So—you’ve explored the different types of photography and decided to become a portrait photographer. Great! Now, it’s time to make sure you’re using the right equipment.
If you already have the best portrait photography camera and the best portrait lenses, next come the accessories. From photography backdrops and camera flashes to portrait lighting and light reflectors, there’s a wide range of accessories out there to help you create the best portraits possible—and jazz up your portrait photography portfolio.
So, whether you’re getting ready to photograph your first portrait session or looking to complete your epic portrait lighting setup, here are some camera and lens accessories you should definitely consider for your portrait photography!
Getting some photography backdrops can be an easy way to add style and a professional look to your portraits. Since backdrops are available in all types of materials, sizes, and patterns, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the right photography backdrops for you.
Photography Backdrop Sizes
The first thing to consider is the size of backdrop you’ll need. Start by thinking about the size of your studio and the subjects you’ll be shooting.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want a backdrop that’s at least six feet long for taking three-quarter-length portraits, and 10 feet long for shooting full-length portraits. To handle family portrait shoots, you should have a backdrop that’s at least nine or 10 feet wide.
Photography Backdrop Materials
The next thing to take into consideration when buying photography backdrops is the material. Some of the choices available include vinyl, cloth, and canvas.
One traditional option is muslin backdrops. Muslin is a woven cotton that is usually painted or dyed to create a range of colors and patterns. These backdrops are durable but can be difficult to clean, as they are often not machine-washable.
On the other end of the spectrum are seamless paper backdrops. Paper backdrops offer the benefits of convenience and low cost. They come in rolls, so when the backdrop gets dirty, you can simply cut off the dirty portion and pull down a fresh section. There are also lots of amazing colours available (pastels are very popular these days).
Photography Backdrop Recommendations
If you are looking for an affordable backdrop solution to start with, Savage Universal sells paper photography backdrops at fair prices. For example, it costs $49.99 for a 12-yard roll of seven-foot wide seamless paper.
If you’re looking for a more permanent option, you should consider a vinyl backdrop. They’re much more durable than paper, and they are also easier to clean and store than muslin backdrops. Another benefit is that they are water-resistant and can be spot cleaned with a damp cloth. Backdrop Express offers vinyl photography backdrops in a wide range of solid colors and printed styles.
Need more versatility? Consider picking up a chroma key backdrop that will allow you to choose your own colors, patterns, or backgrounds in post-production. For example, this chroma green vinyl backdrop costs $59.99 and measures five feet by seven feet.
Portrait photography involves using a wide variety of lighting equipment. But getting the right on-camera flash is a key first step to ensuring your portraits are properly lit.
While proprietary on-camera flashes from companies like Canon and Nikon usually offer the most features, they’re not cheap. The good news is, if you’re on a budget, a great on-camera flash doesn’t have to cost you that much.
The YONGNUO YN560-IV Speedlite is a flash unit that is compatible with a wide range of cameras. It offers exceptional value at $69.
This is a powerful flash that features eight levels of flash output, a large LCD screen for viewing and adjusting settings, and it can last for up to 1500 flashes on one set of batteries.
It has a metal hot shoe for on-camera triggering, but also features a radio transmitter and receiver so it can act as a long-range flash unit and can be used to trigger other flashes. In addition, it can be triggered optically.
The locking head can be tilted from -7 to 90 degrees vertically, and it rotates 270 degrees. You’ll be able to bounce or swivel the light any way you want to create the perfect lighting for your portraits!
On-camera flashes can also be used off-camera. However, dedicated off-camera flashes, such as a set of studio strobes, can provide even more flexibility in creating the lighting effects you want.
One solid option is the Neewer Photo Studio Strobe and Softbox Lighting Kit. For about $220, it offers two 250W strobe flashes along with two 6.5-foot light stands. The strobe lights in this off-camera flash kit are versatile and can be used in various lighting applications, including as a main light, backlight, or hair light.
The kit also includes two soft boxes that are 20 x 28 inches. The strobes use an RT-16 wireless flash trigger and receiver. When you put all these components together, this kit will help you achieve even lighting and great results at a fair price.
Light reflectors are an effective way to control the lighting of your portraits. There are many different types to choose from to suit your needs and budget. Here are a couple photo reflectors we like:
The Westcott Eyelighter 2 Reflective Panel is a curved light reflector that’s designed specifically for portrait and headshot photography. It has a highly reflective surface that can work with studio lighting or ambient light. Its seamless, curved surface can create a great clamshell-style reflection from a single light. This light reflector costs $299.90, and it is available with a light stand included for another $35.
The Impact 5-in-1 Collapsible Circular Reflector is a convenient and inexpensive light reflector the offers a lot of flexibility. This reflector comes with two removable and reversible sleeves, providing five different types of surfaces. The various reflective surfaces can provide light of varying intensity and temperature. It also includes a black fabric surface for subtracting light from a shot. When you remove the reflective sleeves, there is a translucent disc inside that can be used as a diffuser. With its $49.95 pricetag and killer versatility, it’s hard to beat the value offered by this photography light reflector.
Continuous Lighting for Portraits
Purchasing some studio lights to provide continuous lighting for portraits can give you more control over your shots. It will allow you to see how your subject is lit as you shoot, as opposed to having to review how the shot turned out.
In the past, one major downside of continuous lighting for portraits was that subjects got cooked under the hot lights. But since cool-running LEDs have become the standard, that’s no longer an issue.
Want to get into continuous lighting for portraits? Lighting kits are a good place to start as they can offer better value than if you buy all the equipment separately. This LED Studio Light Kit from Savage includes two remote-controlled dimmable LED bulbs, two reflector umbrellas, and two six-foot tall light stands. It also includes detachable warming and cooling domes to modify the light from the LEDs. It comes with all the cables you need and a carrying bag, and the whole kit costs $135.99.
Lens Filters For Portraits
When it comes to portrait lighting, some photographers avoid lens filters because certain filters can degrade image quality. However, there is a wide variety of lens filters now available that can help you take better portraits—as long as you choose the right ones. From polarizing filters to cooling and warming filters, there is a lot to consider.
Here are a few lens filters for portraits worth checking out:
Neutral Density Filters
Our pick: Firecrest Ultra 100mm Standard ND. This filter provides hyper-neutral colors that will make your portraits look more natural. It is a professional-grade filter and costs about $220. It offers high clarity and sharpness, and is very durable. The filter is also anti-reflective and hydrophobic, ensuring nothing gets in the way of you taking the perfect portrait.
Our pick: Tiffen 77mm Circular Polarizing Filter. Polarizing filters are helpful for reducing reflections, adding contrast, and enhancing colors. This filter offers a very competitive price ($34!) and will allow you to control which light rays enter your lens simply by rotating the filter. So, if you’re taking a shot that has a reflective surface in it such as water or glass, you can make a quick and simple adjustment to eliminate the reflection.
Our pick: 77mm Brass UV Filter from Chiaro. UV filters are worth looking at if you plan to shoot portraits using sunlight. These filters can block out UV light and increase color accuracy by lessening the bluish cast of daylight. They also help to reduce glare and reflections. Chiaro’s brass UV filter ($39.95) offers quality construction, and 99 percent light transmission to ensure high image quality.
More Fun Light Modifiers
Want some additional cool light modifiers to add to your portrait lighting setup? These options will up your portrait game substantially.
You don’t have to look hard online to see great examples of how fairy lights can be used to stunning effect. You can use them as part of a bokeh effect, or to shed some light on your subject in a creative way.
When buying fairy lights, look for a set that lets you adjust the brightness. There’s only a small price difference between adjustable and non-adjustable lights, and the ability to dim or brighten the lights will give you much more freedom to tweak the look they create. You’ll also want to find a set with a power adapter so you don’t have to worry about replaceable batteries.
If you’re interested in adding fairy lights to your portrait photography lighting, check out this set of 100 LED fairy lights. It is 33 feet long, offers dimmable control, and is waterproof. It is currently selling for $13.49 on Amazon.
Balls and Prisms
Many photographers have used glass or crystal balls to capture stunning images using refraction photography. Another trend that has been gaining popularity is prism photography. This portrait photography lighting involves using prisms to bend light or create glares and reflections to achieve some dazzling effects. If you’re interested in giving it a try, Amlong Crystal sells a variety of balls and prisms that are well-reviewed and fairly priced.
It should go without saying that a good tripod is an essential part of a portrait photographer’s toolkit. So here are some quality tripods for your consideration.
- If you’re not looking to spend a lot of money on your new tripod: The BONFOTO B671A offers exceptional value. It is currently available for $67.99 on Amazon, but don’t let the low price fool you. This alumnium tripod is well-reviewed for its light weight (2.9 pounds) and quality construction. One interesting feature offered by this tripod is it can be easily converted into a monopod by removing one of the legs and attaching it to the center column.
- If you have the money to spend and are looking for a top-of-the-line tripod: Take a look at the Gitzo GK1555T-82TQD. This tripod offers exceptional quality and stability. It has carbon fiber eXact tube legs, which means it is both strong and lightweight. It also offers a maximum payload rating of 22 pounds, so it can easily handle cameras with even the largest lenses. It’s available on Amazon for $990.
Now Get Shooting
Now that you know a little more about some of the must-have camera accessories available, you’re ready to start taking better portraits. Then, once you’ve got some gorgeous portraits under your belt, you can put together a portrait photography website—and then start marketing and promoting your portrait photography to get more work!