One Piece of Equipment Every Portrait Photographer Needs

Whether you’re shooting headshots at a Fortune 500 company or taking photographs of a family member for Mother’s Day, there’s one piece of gear you should definitely have in your kit for every portrait session.

Coming to you from Gavin Hoey and Adorama is a quick rundown on why changing your height in relation to your subject and your background will help you take better images. Whether it's to create a more dramatic image with a hero shot of your subject outlined by the sky or if you’re trying to eliminate distractions in the background, it’s always valuable to take a few moments and decide on the height at which you want to shoot a portrait. Now, the question to ask is what if the height you want is too high for you to stand comfortably or what if you’re simply not tall enough?

The piece of gear I believe every portrait photographer should have is a simple step ladder. Whether you are or you’re not vertically challenged, it’s a great idea to always have a small step ladder available in your car or studio. In this case, Hoey uses nearly the same step ladder I own and take with me on every headshot and portrait session. When the horizon line is going across the neck of your subject, being able to raise your camera comfortably with only a step or two up while still directing the subject is a very simple way to greatly improve an image and your interaction with a client. 

It’s a simple tool that I use a lot and I couldn’t imagine shooting a portrait session without. After watching the video, what are some other simple or unique tools you feel every photographer should have in their kit?

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michaeljin's picture

I keep a Gorilla Ladders 3-Step (PRO-Grade Steel Step Stool with 300 lbs. Load Capacity Type IA Duty Rating) that I picked up from Home Depot for this purpose. It's a bit on the pricey end, but I'll pay a bit extra for the security of knowing that my fat ass is not going to suddenly break the ladder one day. LOL!

As for something that I think every photographer should have, but not everyone does is a good flag. It feels like everyone has reflectors (and certainly some reflectors can act as a flag), but photographers seem to not use flags or use their reflectors on their black side nearly as much, which is interesting to me given that the ability to control light is critical. It's not always enough to be able to put light where you want it. Sometimes you need to be able to shape or block light where you don't want it. I have a Matthews 24x36, but a piece of black foam board can do in a pinch.

Jay Galvan's picture

One Piece of Equipment Every Portrait Photographer Needs: A Camera.

This is my Step Ladder... I've never met my real ladder...

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Aw, you poor thing. lol

Blake Aghili's picture

looool .... and I climb on top of it :D

Totally agree. Indispensable for wedding photography too. I used to get some funny looks and comments but I got the photos I needed. At times a whistle was.useful for the odd shot to attract attention

Blake Aghili's picture

My Pelican case is my ladder on location ...

Vincent Morretino's picture

Haha, me, too! I use a 1510.