Updated: February 15, 2021
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 had a 4,800 sq foot studio space and yes I LOVED 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 D850 DSLR Digital Camera (Body Only) – – My primary studio camera
Nikon Z6 II Mirrorless Camera w/ 24-70mm f/4 – My travel Camera and backup body
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.
Black Rapid R-Strap – I like this one for photo walks and when I’m using longer lenses, heavier bodies.
Up Strap – I like this one for travel and photo walks as it will NOT slip off your shoulder.
OP Tech Super Classic 3/8 – I also like this one for travel.
Point & Shoot Cameras
I simply don’t use Point & Shoot cameras anymore. If I don’t bring my DSLR or Mirrorless, then I’m shooting with my iPhone.
Mirrorless Z Mount Lenses
DSLR F Mount Lenses
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
Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Macro Lens – I use this for those rare occasions when I shoot close-ups on products, hands/nails, and jewelry.
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Lens – Great for when I need more reach.
Lighting & Light Modifiers
I used to use Elinchrom strobes for the first 10+ years of my photography journey. However, in February 2021 I made the switch to Westcott’s new lighting system.
3 Westcott FJ400 Strobes – these are awesome because I can use them in the studio AND on-location because of the built-in battery packs.
1 Westcott FJ-X2m Universal Wireless Trigger System – this trigger works with both the strobes and speedlights. It’s a game-changer.
1 Westcott Rapid Box Switch Octa-M Softbox
2 Westcott Rapid Box Switch 1×3 Stripbank Softboxes
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.
2 Westcott Solix continuous lighting
1 Westcott Flex light – 10″x10″ panel
1 Westcott Flex light – 1’x3′ panel
2 Westcott Ice Light – used for portraits and creative lighting.
1 Westcott Eyelighter – My NEW favorite reflector for portrait work!
1 Westcott FJ80 Speedlight – This is my new speedlight that works with the same system as my new strobes.
1 Westcott Terry White Travel Portrait Lighting Kit <- Yes it’s named after me! Woot!
1 Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa for Travel
2 sets of ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender Kit for Travel
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.
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
Tripods and Mounts
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.
Arkon Clamp Stand for DSLR Camera, Tablet, or Phone this arm is simply amazing because it’s strong enough to hold my DSLRs/Mirrorless cameras so that I can get those shots straight down on top of my subject.
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
Really Right Stuff BH40 Ball Head with Full Size Lever Release Clamp, I really like this one and will probably buy from this maker going forward.
Platypod Max tripod alternative
Platypod Ultra Essentials Kit with Oben BA-111 Ball Head and Square Jellyfish Jelly Grip Tripod Mount for Smartphones
Arkon 11″ Tripod Phone Mount – iPhone photography and video work
Pocket Tripod Pro – This thing is amazing and folds down to the size of a credit card. Therefore I always have it with me in my wallet.
Westcott 5501 Modern Vintage Background (9 x 12′, Onyx) I have all 6 designs, but I use Onyx the most.
4 Westcott X-Drop Backdrops and Stand
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 via my Bose Soundtouch 20.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic – I couldn’t imagine doing photography without it!
Adobe Photoshop for all my retouching and compositing needs.
Long USB Cables for Tethering – A good stable connection from the camera to the computer makes all the difference in the world.
Vello Wireless ShutterBoss III Remote Switch with Digital Timer for Select Nikon Cameras – this wireless remote is great for shooting products or in situations where touching the camera would cause unwanted vibration.
DJI Mavic Air – for aerial photography/4K Video and behind the scenes shots
DJI CoPilot BOSS for in-field backups and mobile editing workflows.
Dell U2412M 24″ FLAT WIDESCREEN LCD MONITOR – used when I tether and it rotates to either portrait or landscape orientation.
Wacom Cintiq 27QHD My main display/tablet for retouching.
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.
2 BlowIt Fans – great because they mount on light stands
Fog Machine – Do I need to explain this? 🙂
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.
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.