving as the backdrop, as nothing beats the perfect east-facing sunlight beaming in through the windows. This not only gives you the largest amount of sunlight throughout the day, it can create variation in sunlight tones coming in. For example, shooting at sunrise and sunset or avoid shooting in the middle of the day because of over exposure. The only problem that comes from this is the lack of predictability. Many photographers can’t afford to miss a day of shooting because the weather decided to be cloudy or rain. So for those reasons, below we’ve broken down a guide to picking out the perfect lighting for your photography studio needs:
Picking out the ideal lighting fixtures and equipment for your photography studio can be a daunting task. Before having your own studio and set, it was more often than not that studios included rental equipment, you transported portable lights, or you were shooting outside in natural light. But when purchasing or setting up a studio, it’s customary to have lighting in some capacity (whether natural or synthetic). With the next steps of picking out, saving, investing and finally purchasing your studio’s lighting, there’s a great deal of research that goes into the process. A process here at the H Collective, we’re here to help you.
- Key Lighting: This is a term referenced to the lighting of the main subject and is purely directed on providing light on the subject being shot (whether a product, person, or even animal). More often than not, those first starting out operating their own studio start with one. These singular lights are referred to as monolights. One of the most quality monolights on the market (and unfortunately most expensive), are the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 lights. This light is powered by remote and can be easy to use when working with a dynamic and hands on shoot. Lighting can be tricky and those expert in the field often times find hardships with certain lighting equipment, so it’s crucial to invest in quality lighting when trying to operate a photography studio.
- Fill Lighting: Just as the name hints to, fill lighting is meant to fill in the surrounding blank space with light to help illuminate your photo. Like we mentioned earlier, good and (most importantly) quality lights are pricey, so to invest in lights for both key and fill- the budget may need to be a little steep. Instead, try working with reflectors to help bounce light around the studio. It’s better to have one quality light with numerous reflectors, than multiple middle tier light fixtures. As cheaper lighting can range in the color payoff with each flash of the camera.
- Backlight: When shooting with subjects distinct from particular backdrops, its customary to use a backlight. This is often recommended for capturing both products and living subjects in photography sessions. As a practice started in the early 1950’s, the trend has come to stay and is used by many (if not most) photographers in the business. Backlights do not have to be overpowering (unless looking for a dramatic look), and a few lights can be placed behind the subject to help remove any unnecessary shadow.
- Strobes or Constant Lighting: When it comes to photography studio lighting there’s an important question every photographer faces. Do they want to use constant lighting or strobe lighting. The best way to describe the difference is, constant or continuous lighting is like a flashlight. It’s always illuminated and present on set for the entirety of the shoot. Strobe lighting sets off light every time the camera trigger is pressed to capture an image. Strobe lights were the initial favored lighting choice because they released the necessary power for optimal light. Strobe lights also preventing sets from overheating and creating a comfortable on-set experience. Over time these elements with strobe lights have been outshined by the technology of constant lights. Since strobe lights take time to re-power in between shots and are guessing games for photographers on lighting since the light is only released when the trigger button is hit. Now constant lights give off enough power without overheating sets and prefered by most modern photographers.
- LED Lights: What’s this miracle photography that allows constant light to power a set without overpowering and increasing the temperature on set? Those would be LED lights, and they are the relatively new craze in the photography industry. While LED lights have come a long way they still can’t deliver as much light as a strobe light. Additionally they drain up batteries quickly and use up quite a bit of energy increasing the electric bill. But on the flip side, but using LED you’re able to see the light your working with and you’ll have dual purpose light while shooting. Another fun fact, by using LED lights, your subject’s eye properly adjust so you’re not getting dilated pupils like you would with strobe lights. If taking portrait photography LED lights will help your image capture more of the iris, so may be the best option to really capture expressions in your photography.
- Flood Lamps: Meant to completely cover the set in bright white light, flood lamps are a preferred form of lighting for theaters, movie sets, on stage performances, and now photography studio setups. Not only are these lights extremely long lasting, they’re low maintenance and help with many of the continuous lights issues like: energy exhausting and heating sets.
As we just broke down the specific details as it comes to lighting, let’s discuss all the supplemental components that go into lighting for a photography studio – lighting accessories. From organizing how the lights configure and wire, to the position they’re left standing in – many separate and individual elements go into a key light that many looking at a photography wouldn’t be able to distinguish. But we know you do! Read on as we review three different lighting accessories you may want to consider for your photography studio:
- Stands: Just like cameras need tripods to stay up throughout a long shoot, lights need stands in order to be placed and situated in the correct locations. As we mentioned price points for lights above, you would think that a five hundred dollar price tag would include light stands to help assemble – this is not the case. Lighting stands, while not ridiculously expensive, can run for a decent amount of money. The main component you want to look for when purchasing a lighting stand is the weight each stand can hold. The higher the weight threshold, the more your expensive light is safe. Try TK, as many reviews state that the product is TK.
- Reflectors: As we mentioned previously in our lighting categories, reflectors are great accessories and considered a must-have equipment in any photography studio? This is due to the reflector’s ability to manipulate light in certain angles to catch properly on a photo. So if working with a quality light – you’re going to experience high end lighting throughout your set (a big way to stretch your dollars). Reflectors come in many different sizes as well as offering different reflective surfaces such as: gold, silver, multi-dimensional color, and most commonly used white. A great brand to purchase reflectors from is Westcott, their product is prefered amongst photographers as it’s moderately priced for the quality and includes six panels within it’s small and portable figure.
When it comes to photography and setting up your photography studio, there’s a crucial element that can determine the final outcome of a project or image (especially in studio photography), and that is the use of photography backdrops. As a backdrop can set the stage and environment for a photo, as well as dictate many of the associating factors that come along with preparing for a photo shoot, it’s best to have an assortment of go to backdrops or a signature all-purpose backdrop that can be used for multiple situations.
- Knowing Fabrics: There are dozens of backdrops made from different kinds of fabrics and material. For those who are opening a photography studio, investing in a canvas background may be the best option. These backdrops are ideal due to their versatile nature and photographers tend to get a great deal out of them due to their long lasting material. Unfortunately, the positive characteristics of a canvas backdrop are the reason that prices can be rather steep. A good quality canvas backdrop can average around two thousand dollars per sheet.
- Have a Lifestyle Wall: Many photographers who capture people for editorial content need to be well verses and ready to shoot both portrait and lifestyle. Unfortunately, many lifestyle shots can’t be captured in a photography studio setting. Instead, if setting up shop in a place where you have access to an outdoor space such as a rooftop, patio or outdoor recreation space (most likely away from over crowded cities like New York City and Los Angeles), try to dedicate a wall with natural light outdoors to your lifestyle content. You can organize this by painting the wall an ascetic or on-brand shade. Additionally, you could install some exposed brick or designed cement finishing to tie in elements of street style to your lifestyle imagery.
Do you have your own photography studio? Let us know your must-have gear for one in the comments below.