I've been asked about a few equipment items lately and wanted to compile a list for those who are interested. Photographers, Aspiring Photographers, Hobbyists, Students, or whomever else would like to know what to get, where to get it, what to use, what not to waste your money on, etc. I titled this article, "Beyond the Camera & Lens: Equipment list for Photographers on a Strict Budget" because I didn't want to include Cameras or Lenses, nor did I want to include really expensive equipment or all top-of-the-line equipment to waste money that you could be saving for more or better lenses or even a better camera. Most everything on this list is what I use or have used in the past. Some things were expensive and top of the line (because I believed it needed to be) but many items are great values for a much lower price that will still get the job done, and done good. I would say that once you have paid for all this equipment, purchased a nice Pro Camera (and backup camera) and several Pro lenses then you can evaluate what needs to be replaced or upgraded to Pro quality. This article is based on my experience and wrote as my opinion.
Most of my research came from magazines, books, and the web. I tried to get everything I needed through Amazon.com. I trusted Amazon, knew their policies, expectations from sellers and buyers, and knew I was protected as a buyer. Several links that I link to in my blogs are to Amazon.com. You can always check with the seller's website and do your own research. Amazon does provide users like you and me to rate the items and to review such items. I find it a good place and a good tool to find decent equipment for (many times) at a fraction of the cost that you would pay for top-end photography equipment. Do you get what you pay for? Many times yes. Do you have to always buy the most expensive equipment to get the job done? No. Never.
Like many people, I try to be budget conscious ALL the time. I can usually wait for things to ship. So, if I can find it online, it is more often than not, cheaper than going to the local store to purchase. A few times is is cheaper to go to your local store. I invest in Amazon Prime (a service with a yearly fee of around $99/year that saves you a ton of money on shipping. Once a member of Prime, most items that you buy you can get FREE Two-Day shipping. Which if you have done any online shopping, this membership could pay for itself in just a handful of purchases.) By clicking this link then you can get a free 30 day trial to Amazon Prime.
Do I work for Amazon? NO. Will I get a tiny commission for anyone following these links and making a purchase? Yes. However, the monetary gain that I get for you buying through Amazon probably won't cover my time in writing this blog, but it is something. So to help me out and to hopefully keep these articles coming with valuable information, please click on the links. AND It does NOT cost you anymore if you do or not.
I do shoot Canon. Some of the items below are brand specific but many are not. All are budget specific. I have found that most of this equipment is not that bad of equipment. If there is something that I have bought (that was junk) that you should steer clear of, then I will tell you.
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This list is a work in progress.
Main Flash (Primary Flash, Key Flash, Master Flash) This is your high dollar flash unit. I have only one of these.
Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash for Canon EOS Digital SLR Cameras or the newer and less expensive
Secondary Flashes (Slave Flash) These are cheaper units. I have two of these Yongnuo Speedlite YN560 Flash for Canon, Nikon Cameras
Flash Triggers/Receivers (Wireless, RF) No line of sight. Cheap and they work good.
In-Studio Strobes (the kit I bought is not on Amazon anymore. This one is a really good starter kit. I have done everything that I have done in studio with this kit (two 400W and one 300W Strobe). More than enough power for indoors. Square Perfect 3 Studio Strobe Kit from Discount Tommy.
Portable Strobe/MonoLight (This strobe is a 600W strobe. It comes with a battery pack so you can take it out in the field. The cheapest you will find. It is slower and still not as bright as more expensive strobes, but you really cannot beat this strobe. It also works with AC power. So it's both an AC/DC power strobe.
Stands (Flash Stands, Strobe Stands)
Portable Back-drop Stand(s)
Three Prism 10x20' 100% Cotton Muslin Backdrops and The Ravelli Full Size 10x12' Background Stand Set (You will want to always get 10x12 Muslins instead of the 6x9 because the smaller ones just aren't enough backdrop for multiple posing angles.) I have this set and with sandbags (as you will need with any set) it is pretty sturdy. I have not had any problem with these stands. Comes with a case and breaks down to a small bag.
Muslins (Cloth material) (You will want to always get 10x12 Muslins instead of the 6x9 because the smaller ones just aren't enough backdrop for multiple posing angles.)
**A little note about cloth (muslin) verses paper: If you are wanting a black background always go with cloth as it is less reflective. Black paper WILL reflect light. So unless that is the look you are going for, then black = cloth. White is opposite. If you are wanting a white background, then you should always go with seamless paper. You can blow out the background easy and white cloth always shows wrinkles. and speaking of wrinkles...
Seamless Paper (two sizes) (as with cloth, you will want the larger paper size. Buy local so you don't have to pay for shipping. These rolls of paper are heavy. Get the larger (wider) size of 107 inches (about $50 a roll). The smaller sizes are 53 inches wide. Both are 12 yards long so when it gets dirty you can just tear or cut off and pull down some more. Comes in all different colors. If you live in Wichita then go down to Molar Camera and buy yours.
Seamless Paper Wall (or ceiling) mounting system (mounts 3 rolls of same size) DMKFoto 3x Chain Drive Background Set with Backdrop
Tri-pod (a good one will last for years)
Manfrotto 058B Triatt Camera Tripod - Replaces 3251 and 3051 (Black) (this is the best in my opinion and allows for such a quick-and I mean quick!- setup on unlevel surfaces) or for a lower budget and still a sturdy and hefty tripod (although you may have to tighten all of the screws in this one BUT it comes with the joystick ball head) Ravelli APGL4 New Professional 70" Tripod with Adjustable Pistol Grip Head and Heavy Duty Carry Bag and if you absolutely have to get a light weight one then I'm sure they make those too. If you want a cheap one, then I have one you can buy from me. Cause I won't use it. Ever. Again.
with ball head such as Manfrotto 222 Joystick Head Replaces 3265
Remote Trigger (remote shutter release)
Canon RC-1 Wireless Remote Control for Select DSLR Cameras (limited range, needs line of sight) or (or get both)
Backdrop Light Reflector
Light Meter Sekonic L-358 Flash Master Light Meter Save this one for later. You may think you NEED a light meter, but you don't. Not in the digital age. I have found that it is so much faster to set up your shot, use a test subject or actual subject, run some test shots and dial in your settings on MANUAL MODE of course, since you will need to do that anyway, especially if you are using strobes that are not TTL (Speedlights and Flashes). Ultimately (and professionally), you will want to (and get the experience to) NOT use TTL most of the time anyway BECAUSE you will want to control every light source, every shadow, every detail, etc. of the shot. AND who says photographers aren't controlling??? lol Most of the time, you aren't using your flash sitting on top of your camera anyways, are you?
Sand Bags (to hold down light stands/backdrop stands) After all, you don't want anyone getting hurt or damaging a set or any little child because the wind blew over or the child pulled on the backdrop, tripped over a cord or cable. Safety should come first always then it is just common sense that you would want to take care of your equipment so it will last awhile. The first time that the wind tips over a strobe or speedlight and breaks it costing you replacement and repair fees then you will remember this list and think to yourself... JC said "sand bags". Get some. Put rocks in them, put sand in them. They don't leak sand. (Oh, get the sand at a local store like Wal-mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, Manards, Atwoods, etc.
Scrims (used to filter or diffuse light): These can be made or bought. The reflector 5 in 1 set listed above has a scrim in it. Even a thin white sheet could be used as a scrim. You will want a lightweight frame to hold it tight which might not be so easy to make. Here is a medium ScrimJim Kit. It used to be that you could make or change it into different sizes but I am not sure that is the case now. A person could try pvc tubing or alluminum square or hex tubbing.
Flags (used to block and absorb light)
Power Strip with fuse or breaker
Credit Card Processor (GoPayment by Intuit): You will want to take credit cards. In the office. Out of the office. Out in the field. Anywhere. Anytime. I've researched a few of them and this one is more secure than some other ones (at least back when I researched them and before I went with them). Look at another review of all three major venders.
Glass Table Top: This is a rugged piece of glass, thick, often used for table tops. So where would you get one of these? I stumbled upon one (actually a few different sizes) brand new in a box at Hobby Lobby. They are heavy. Don't pay shipping for these.
Light box for product photography
Heavy Duty Spring Clamps
Putty or molding clay
Rechargeable Batteries - The Sanyo Eneloope are the best I have found. They come in two grades. Standard is white and will be good for several hundred recharges. 2000 mAh AA - rechargeable 2100 times 800 mAh AAA - rechargeable 2100 times The high capacity version are called "XX" and links are 2500 mAh AA - rechargeable 500 times and the 950 mAh AAA - rechargeable 500 times.
The best charger that I have found for these is The Titanium charger which comes in two sizes. I have the 16 bay model. There is also an 8 bay model. These charges come with AC and DC plugs so you can use them at home or in your vehicle on the go.