• Melissa Sheridan

5 Must-Have Items for Studio Photographers

Updated: May 25

Although I do plenty of work outside and with natural light, I have a studio out of my home in Charlottesville for newborns, children's, and head shots. It really comes in handy in the winter when being outside isn't ideal.


It also gives me great control over everything because the lighting is always the same. Sometimes I actually prefer my studio because of that - there are no unexpected hiccups like super harsh light, weather to worry about, etc.


I've had some people ask about my studio, so thought I'd share how I've set it up and my studio must-haves.




1. Paul C Buff Digibee Lighting System


Lighting can be super daunting if you haven't worked with off camera flash before. Just go on Amazon and search "studio lighting" and the results are overwhelming. I decided on Paul C Buff brand of lighting because it was what most newborn photographers I knew used. I took a workshop back in January 2018 and the hosting photographer had a Buff Einstein. I would have loved the Einstein and maybe someday will upgrade to that, but for now I use the Digibee 400. It's plenty powerful enough for my needs while still creating soft, natural looking light.


In addition to the Digibee 400, I use a 64 inch PLM silver lined umbrella and a white diffuser sheet over it. I just got a cheap lighting stand off Amazon since my studio space is pretty small. I needed a smaller profile.


With this I also had to get an RF trigger and transceiver that attaches to the flash and foot of my camera so they can sync. And don't forget and extra light bulb as a back up in case it burns out!


2. Savage Seamless Backdrop Paper


You have nice lighting, but now what do you put your subject on? Seamless backdrop paper is an easy and relatively cheap solution. It's flat, so it creates a soft glow without shine and shadows look natural on it. They also roll up for easy storage. Savage is the leading backdrop paper brand. I did my research and there truly wasn't much else out there with as good of quality or in a big enough size for any cheaper, so I went with Savage.


I currently use the colors #53 "Pecan" and #51 "Bone." The size you need depends on the space you have available to you and what subjects/type of photography you're doing. I use 86" but would have loved 107" if I had the space for it.


They're also great for cake smashes, and then you just cut the bottom off that has cake and frosting all over it and throw it away. Easy! This one is on Pecan.

Here's an example on Bone.

They were both great neutral choices.


3. A Grey Card


This is simple, but when working with studio lighting (or even natural) getting the color profile right before you take a photo is essential. Even with controlling the light, sometimes photos appear too warm or too cool.


For less than $10, it was worth it to me to white balance my photos ahead of time instead of having to deal with off colors in post. I got this one off Amazon. If you've never used a grey card before or made a custom white balance in your camera, this video is helpful.


4. My Custom-Made Wood Backdrops


I've been asked about these a LOT any time I post an image using them on Instagram. I wish I had a link for these, but my dear husband built these awesome real wood backdrops for me!


I was looking into some faux wood looking fabric drops from Rozzi Rayne, but they were about $250 each and I'd need 4 of them if I wanted a wall and floor for both dark stain wood and white wood. Yikes! We DIY'd it and made some ourselves to save money, plus I think the look of real wood is so much nicer than wood prints on fabric.


Here's the dark stained side.

I really regret not taking some pictures during the building process, but there are lots of similar tutorials on Pinterest! That's where my inspiration came from.


Total, the project cost us about $150 and now I have a two-sided wood drop for newborns and kids! And here's the white washed side.

Very very thankful to my handy husband for whipping these up! <3


5. A Couch


This couch guys... I knew I needed a seating area for my newborn clients or parents of children to sit and hang out. Newborn sessions take about 2-3 hours, so seating was a must for me. However, this couch also doubles as a photo prop as well!



The price point was perfect for something that I knew wouldn't be getting daily use. It was easy to put together. I love using it for a more natural setting for newborn photos or head shots.


So there you have it - my studio favorites! If you're a photographer, I hope this post was helpful if you're deciding to start setting up a studio for photography. If you're a client or potential client, I hope this post was eye-opening into all that goes into what I do in the studio!


xo Melissa

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MELISSA SHERIDAN PHOTOGRAPHY © 2020

CHARLOTTESVILLE VIRGINIA WEDDING & PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER