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A Guide to Creating a Beginner Portable Photography Studio

For seven years, I shot indoors, outdoors, rain or shine, in locations around the country. But about a year ago, I was looking to expand my skills, as well as my services for my clients. I decided my next move should be studio photography. However, I’m a college student who is constantly moving from location to location, so building a permanent studio setup somewhere wasn’t an option.

This sent me on my journey to figure out a way to create a portable studio on

a budget. I spent months researching what equipment I needed, where I should buy it from and what brands were going to give me the best value for the little money I had.

Because I did all that research, now you don’t have to! Here is my guide on how you can build a beginner portable photography studio for you and your clients.

1. Make a Budget (Money & Space)

When I started buying items for my studio setup, I kept two things in mind: 1. I didn’t have more than $300 to spend and 2. I didn’t have much space to store my equipment or set it up. This guided all of my purchases.

I really believe that you can create a portable studio with as little or as much money as you want to spend. I made all my purchases through Amazon which kept my cost low, but if you have more money, you can buy higher quality products from a photography retailer such as B&H Photo.

2. Establish the Essentials

If you’re operating under a tight budget, my best advice would be to only buy the absolute essentials to have a functional studio and then add on as you discover equipment needs. I started with a lighting kit, a tripod, a backdrop stand, and a backdrop.

I chose a three piece, LED softbox kit that came in a convenient duffle bag for my lighting. I picked it because it was under $150, a very good price for three lights, and each light had an LED panel which I knew would travel well. Many kits come with lightbulbs, instead of a LED panel. I would caution you to avoid these if you plan on traveling because you run the risk of shattering a lightbulb.

I bought a very basic tripod and backdrop stand. You could spend hundreds of dollars on these types of equipment but a cheap, basic one will do for now. Don’t waste your money in this field.

The backdrop is where I spent the most time. I started with what was advertised as a backdrop but honestly could’ve easily just been a white bedsheet. I used this for a few months before giving up on it. It was basically transparent and wrinkled so easily. I spent more time steaming and ironing it than I did actually shooting.

That’s when I found Savage Seamless Paper Rolls and I will never go back to my bed sheet. They come in many different widths, so before you make any purchases, get out your measuring tape to make sure you know what you’re buying. I made that mistake and now have a ten-foot-wide white roll that barely fits in my living room (where I do most of my studio shooting).

They also come in many, many different colors. In addition to my white roll, I also bought an olive green, a few months later. The rolls are extremely long, meaning I don’t have to worry about wrinkling the paper or getting it dirty, instead I just cut off the end of the roll if it gets damaged, and I’m still left with countless feet of paper.

3. Get Comfortable

So, you’ve purchased your essentials, and everything has arrived. Now what? It’s time to get comfortable with your equipment.

When I first bought all of my equipment, it took me at least an hour to set everything up. Now, it only takes minutes. I got to this point because for months straight, I would set it all up and take it all down, over and over and over again.

In the end, it matters more that you know how to utilize your equipment, not the cost of it.

Do you have a studio set up or are you in the process of building one? Tell me about it in the comments! Good luck.


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