Home Studio Needs

A reader’s spouse just asked me:

My spouse had a few photography lessons with you and I am considering getting him some equipment to begin setting up a basic photography studio in our home.  Since it’s a Christmas gift, I didn’t want to ask him or her directly what he or she would need and was hoping you could give me some advice regarding the brands and equipment he or she  would need.

Sure, I would be delighted to help. Here’s what I think you need for a home studio.


  1. A camera, of course.
  2. A suitable lens (maybe a 24-70, or a prime 50mm lens. For available light it needs to be a fast lens, like an f/1.8; for studio, the speed does not matter. For a big studio, get a 70-200 – but at home you are unlikely to have enough space).
  3. Some kind of background. For simple portraits, this can be a white wall. Or an air mattress blown up as a nice patterned background. Or anything else improvised.

Then, if you want a proper background:

  1. A stand kit – these are very affordable at Henry’s: they consist of two stands and  three crossbars. all in one case. Mine is a Cameron kit and I recall I paid somewhere between $100 and $200 for it.
  2. A roll of paper to roll down from the stand kit (I like grey, since you can make it any colour you like). Wider is better but you need space, plus the ability to transport it home, so you may want to choose narrow.
  3. Alternately, you can use a curtain (or two), hung down from a curtain-rod you attach to the wall just below the ceiling.

For available light portraits:

  1. That 50mm prime lens I mentioned. Or a 24 or 35mm prime lens. Now the lens needs to be fast (have a low F-number, like 2.8 or lower).
  2. A reflector (it can be one of those that folds up when not in use).
  3. A stand for the reflector, so you do not have to hold it.
  4. A window that faces away from the sun (e.g. a north-facing window).

For studio portraits:

  1. A backdrop, again, as above.
  2. A main light. Like a Bowens light (avoid Opus, but pretty much all others are great. For a home studio 200 Ws may be enough, though normally I would try to go with 400 Ws just in case.).
  3. These lights come with stands, usually. If not, you need to add a stand.
  4. A reflector, as above.
  5. A way to connect a flash cable to your camera. The light should come with a cable, and if the camera has a PC-type flash connector output, you are set. If not, a small converter from hotshot to flash connector is all you need to add.

That is the minimum. But to do it well, you may want some of the following added:

  1. Preferably, a second light.  Fortunately, many lights come in kits of two, like the excellent Bowens Gemini kits.
  2. A light meter (this needs to be a flash-meter).
  3. Two Pocketwizards to fire a flash (any other flashes can be slave-cell followers).
  4. One or two additional lights. These can even be speedlights, as long as you can fire them. Four lioghts is ideal, but not necessary of course.
  5. Modifiers – like grids, snoots and gels. If you use speedlites (small flashes) you can keep this simple: use the  Honl Photo range of small flash modifiers. That’s what I do.
  6. A tripod.

Here are two previous posts that may be helpful:

Does this help at all? I bet many of you, with Christmas just a month away, will be thinking similar thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Home Studio Needs

  1. Pingback: Lighting Gear Tips For A Home Studio | Henry's Photo Club

  2. Michael, looking into doing a 2 Speedlite setup as opposed to the Bowens setup. I was planning on getting a Westcott 28″ Softbox and a 43″ umbrella. I know it is not as good as the Bowens setup, but what are your thought with what I mentioned above?

    • Excellent. I do the same: I have a Bowens setup with four lights, but I also have the speedlites (4 also) and I use them all the time. Speedlites better indoors, Bowens also outdoors. But of course yes, you can use speedlites – after all, why do they call me speedlighter.ca? Speedlites need batteries, but they are more convenient for modifiers – grids, snoots, gels, etc. Honl system is cheap, sturdy and light, and very flexible. So yes, go for it. I use speedlites for gels even when I am using the big lights!

  3. forgot to mention that i already use the honl gels, snoots and grids….and not to mention the traveller 8. i agree with you…the honl products are great.

    so if i go forward with the westcott and umbrella, indoors for a 5 person group portrait, will it be enough lighting power? as well as outdoors, enough?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *