5 Photographers Reveal Their Studio Must-Haves

March 25, 2016


Sarah Anne Ward’s Pantograph overhead rig. 

A photographer’s workspace can have a positive influence on their creativity and productivity. We asked five photographers to reveal the features, tools and personal touches that make their studios great places to work.

Sarah Anne Ward,
Still-Life Photographer,
New York City  

Kitchen Tools
“Grill pans, food processor, Kitchen Aid mixer, Vitamix: All the little things it’s annoying for a stylist to carry around.”

Pantograph Overhead Rig
“One of my favorite parts to my studio—and I certainly miss it if I have to shoot elsewhere—is the Pantograph with gear head. It is what I use to shoot overhead instead of a camera stand or tripod. It’s a space saver and makes it much easier to style and light without a big stand in the way. The accordion stretches from 11 inches to 48 inches long.”

Seamless Rack
“I always have seamless handy—you never know when you need to change color. The tricky part is how to store the stuff so you can see what’s there. I built my rack myself. It’s a little over 4 feet and I’ve divided it into four compartments that are each about 12 inches wide.”

Oven with Vent to the Outside
“Mine is commercial, restaurant grade. When you’re doing a story on grilling and are grilling all day long, it gets seriously smoky in here.”

Everything on Wheels
“The space is large for a New York City resident, but it does get tight when there is a larger crew and multiple clients but I make it work on most jobs. The key is to keep the space fairly open and most things on wheels or easily movable for specific job needs. All the stands are on wheels, the computer station is on wheels, the kitchen counter is on wheels, so if I’m not shooting food it doesn’t have to be in the middle of everything.”

Christine Blackburne’s Craftsman Cart. Image © Christine Blackburne.

Christine Blackburne,
Still-life Photographer,
South Street Seaport, New York City

Fuji GX680
“You won’t see too many of these anymore as Fuji no longer manufactures them, but it is the best medium-format camera for still life ever made (in my humble but fervent opinion). What makes it so special is that it is a single lens reflex (so you can look though a viewfinder to see what your subject is doing, unlike on a large-format camera), while still having the front movements of a large-format camera so you can select your focal plane. It’s a medium format that wasn’t designed to leave the studio, weighing in at 10 pounds. I can’t imagine anyone hand-holding my baby behemoth too long, so it happily lives on a FOBA stand.”

Sonos Speaker System
“The best thing about this system is that I’m able to turn it down for my clients, who might have to make some phone calls or have a meeting, while not completely turning the music off for me and my crew.”

“I love being in the South Street Seaport. The cobblestone streets, the huge historic clipper ships: It’s such a quaint corner of Manhattan that a number of artists started populating recently, especially after Hurricane Sandy drove rents down (temporarily).” Blackburne, who lives across the river in Brooklyn, says, “I love that I get to take the East River Ferry into work from Greenpoint. It’s way better than being stuck underground in a subway!”

Craftsman Cart
“The inside of my cart looks like it might belong to a very well organized serial killer (blades, surgical gloves, armature wire), and that’s the way I love it. I like being able to pick the most applicable one of my dozen tweezers at a glance. Other than being able to shoot my own personal work whenever I’d like, my favorite feature of having my own studio is that I know I have all of the tools that I need at my fingertips and I know where all of it is.”

Articulating Arms
“I consider these almost as indispensable as my camera. On one end you have a super clamp. You can attach that to your tabletop surface. Then there are three or four short metal rods attached to each other by a joint that can tighten and loosen, and on the other end is a large clamp, similar to an A-clamp. I use the A-clamp to hold Plexi, fill cards and dots. With the fluidly moving joints, you can position your card just right and then tighten the joint to lock it in place. It can fit easily into a tight set and save the floor space of a C-stand with arms, and it is much easier to re-adjust and get into the perfect position for the perfect highlight on an item. It’s like having an extra very, very patient assistant to hold a card for you.”

Artwork from Jeremy Floto and Cassandra Warner’s children. Image © Floto + Warner.

Floto + Warner (Jeremy Floto and Cassandra Warner),
Architectural, Art and Portrait Photographers,
Lower Manhattan, New York City

Vitra Office Chairs
“We are not super gear people but want things to be simple and function well. A nice office chair is key. Ours are by Vitra.”

Comfortable Footwear
“Cass hates it, but I rock the Crocs all day. Chefs like them for a reason,” says Floto.

Leatherman Multi-tool
“There is always something that needs fixing so we keep a Leatherman nearby.”

Espresso Machine
“To avoid coffee runs. We have a Gaggia classic.”

Personal Details
“If we do not have some artwork from our kids then it is not a workplace for us.”

A copy of Irving Penn’s Passage from Jody Rogac’s studio. Image © Jody Rogac.

Jody Rogac,
Portrait and Fashion Photographer,
Brooklyn, New York

“I love working with natural light, and my studio has several windows which supply beautiful light for portraits.”
“There are 12 other studios on my floor, and it’s a fairly open area. I love hearing the
sounds of other artists making work, talking, etc. It makes for a creative vibe.”
Coffee Maker
“I love coffee!”
Work Table
“I have a custom-built work table in my space, which is on wheels, and is nice and tall (it comes up to my waist). It’s a great surface for working on prints, making edits, and I can roll it out of
the way if I need to!”
“I have some really lovely books in my studio, which I like to look at from time to time. They’re also nice to bring out when people visit, as a conversation piece. I think my favorite is Irving Penn’s Passage.”

Still-life photographer Jamie Chung says one of his studio essentials is his collection of specialty tapes. “The good stuff we use all the time is unfortunately not cheap.” Image © Jamie Chung.
Still-life Photographer, 
Lower Manhattan, New York City
Technical Camera: Sinar 4×5
“I was determined to get good and fast at using this camera. For one whole year I shot solely with it. Now I use it sporadically but with confidence, when there’s a technical or creative advantage.”
Mumford Time Machine 
“This is a programmable controller that I use to precisely trip strobes when capturing something traveling at high speeds—such as a water splash or explosion. Many different accessories are available, such as laser, audio, and vibration triggers. Great product made by a small company [Mumford Micro Systems]—customer support is a direct line to the inventor, Mr. Mumford.”
Tape Collection
“Self explanatory—many tapes for many uses. The good stuff we use all the time is unfortunately not cheap (gaffer’s and black matte paper tape are about $30 a roll).”
Various Cleaners
Bottles, brushes, wipes, canned air, blowers, air compressor. “Every surface, every prop, every product I try to clean and dust. [I have] many different tools for different situations.”
Zojirushi Thermos 
“Keeps coffee/tea/hot water hot all day long—great product.”
Rigging Supplies
Armature, acrylic rods, hot glue, clamps, monofilament. “For holding props in place—this is essential still-life stuff.”
Jiffy Steamer 
“The industry standard—every studio must have one.”
“For labeling everything. An assistant gifted this to me (he thought I was disorganized.)”

Photo Studio Tour: Henry Leutwyler’s