Photography Studio Equipment for Beginners: The Definitive List

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If you’ve decided it’s time to launch a photography business or you’ve been dabbling in professional photography but you haven’t taken the leap into opening a photo studio, now might be the time.

But in order to turn your beloved hobby into a lucrative business, you’ll need the right photography studio equipment. You don’t need a lot and it doesn’t need to be top-of-the-line. There are plenty of budget-friendly options that are basic items you’ll need to get started.

Here’s our definitive list of photography studio equipment you’ll need to get started and maintain a photography business:

Backdrops

One of your first investments should be backdrops. If you aren’t shooting outside, you can’t rely on the natural world to serve as a decent backdrop for your photos. The goal when you are shooting in a studio is to use a backdrop that creates a clean and consistent image.

Having a collection of a few backdrops gives you variety and ensues you’ll have the right set up for each photo. They can be basic, but you should a few options.

The simplest backdrops include materials you can get at a hardware or art supply or craft store.

For example, consider backdrops made from:

  • Canvas
  • Seamless paper
  • Muslin fabric
  • Cotton (including bedsheets)
home studio paper photo backdrop on stand

Peruse your local craft and sewing store for a wide variety of fabrics that can serve as backdrops. The items listed above are a great starting point, but they aren’t your only options.

Below are the pros and cons of each material listed above:

  • Muslin: Doesn’t wrinkle easily, is a neutral in color, comes in a wide range of sizes and shades, is inexpensive and easy to find, portable
  • Canvas: Durable, high-quality, customizable, portable
  • Seamless paper: Inexpensive, clean, crisp, flat, variety of colors
  • Cotton: Similar to canvas and muslin, inexpensive, easy to find light tones and shades, sturdy

Backdrop Stands

Now that you have a variety of backdrops, you’ll need to invest in a support system. Even with a photography assistant, you don’t want to need to hold up your backdrop while shooting.

Some photography studios are large enough to set up permanent backdrops. Some have both. If you have a wall you can use as a backdrop, that’s permanent and then you move other backdrop options in front of the wall as needed.

The important thing is to have a system in place that allows you to easily swap out different backdrops without worrying about it being time consuming or sagging or falling during the photo shoot.

It’s also important to remember that while there are plenty of ways to improvise a backdrop, you’ll want to create as professional a setting as possible.

If necessary, build or invest in a solid structure for your studio space that is reliable and doesn’t look as if you’ve just taped up your backdrop a few minutes before the photo shoot.

Something as simple as clips on the wall for hanging a muslin or cotton sheet is enough to give a professional appearance.

Lighting Equipment

female model with photography lighting

Chances are when you decided to set up your photography studio, lighting was the type of equipment you gravitated to. Most photographers think “New studio… I need studio lighting.” This is true, of course, but it’s not the only thing you need.

It’s also easy to get carried away with investing in studio lighting, and while it’s great to have options, not many newer photographers have a lot of money to spend on all sorts of lighting.

The good news is that’s okay. There are plenty of ways to get great studio lighting without spending an arm and a leg or crowding your studio with too much photography studio equipment.

A few things to consider when assembling your studio light collection:

  • Color: Studio lights are usually tungsten or florescent and each gives off a different hue
  • Direction of light: Do you need it from more than one angle? Overhead? Up lighting?
  • Continuous or flash: What triggers the flash?
  • Quantity of light required: How much light is needed in your studio space? How much natural light is there?

You have several lighting equipment options, including:

Softbox

Softboxes modify your lighting to make it less harsh by allowing you to control the direction of the light. By diffusing light, you’ll get fewer harsh shadows.

Umbrella Lights

Source: By Alexander Dummer from Pexels

This is the most popular style of lighting because they are easy to use, easy to set up, and portable. They also come in a wide variety of sizes and price ranges. You can choose from shoot-through umbrellas and reflective umbrellas.

Shoot-through umbrellas are like soft boxes and allow you to diffuse the light that’s pointed toward your subject. Soft boxes spread the light and provide soft, photo-friendly lighting.

Reflective umbrellas shoot the light into reflective material and bounce it back toward your subject. They are more challenging for new photographers but make it easier to shoot larger groups. You might eventually consider both options for your photography studio.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how much photography studio equipment you want to invest in. The important thing is to not get lured in by all of the fancy bells and whistles available. Make smart decisions and invest in high-quality items that will last a long time.

Also keep in mind there are some types of equipment you can rent. This isn’t ideal, but it can be a great temporary option for those who are just getting started. This allows you to invest in equipment piece by piece and upgrade as you go.

It also lets you sample certain types of equipment and learn more about what you like and don’t like. That way you’re able to make more educated decisions once you are ready to buy.

Finally, make sure you do your research before investing in any type of equipment. Read reviews, evaluate features, and determine what is best for you – not just want other photographers like the most.

This way you’ll have a photo studio that is custom built to your needs and preferences and you’ll have created an environment that makes you comfortable to work in.

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