May 21, 2024

Everything You Need for Your Photography Studio

I worked in corporate accounting for almost twenty years before opening my photography studio (see my video story here). At the start of my entrepreneurial journey, I started with a home studio. Then one year later, I opened my photography studio in Montclair, NJ in 2017. During these earlier years, I felt pressured to purchase the latest and greatest gadgets and equipment. I also purchased things for the studio that weren’t necessary. Therefore, after all these years I am going to share some insight on all the ‘essentials’ and ‘extras’ that I believe you need so that you can provide portrait photography services.

Please note, there are a lot of blogs online that speak about photography equipment. Therefore, I won’t be speaking about cameras or fancy gear. This blog is for the photographer who already owns a camera(s). The photographer who is considering updating or opening a portrait photography studio (home or location), and who wants to do so on a budget.

My Photography Studio

As mentioned, I started with a home studio and now have a photography studio in Montclair, NJ. My studio is just under 500 square feet and has a very large window which I use a lot for natural light photography. I wasn’t necessarily planning to stay in this intimate space for long. However, I have a great landlord, great location, great light and know how to use my space efficiently and effectively. I love my space and therefore, don’t wish to move. At least for now.

Recommendations – Essentials

These items are all directly linked to Amazon. You can click on the hyperlinks (underlined words) to access the amazon links. I have other items that many have asked me about that are listed on my Amazon storefront e.g. furniture, appliances etc. Feel free to browse as I only share my absolute favorites. Items that I have used for years that I would still recommend today.

Portable V-flat

In my studio I use both standard 8 ft v-flats as well as this portable and collapsible v-flat (80″). Whenever I’m asked where I bought my v-flats or which v-flat they should start with I always recommend this one. Yes, you will have to do some editing in post to fix the little gaps or the velcro lines. However, this v-flat is versatile. Whether you have a studio, home studio or only shoot on location (non outdoors), this portable v-flat will serve all your needs.

In this video, I show how I use this portable v-flat in my home to take self portraits. I created this video during the pandemic when my studio was closed for over four months. I wasn’t able to bring home my stand alone v-flats as they are too large and not portable. This v-flat is one of the higher priced items on my list but it is worth every dollar. I have used this not only as a backdrop but to also bounce and remove light.

Apple Boxes

Apple boxes aka posing boxes, are a must for my portrait studio. I would not be able to photograph different posing styles without these boxes. Currently, I have four full size apple boxes. I kept two in its natural wood grain color and painted the other two in white and black. I also have the apple box set which has a variety of different sizes. In the images below, I show how I use these apple boxes for the same client, same session. Even if you don’t see the apple boxes in the image themselves, they have been used in all these photos.

everything you need for your photography studio


Apple boxes are great for sitting and standing poses. However, there are even more budget friendly items you can use for portrait photography. Stools are often used for headshot photography, however, I also use them for my contemporary glamour and boudoir photography. I have these stools in my studio; one in black and the second, I painted in white. These images below show a few styles and poses you can capture with this budget friendly posing tool.

everything you need for your photography studio

Monolight Strobe Flash – Alienbees

There are many different types of lighting equipment. There are also a lot of videos online that speak about the different brands and types available – constant vs. strobe light. I’ve used both in my studio. I wouldn’t call myself a lighting equipment expert by any means, especially since I mainly use natural light. However, I do use this lighting setup in this image the most. It is also very budget friendly.

The Alienbee 400 light is the first strobe that I ever bought. A light that has survived almost ten years which I still use in my studio today. I pair this light with a 60″ octabox. This setup is less than $500 total and works perfectly for my intimate space of 500 sqft. (Quick note, you’ll also need the transmitter and receiver to complete the light setup).

The Alienbee does require an outlet. However, if you don’t want to walk around cables and plug in and out of outlets, you can invest in the Buff Vagabond mini lithium battery. You see this battery in the image clamped to the light stand. If you plug strobe light into this battery, you then have a portable light that you can move freely throughout your space.


Last but not least, one other important tool that I can not live without is a fan! (In my opinion, it just adds a little ‘wow’ factor to any image). It’s not for every photographer, however, my clients love it. Some photographers use hair dryers which I also have in the studio. However, if you don’t have an assistant to help with the direction and strength of the hair wind, then a stand alone fan will be your assistant! Below are some examples of images where I used a fan.

That pretty much wraps up all the ‘essentials’ (at budget friendly prices) that I believe you need in your studio to take artful portraits. These are the bare minimum items to effectively create various styles of images with different poses. However, I have also been asked about other things I have in my studio. I’ve listed them below as ‘extras’. My complete comprehensive list of everything (in addition to essential and extras) are listed on my Amazon storefront. In my storefront, I’ve added video reviews which will also give you additional insight on the products. Just click on ‘Photography’ under Curation and you will see my list of products as well as the videos.

Recommendations – Extras:

Spider Holster – I wear this holster around my waist and use this in every portrait session. I never put my camera down anywhere as it always stays on me. This way I never forget where I put it and there’s no risk of it getting damaged either. It’s a bit of an investment but I’m still using the same holster that I purchased almost ten years ago so definitely worth it.

Seamless paper & Backdrop Wall Mount – I use various v-flats in my studio in every portrait session and many photographers only use v-flats especially for headshot photography. However, if you start photographing full length or wide shot images you will eventually need to use a backdrop system. I use Savage’s seamless paper and wall mount backdrop system also in my studio. This wall mount I’ve purchased once and have never had to replace. (I actually purchased this for my home studio years ago!). Therefore, it’s worth the one time investment. It allows you to hold three different paper backdrops and the chains have weights so that it holds the paper in place and doesn’t unravel unless you pull the chain and essentially the paper down. Highly recommend.

Ring Light & Wall Bracket – If your clients are getting their makeup and/or hair done at your home/studio then you’ll need some light. This ring light has been in my studio since I opened in 2017 and I surprisingly haven’t had to replace it ever since. The wall bracket to hold the ring light (so that it doesn’t have to sit on a stand) has been helpful as I have various things that I move around in the studio.

Makeup Chair – An adjustable bar stool is ideal so that your makeup artist can adjust the height for each client. This makeup chair doesn’t take up too much space and has ample back support.

iPhone Microphone – I use this set to record anything on my iPhone. It cuts out any background noise and has your voice over in any video you record crisp and clear. I don’t record without it!

Studio Furniture – I’ve gone through so many different furniture pieces over the years. I’ve also ordered from various discount furniture websites over the years. However, the set that I now have is my absolute favorite and was under $200 from Amazon! These two sitting chairs are absolutely beautiful and very comfortable. The PU leather also makes it really easy to clean and manage. They’ve been in my studio for almost a year now and they still look brand new.

TV Stand – Whether you’re showing your client their images or having a tv display to show your work this stand works perfectly. Whenever I’ve had some important events, I’ve transported this stand easily as well. It advertises my work without having to print my work and hang (as I used to in my earlier years).

Ok this got a little longer than expected but that is it. The ‘essentials’ and the ‘extras’ that I recommend for your photo studio. If you’re curious about other things I have and use in my studio e.g. photography supplies, wardrobe pieces, battery power station, makeup supplies etc. they are all listed on my Amazon storefront. Thanks for reading and feel free to reach out if you have any questions!