7 essential non-photographic tools in the studio

One of my favorite tools in the studio is a vacuum cleaner. You might not need it all the time depending on where you live, but I do need it if I have to do any type of macro or product photography. If you’re a photographer, it’s no surprise that objects in your home are essential to your photography.

Here is a list I compiled of 7 non-photographic elements that are essential in most studios. Your mileage may vary depending on what you shoot most often.

1. Vacuum cleaner

I live in the suburbs, in an area that doesn’t get much rain most of the year. As a result, my studio can get quite dusty in the summer when the nearby land has no grass left to protect it. This is when I find the vacuum cleaner to be most useful. Several passages are necessary, one before the preparation and one during the preparation. Wiping down surfaces with a damp cloth before you start and using an air blower just before taking the shot also helps keep annoying dust away. It might seem like a drag, but it’s definitely better than spending hours photographing all those tiny specs.

2. Different Types of Tape (and Other Adhesives)

Another must-have item on most lists is duct tape. And you’ll often find yourself using different types of tapes to perform different tasks. Here is a small list of the different cassettes that I always have on hand. Often I will have different colors of the same type of ribbon.

  • Gaffer’s tape: Low residue, strong and versatile tape for short term use.
  • Tape: Strong, versatile tape for longer term application
  • Double-sided adhesive tape (thin tape as well as foam tape): for joining flat surfaces, fixing backgrounds, etc.
  • Electrical insulation tape
  • paper masking tape
  • Colored cellophane tape
  • Packing tape

Hmm… Did I list all types of existing bands? If I left out anything, let me know in the comments. I think every type of adhesive has its place in a studio, and Blu-Tack, Superglue, and hot melt glue guns all have their place in a studio too.

If you’re shooting jewelry or anything that needs to be hung 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 out of the way and the hands get in the way, having one on each side will solve the problem.

4. Microfiber cloth and cloth gloves

If you shoot macro or shoot shiny surfaces, you will always leave fingerprints. These can show up as messy spots on clean surfaces, so we like to use gloves to hold these items while prepping. Wiping them down with a soft microfiber cloth will remove stains and ensure no lint or lint remains.

5. Stepladder

No self-respecting studio can exist without a stepladder. Stepladders are used all the time to secure lights, install diffusers, attach props and sets, paint walls, secure backgrounds, and take photos from a high vantage point. Stepladders are important.

You never know when strong strings or wire binding wire will come in handy. I’ve used them and seen them used to secure overhead track lights, set up backdrops in unplanned places, and make sure things don’t fall to the ground if the brackets 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 hold its shape, as well as its strength and low profile. You will probably need a pair of pliers to remove it.

7. Tape measure, rulers

A tape measure is useful for keeping records of your setups, especially if they are complex and may need to be recreated if messed up. Additionally, the tape is useful for measuring subject-to-camera and subject-to-light distances – if you like that. A ruler is useful for aligning products, spacing them out and ensuring they can be positioned precisely.

These are items that you would normally expect to find in a studio and which, in my opinion, do not need to be listed under their own heading. Their need would also depend on the type of photography most often done in the studio… For example, a portrait studio might need a lint roller, but a product studio might not.

  • Extensions and boxes
  • Knives, safety blades and scissors of all kinds
  • Magnifying glass
  • Spray paint and brushes (for painting and cleaning)
  • Welding/Electronics Station – If you know what you are doing.
  • First aid kit and fire extinguisher
  • Different sizes and types of pliers
  • Complete tool kit
  • music speakers

The list is long, because no studio will ever be “complete”. Our usage continues to evolve and the studio evolves with it. Feel free to add your favorite piece of non-photographic kit to this list and tell us how you like to use it. Unconventional use gets extra points.