Updated: August 29, 2013
I remember when I first started out in Photography and wanted to get serious about it, I had lots of questions about what to buy? No one wants to make a large investment in the “wrong gear”. I often get questions from New Photographers or Photographers looking to set up their 1st studio, asking what equipment should they get? That’s a hard question to answer without knowing what you plan on shooting the most, your space and your budget. My primary focus is Portrait – (Beauty, Fashion & Glamour). Rather than trying to address every single situation individually I thought it would be easier to share with you the equipment I use and then you can take it from there. I have a 4,800 sq foot studio space and yes I LOVE IT! If you see something you think you’d like to have in your studio then you can just go ahead and get it.
Nikon D4 DSLR Digital Camera (Body Only) - - My primary studio camera
Nikon WT-5A Wireless Transmitter – I sometimes shoot wirelessly from the D4 to my MacBook Pro and into Lightroom 4
Nikon D600 DSLR Camera (Body Only) – My travel Camera and backup body
Nikon WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter – For shooting wirelessly to my iPad or remote triggering from my iPhone.
Meike D600 Battery Grip – I love battery grips when doing portrait or extended location shoots.
Your DSLR most likely came with a camera strap and in big bold print it advertises the brand and model of your camera. It’s like saying to the world, “hey, I’ve got an expensive camera right here. Come steal it!” I prefer something a little less flashy and more versatile.
Up Strap – I like this one for travel and photo walks as it will NOT slip off your shoulder.
Black Rapid R-Strap – I like this one for photo walks and when I’m using longer lenses, heavier bodies.
OP Tech Super Classic 3/8 – I also like this one for travel.
Point & Shoot Cameras
Canon S95 – My point & shoot primarily used for concerts where DLSRs are prohibited (I’d either get the Nikon Nikon 1 V1 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 10-30mm and 30-110mm Lenses (Black) or Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Camera (Black) now)
iPhone 5 - Yep, I use this one almost as much as my DSLRs because it’s always with me. While the S95/S100 is a better P&S camera, the iPhone is ALWAYS with me. I even created an “iPhone Photography Portfolio” here.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens - My primary lens
Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 – An older lens I got off eBay a few years back. The current Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Autofocus Lens (Black) replaces it.
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Zoom Lens – My main travel lens
Nikon Telephoto AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF Autofocus Lens Mine is the older version, today I’d get this version. – I use this mostly in natural or low light situations and portraits
Nikon AF-S Zoom Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF Lens – My wide angle lens mostly used for landscape shoots.
Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED DX Fisheye Nikkor Lens – Mostly used when I travel and do landscape shoots
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro Lens – I use this for those rare occasions when I shoot closeups on products, hands/nails and jewelry.
Mamiya 72mm Rubber Lens Hood – for my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII Lens.
Lighting & Light Modifiers
I use Elinchrom for my strobes and Westcott for my continuous lighting. I use Nikon speedlights for air travel or my Elinchrom Quadra kit for local on location shoots. With each lighting system I use a variety of modifiers. My favorite is the Octa softbox.
2 Elinchrom Digital Style Combo 600RX Two Monolight Kit with EL Skyport (120VAC) – Portrait lighting <- I want 2 more of these
1 Elinchrom Style BX 500 Ri Compact MonoLight (90-260VAC) – Portrait lighting <-but I’ll probably just go with 2 more of these instead since they’re so much cheaper.
1 Elinchrom Midi Octa Light Bank for Flash Softbox
1 Elinchrom 39″ Mini Octa Lite Bank Softbox Softbox for on location shoots
1 Elinchrom 27.5″ Rotalux Deep Octa Softbox – great for quick falloff of light
1 Elinchrom Rotalux Softbox 27 x 27″ (69 x 69 cm) Softbox
1 Elinchrom 17″ White Minisoft Reflector for Elinchrom Beauty Dish and Impact 18″ Diffuser Sock
2 Elinchrom Rotalux Softbox for Flash
1 Lastolite Kickerlite Floor Level Softbox – 3×4′ (91x122cm)
Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Head S Pro Set – For my on location shoots.
Elinchrom Skyport SPEED Transmitter to trigger the Elinchrom strobes
2 Westcott Spiderlite TD6 2 Light Perfect Portrait Kit Deluxe (110V) – For Portrait and Product shots – Continuous Lighting
I still have some Westcott Spiderlite TD5′s that I primarily use for video or backup.
1 Westcott SkyLux – used for portraits, product shots and video shoots
2 Westcott Ice Light – used for portraits and creative lighting.
1 Lastolite Triflector MkII Kit – White/Silver – used a lot in my portrait work
1 Westcott Shallow Softbox 54 x 72″ (137 x 183 cm)
1 Westcott Shallow Softbox 36 x 48″ (91 x 122 cm)
1 Nikon SB900 Speedlight – For travel (get the Nikon SB-910 AF Speedlight i-TTL Shoe Mount Flash now)
1 Nikon SB800 Speedlight – For travel (get the Nikon SB-700 Speedlight Shoe Mount Flash now)
2 PocketWizard Plus II Transceiver / Radio Slave for the Nikon Speedlights
1 Westcott Terry White Travel Portrait Lighting Kit <- Yes it’s named after me! Woot!
1 Lastolite Ezybox Hot Shoe Softbox Kit – 24×24″ for Travel <- my old travel kit
1 Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa for Travel
1 Zumbrella shoot thru umbrella for Travel
2 sets of ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender Kit for Travel
2 Matthews 24×36″ Flags
1 Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella (White Diffusion)
1 Westcott Reflector – 48×72″ – Gold, White (white on one side, gold on the other)
1 Lastolite HiLite Illuminated White Background (6 x 7′) – for high-key fashion work. I put the cheapest strobe that I could find in it and set it to slave.
2 Lastolite TriGrip Diffuser, Two Stops – 48″ (1.2m)
A variety of different light stands, but I did invest in a couple of good ones on wheels: Avenger A5033 Folding Base Wheeled Studio Stand
and a great 40″ Boom Arm
Manfrotto Tripod (mine is discontinued, this one is the closest to what I have – Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 4-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs (Black)) – This one stays in the studio, but I rarely shoot portraits with a tripod.
Gitzo GT1542T Series 1 Traveler 6x Carbon Fiber 4-Section Tripod w/ G-Lock – This is the one that I travel with for landscape shoots/long exposures. It also doubles as my light stand in a pinch.
Manfrotto 131DDB Tripod Accessory Arm for Four Heads (Black) and Gitzo G065 Laptop Platform – Laptop stand/support on the road when shooting tethered.
Kirk BH-1 Ballhead with Quick Release – Supports 50 lbs (22.6kg) – the one I use in studio (Although the Kirk Ballheads are top notch, today I’d probably go with The Really Right Stuff ballheads because most of my friends use these and therefore it would be easier to use a buddy’s tripod that’s standing next to me.)
Kirk BH-3 Ballhead with Quick Release – Supports 15 lbs (6.8kg) – the one I use for travel
iStabilizer Mount for Smartphones – iPhone photography and video work
RAM-B-121 UN9U iPad mount for my tripod.
Westcott 5501 Modern Vintage Background (9 x 12′, Onyx) I have all 6 designs, but I use Onyx the most.
1 Westcott Masterpiece Collapsible Reversible Background – 6×7′ – Black / White
4 Westcott X-Drop Backdrops and Stand
Mist X-Drop Kit, Quarry X-Drop, Saffron X-Drop and Slate X-Drop
My custom scenic backdrops like this one below come from Vision Bedding
6 Rolls of Savage Seamless Paper (Fashion Gray, Canary Yellow, Blue, Coral-Pink, Black & Cocoa) Savage Seamless Background Paper (107″ x 12yds, #56 Fashion Gray), Savage Seamless Background Paper (107″ x 12yds, #38 Canary), Savage Seamless Background Paper (107″ x 12yds, #31 Blue Jay), Savage Seamless Background Paper (107″ x 12yds, #3 Coral), Savage Seamless Background Paper (107″ x 12yds, #20 Super Black), Savage Seamless Background Paper (107″ x 12yds, #80 Cocoa)) – these are permanently mounted on the walls of my studio
ThinkTank International Airporter – my main on location travel bag
ThinkTank Streetwalker Hard Drive Backpack – my larger backpack for air travel to hold my camera gear and computer gear as a carry-on
Kata R-103 – My smaller backpack when I don’t need to travel with as much gear.
I have a variety of smaller bags, but the 3 above are the ones I use the most.
Studio Music System
Music is a very important part of my shoots therefore the sound has to be good (sometimes loud) and able to be heard throughout the building. Therefore I stream the same music to via AirPlay to 4 different speaker systems located throughout the building. I’m using an older MacBook Pro for this task that either plays Pandora Radio or music from my iTunes Library)
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air – speaker in the main studio area
3 Bose Soundocks with AirPort Express Base Stations (1 in the green room, 1 in the reception area and 1 in my office). Now that the iHome iW1 has shipped I would go with 3 of those instead of the Sounddocks if I had it to do over again.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 - I couldn’t imagine doing photography without it!
Adobe Photoshop CC for all my retouching and compositing needs.
Long USB Cables for Tethering – When I shoot my D4 I’m usually tethered via Ethernet, but I also use USB tethering on other bodies.
Parrot AR.Drone 2 – for aerial photography/HD Video and behind the scenes shots
HyperDrive ColorSpace – multi-media backup device for backing up memory cards while in the field on those occasions that I don’t have my laptop and my iPad doesn’t have enough room.
3 Apple TV 2 Set-top boxes – My photography is on display throughout the studio both in print and electronically via HDTVs and Apple TVs driving them.
Apple The New iPad 64GB WiFi+4G Verizon - I use it for portfolio display, image review, model releases and variety of other tasks. See how it fits into my workflow here.
Apple 15.4″ MacBook Pro Retina Display Notebook Computer
Dell U2412M 24″ FLAT WIDESCREEN LCD MONITOR – used when I tether and it rotates to either portrait or landscape orientation.
Wacom Cintiq 24HD My main display/tablet for retouching.
Wacom Intuos5 Wireless Digital Tablet
AV Cart on Wheels - My studio tethering setup is on this cart with a long enough extension cord to reach any of my shooting areas.
AirPort Extreme Base Station – this one access point has been amazing as it provides WiFi for the entire building.
2 BlowIt Fans – great because they mount on light stands
Fog Machine – Do I need to explain this?
Mac Mini Mac OS X Server with a Drobo 5D attached. There’s also a Drobo FS on the network for additional backups of the main Drobo - Network backups for every shoot I do before I leave the building
ExpoImaging 72mm ExpoDisc Digital Warm Balance Filter (Portrait)
Solmeta N3 – GPS for geotagging integrated with my Nikon DSLRs
Trampoline for those high jump shots
Zacuto Z-Finder 3 – Great for shooting DSLR video and keeping things in focus by giving you a great view finder.
X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
Sekonic Light Meter – I rarely use it, but I have one just in case. Today I’d probably buy the Gossen DIGISKY Flash and Ambient Light Meter because it can trigger the Eincrhom strobes
Iron, Ironing board, & a steamer.
A variety of props and furniture.
The Bottom Line
The list above represents equipment that I’ve acquired over the past 4 years. By no means do you “need” all of it, especially if you’re just starting out. Take from it what you will and keep in mind that I didn’t start with it all on day one! That’s the thing about photography, “there’s always something to buy!” No one ever told you to get into photography because it would be a “cheap” hobby!
See more of my photography here.