One of my favorite tools in the studio is a vacuum cleaner. You may not need one all the time, depending on where you live, but I need one if I’m going to do any kind of macro or product photography at all. If you’re a photographer, it comes as no surprise that items from around your house are essential to your photography.
Here’s a list that I’ve compiled of 7 non-photographic items that are essential in most studios. Your mileage may vary depending on what you photograph most often.
1. Vacuum Cleaner
I live in the suburbs, in a region that doesn’t get much rain through most of the year. As a result, my studio can get quite dusty in the summer when the land nearby no longer has grass to protect it. This is when I find the Vacuum Cleaner to be most useful. Multiple passes are needed, one before the preparation and one during prep. Wiping down surfaces with a wet rag before starting, and using an air blower just before taking the shot also helps to keep the pesky dust away. It may seem like a drag, but it is certainly better than spending hours photoshopping out all those tiny specs.
2. Various Kinds of Adhesive Tape (and Other Adhesives)
Another must-have on most lists is adhesive tape. And you’ll often find yourself reaching for different types of tape to perform different jobs. Here’s a small list of different tapes that I always have at hand. Often, I’ll have different colors of the same type of tape.
- Gaffer’s tape: Low residue, strong, multi-purpose tape for short-term use.
- Duct Tape: Strong, and multi-purpose tape, for longer-term application
- Double-sided tape (thin tape as well as foam tape): for joining flat surfaces, securing backgrounds, etc.
- Electrical Insulation tape
- Paper Masking Tape
- Coloured Cellophane Tape
- Packing tape
Hmm… Have I listed all the types of tape in existence? If I have left something out, let me know in the comments. I think every kind of adhesive has its place in a studio, and Blu-Tack, Superglue, and hot-melt glue guns all have a place in a studio too.
3. Flexible 'Helping Hands' Tools
If you photograph jewelry or anything that needs to be suspended vertically, you’ll probably find this useful. These tools are intended for electronic soldering stations but are invaluable in many studio photography situations. If you need to hold things wide apart, and the hands are getting in the way, getting one for each side will fix the issue.
4. Microfiber Cloth & Cloth Gloves
If you’re shooting macro, or photographing shiny surfaces, you’ll always leave fingerprints. These can show up as messy smudges on clean surfaces, so we like to use gloves to hold these objects during preparation. Wiping them down with a soft microfiber cloth will remove any smudges, and will ensure that no lint and fibers are left behind.
No self-respecting studio can exist without a stepladder. Stepladders are used all the time, to secure lights, set up diffusers, fix props and sets, paint walls, secure backgrounds, and take photographs from a high vantage point. Stepladders are important.
6. Rope/Cord and Metal Binding Wire
You never know when strong ropes or metal binding wire will be useful. I’ve used them and seen them being used securing lights from overhead rails, setting up backgrounds in unplanned locations, and making sure that stuff doesn’t fall to the ground if supports break. You can’t go wrong with even more stuff to secure gear to things. Metal binding wire isn’t often used in a studio, but it can be very useful for its ability to retain shape, and also for its strength and low profile. You will most likely need a pair of pliers to remove it though.
7. Measuring Tape, Rulers
A measuring tape is useful to keep records of your setups, especially if they're complex and may need to be recreated if they get messed up. Additionally, the tape is useful to measure subject-to-camera, and subject-to-light distances — if you're into that. A ruler is helpful to align products, space them out, and make sure that they can be positioned with accuracy.
8. All The Usual Suspects (Extra)
These are items that you would normally expect to find in a studio that I don’t think need to be listed under their own heading. Their need would also depend upon the type of photography most often done in the studio… For example, a portrait studio may need a lint roller, but a product studio may not.
- Extension wires and boxes
- Knives, Safety blades, and scissors of various kinds
- Magnifying Glass
- Spray Paint and Paint Brushes (for painting as well as cleaning)
- Soldering/Electronics Station - If you know what you're doing.
- First-Aid Kit & Fire Extinguisher
- Various Sizes and Types of Clamps
- Comprehensive Tool Kit
- Speakers for music
The list will go on, for no studio will ever be "complete". Our usage keeps evolving and the studio evolves with it. Please feel free to add your favorite piece of non-photography kit to this list, and tell us how you like to use it. Unconventional usage gets extra points.