Whether you’re venturing into snapping photos professionally, starting a side gig, or just beginning to explore the art form, it’s important for any photographer to understand how to set up a photoshoot.

But when it comes to the gear you need, it can be confusing to figure out which equipment is worth investing in. While you don’t need every piece of photo studio equipment out there, this photoshoot equipment list should get you started.

What Equipment Do I Need for a Photoshoot? 

1. Studio Space 

Skillshare instructor Kristina Turner shows how she transitions her own living room into a studio space, using a sheet to diffuse the natural light. 
Skillshare instructor Kristina Turner shows how she transitions her own living room into a studio space, using a sheet to diffuse the natural light. 

Don’t panic—studio space doesn’t need to be fancy. You just need enough room for your photoshoot equipment and for the people or objects you’re shooting. You could use the corner of a conference room or office space, or even a well-lit place in your home. If you don’t have the perfect space or need to spread out, you can also rent professional studio spaces by the hour. Look into venues, coworking locations, or office space rental companies near you.

2. Backdrops

Skillshare instructor and photographer Justin Bridges shoots a model using a backdrop.
Skillshare instructor and photographer Justin Bridges shoots a model using a backdrop.

Many professional photographers have several backdrops, but you can begin with a simple white one, which makes any subject pop. Common backdrop materials include muslin, canvas, seamless paper, or even an old bedsheet (make sure it’s been ironed!). It can also be helpful to have a backdrop stand and clamps to hold up your background of choice, as pinning it directly to the wall might rip the material.

3. Lighting

Skillshare instructor and photographer Jessica Kobeissi shoots a model using a reflector.
Skillshare instructor and photographer Jessica Kobeissi shoots a model using a reflector.

It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting inside or outside: You often need more lighting than just natural light. But what is the best lighting equipment for photography? 

Start with a reflector, a tool that bounces existing light off of its bright surface. “If you do want a little bit more control while shooting outside, you can always introduce a reflector. They’re very inexpensive, and they’re easy to use,” says YouTuber, portrait and fashion photographer, and Skillshare instructor Jessica Kobeissi. Reflectors range in size and can be held by a stand, an assistant, or by yourself.

You can also use softbox lights to create subtle directional light. These lights shine through a white, rectangular-shaped piece of nylon or polyester so the light isn’t so direct and harsh. Umbrella lights—a type of light diffuser that aims the light into what looks like an umbrella—are another good option, as they are easy to set up and use.

4. A Tripod

Skillshare instructor and photographer Henry Hargreaves shoots food photography using a tripod.
Skillshare instructor and photographer Henry Hargreaves shoots food photography using a tripod.

A tripod is essential for keeping your shots steady. Invest in a sturdy one that’s lightweight and versatile enough to travel with for on-location shoots. If you often take photos of objects on tables—like plates of food or craft products—a small tabletop tripod is also worth investing in.

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5. Props 

Rachel Gulotta and Daniel Inskeep, Skillshare instructors and photographers at Mango Street Lab, set up props for their photoshoot.
Rachel Gulotta and Daniel Inskeep, Skillshare instructors and photographers at Mango Street Lab, set up props for their photoshoot.

Tables, chairs, bookcases, pillows, flowers—the props you need really depend on your project. For baby photoshoots, you may want plush blankets, bows, and stuffed animals. For fashion shoots, it’s smart to bring a case of makeup, jewelry and other accessories. The sky’s the limit, but your budget doesn’t have to be—often, finding the perfect props for your shoot can be as simple as looking around your home.

6. Lenses 

Skillshare instructor and photographer Jessica Kobeissi shoots a photo with her camera.
Skillshare instructor and photographer Jessica Kobeissi shoots a photo with her camera.

It goes without saying that your camera is the most important piece of gear you’ll need—followed shortly by your lenses. The type of lens you use will depend on the type of photography you do. Wide-angle lenses make sense for environmental shoots, while a standard zoom lens is needed for indoor photoshoots or portrait photography. 

Planning to shoot while on the go? Kobeissi recommends keeping your lens lightweight.

7. SD Cards

Skillshare instructors and photographers at Mango Street Lab, Rachel Gulotta and Daniel Inskeep, show off a shot on their camera.
Skillshare instructors and photographers at Mango Street Lab, Rachel Gulotta and Daniel Inskeep, show off a shot on their camera.

You’ll also need an SD card, a removable memory card that gets inserted into your camera. SD cards store your photos, so it’s important that you have more than one in case you run out of space! You’ll also need a card reader to transfer photos from the SD card to your computer.

8. A Camera Backpack

Skillshare instructor and photographer Jessica Kobeissi shows off her camera backpack.
Skillshare instructor and photographer Jessica Kobeissi shows off her camera backpack.

A camera backpack, while not required for every photoshoot, protects your equipment from harm when you travel with your gear. Camera bags are ideally water-resistant, particularly if you’ll be shooting anywhere outdoors where your gear could be subject to the elements. Another feature Kobeissi looks for? A sturdy zipper to prevent theft.

9. Photo Editing Software

Skillshare instructor and photographer Jessica Kobeissi edits one of her photos in Photoshop.
Skillshare instructor and photographer Jessica Kobeissi edits one of her photos in Photoshop.

After any photoshoot, you’ll need to spend time editing your photos with software like subscription-based Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. “By making adjustments, you can transform the entire picture,” says Kobeissi. “When you get familiar using these tools, you’ll know exactly what you want to use for each picture.” 

Photo editing software is pretty heavy-duty, so you’ll also need a computer that can handle running it. Always back up your images with a hard drive or in the cloud so you don’t lose your masterpieces in case something happens to your computer.

What Do I Need to Make a Photo Studio?

There’s no shortage of gear available for photographers. But, if you’re just starting out, don’t invest your money in every piece of photoshoot studio equipment available. “It’s all about your creativity as a photographer and not so much your gear,” says Kobeissi. “So don’t worry if you don’t have the most brand new, expensive camera gear.”

When setting up your own photo studio, keep it simple with just a camera, a plain backdrop, and a tripod, and position your setup near a window to benefit from the natural light. If you want to add on lighting equipment or other backgrounds, you can typically find used photoshoot equipment for sale online or at local photo shops. Remember, you can always upgrade equipment as you refine your skills. 

Finally, it always helps to have an extra set of hands to help you in any photo studio.

“It’s obviously way easier when you have another person to help you out, to hold the bounces, to take props in and out, to take the photo,” says Mango Street Lab photographer and Skillshare instructor Daniel Inskeep. “I always think it’s best if you can recruit a friend or family member.”

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