Studio set ups and indoor photography is something that intimidates most of the photographers I’ve met or spoken to recently. I on the other hand personally prefer to shoot indoors because I am probably the laziest person that walked the earth. I’m also a bit of a control freak so if I can control everything about the shoot from the light to the background. This way I can get most right in the camera versus having to edit for several hours. Before I moved into a commercial space, I had all my equipment at home and would pull it out only when I needed it. With the kind of work, I’m recently obsessed with I don’t really use a lot of equipment but over the years I’ve managed to get a bunch of things so if I ever want to photograph clients, I can do so without having to buy anything.
I have spent a couple of years looking into buying the most basic studio equipment so if someday my head spins and I want to get into something like newborn photography I won’t have to go shopping. Basic does not necessarily mean ‘cheap’ but I would always recommend spending a little bit extra to get the right piece so if tomorrow you grow you don’t have to replace piece of equipment you have bought.
Here is a breakdown of my go to’s:
There’s always a massive debate about continuous lights vs strobes and then there’s strobes vs speedlights. I mean of course it would be nice to have every piece of gadget that exists but if you’re on a budget and want to be able to control your light as best as possible I would recommend shooting with strobes.
After a lot of research and while in one of my ‘I wanna be a newborn photographer’ phase I decided to buy Paul C Buff’s Alien Bees B400. These are by no means ‘top of the line’ strobes BUT to me they seem better than continuous lights because the distribution of light is even and with some modifiers, I’m able to get soft or dramatic lighting in my shots.
These also come highly recommended by most newborn photographers, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Also, I would not recommend purchasing the B800’s because these are more powerful and harder to control when doing newborn’s or photographing kids.
This is one of those situations where I would like to say, ‘the bigger the better’, I have tried beauty dishes and I have tried umbrella’s and trust me when I say nothing beats a giant octo box. It is the best light diffuser I have worked with. I have spent money on the smaller soft boxes, a beauty dish, an 85” parabolic umbrella but I am always going back to my 60” octo box. My go to placement is always 45 degrees and slightly pointed towards my subject. I’m very much drawn to one light portraiture and this modifier is all I use along with my alien bees. The light is super soft and beautifully spread and sometimes as unprofessional as this sounds; I just use the strobe as a continuous light in combination with the octo box.
The downside: When I didn’t have a dedicated space I absolutely hated having to assemble and disassemble it when I needed to use it. So, if you can find and afford one that can be retracted and put away that would be ideal.
My latest obsession these days is product photography and while researching I came across a photographer who recommended these amazing lights. The lights in combination with a soft box are amazingly powerful. The Godox SL-60W are ideal for product shoots because not only can you control the intensity of the light but also the temperatures. Although, I am still playing with these and I’m not 100% sure about the controls but whatever I have shot using this light has been much better than the previous continuous lights I had which were the average amazon search LED lights. They have been my friends for some time, but I guess it’s time to move on. The Godox does have a price tag maybe not as big as some other ones out there but in comparison to some other brands with close match pricing I would recommend purchasing these.
Backdrops and Stands:
My latest obsession these days is product photography and while researching I came across a photographer who recommended these amazing lights. The lights in combination with a soft box are amazingly powerful. The Godox SL-60W are ideal for product shoots because not only can you control the intensity of the light but also the temperatures. Although, I am still playing with these and I’m not 100% sure
I never actually invested a fortune in my stands although there are days when I regret it. Now if I were shooting for clients, I would buy an auto roller or those sturdy metal stands by Neewer. These are on my list for the future if I don’t end up with those auto roller backdrops but depending on the budget and usage I would be smart about it. If you are planning to do a lot of shoots I would say invest once and get those auto mated ones because it will save you the time when changing backdrops. But if you are having to put away your studio after shoots there are a few heavy duty backdrop stands available on amazon and some even have the option to mount up to three backdrops.
For the backdrop itself – SAVAGE seamless paper is my go-to. I love the number of colors they offer and depending on the work you do the most versatile backdrop is either ‘bone’ or ‘misty grey’. You won’t go wrong with either of these.
With the above list I don’t think you could go wrong with your start up studio. I always tell my friends to start small and climb up. It’s always easy to look at equipment and tell yourself to wait because you must have the top-of-the-line items out there but with the digital age you can honestly do almost everything you want in post processing. I truly believe a time will come when we won’t even have to bother with equipment and do what we do in post processing. If you have any questions regarding brands or the recommendations, I made please drop a line below and I will get back to you!