Your own professional quality portrait studio on a budget? It can be done.
You can put a small studio together in your own space for a pretty reasonable price, and with a little learning or using your already honed skills, you can produce photos that are absolutely professional grade with our recommendations below. We cover the camera, accessories, lighting, and suggestions on exploring backdrop options. Everything you need to get up and running for under $1000.
The Camera Kit
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Digital Camera Kit
We wanted a camera that can come in on budget that has all of the ingredients of a pro camera for flawless photos under most conditions. We really appreciate when a manufacture combines the best ingredients into a single affordable kit that covers everything. This CMOS Digital SLR camera comes in at an amazing 18 megapixels for an extremely high resolution and very fine detail. We like EOS Rebel SL1 Kit from cannon because it really does include everything you need to get started shooting like a pro starting with the camera body and 20 other accessories. The list includes 18-55mm Zoom Lens for general and closer proximities, a 3 inch hi-res wide-view touch screen, a tripod, viewfinder, SD card and more. A very complete professional package for about $615.
Get Some Lighting
Lighting is extremely important for getting great shots. This lighting kit will get you started with plenty of pure white reflected light for your studio subjects. NOTE: If you are going to do portraits, use the soft white fabric. If you are going to do more of a character study, then go for the silver umbrella option for more direct hard light.
LimoStudio-Photography Photo Portrait Studio 600W Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit.
This includes everything you need to get started with an accent light table top stand, daylight balanced pure white bulbs, umbrellas, stands, and a flash strobe stand with a case. You could pick up two of these kits if you really want to make sure you have plenty of lighting options. Pick this one up at about $55.
Your Backdrops and Stand
Ravelli Full Size 10’x12′ Muslin and Stand Set
This set will get you started with a white and black muslin along with the stand, which will work great with any new custom backdrops you want to mount. Well reviewed quality equipment at about $170.
Note: You will no doubt want to get custom backdrops at some point in the future, especially if you are doing school events or portraits with kids. We have personally used Alba Creative, their customer service is top notch, and they have a really big selection of pre-made options. We went with custom backdrops by uploading our custom files, and they came out perfect. They will actually custom design a backdrop for you too if you tell them what you are looking for. Check out Alba Creative here.
Editing photos for is a must to make sure they look exactly like you intended, and the Adobe Creative Cloud has all of the media editing tools you need, you could even expand into video editing using your DSLR and more with the gamut of software a Creative Cloud account gives you access to. The Complete Package starts at about $50 per month. To get just Photoshop and included Lightroom desktop get the Creative Cloud Photography package for about $10 per month.
Optional – Flash
Whether you need a flash or not depends on the situation. If you want to have it on hand to explore more lighting options, then this will be a great addition to your set-up.
Altura Photo E-TTL Auto-Focus Dedicated Flash Kit
Arguably as good as the Canon alternative for about $600 less, and with rave user reviews as to the quality and versatility, this would be a great compatible flash for your SL1. It operates at up to 100 feet away too. This comes in at about $99.
Optional – Additional Photography Training
This is a great place to go if you are just getting started or want to brush up on your skills with up to date practices. Their online tutorials are easy to follow courses taught by industry professionals. There is a wealth of learning with Lynda because they cover not only photography training but DSLR operation, lighting, and everything Adobe, including Photoshop CC for Photographers, Camera RAW, After Effects, and more. Free trial to start then $25 a month for unlimited courses.
Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography
The easy to understand, highly informative DSLR reference. Northrup keeps things interesting by having you explore many different techniques and situations to challenge and entertain while you learn. He includes links to videos to supplement the course too, an added bonus. This book gets amazing reviews from the community, and you can pick it up for about $21.