To create beautiful studio portraits you will need studio strobes and light modifiers (umbrellas, light boxes) to light your subjects. While you do not need a ton of gear, you do need enough to get started with a basic lighting kit. I work with B&H Photo in New York to provide these kits. They are reliable and almost always have everything needed in stock.

You can buy your lights anywhere you wish, but I have set these up specifically for you to get everything you need to get started with a few clicks of the mouse.You also do not need everything on this list. I have provided basic kits; one cheaper and one more expensive. I have also included accessories that you may wish to get or you may choose not to, but they are on the list because I get asked about my recommendations.

Good luck!

Charlie Borland

Why items are listed in these kits:

You will need ideally three strobes with light stands for each. You will need either umbrellas or light boxes depending on what you are shooting. Grids are useful for accent light and create a spotlight effect. You need to have a background behind your subject and there are many options on what you use.

A lighting boom is useful for creating specific accent lights on your subject. Reflector panels are what is used for a fill light source in some lighting setups and these are extremely useful; for all kinds of photography. Wireless triggers allow you to be wire free between your camera and strobe and move about as you please. 


***Low Budget:


This Impact Kit from B&H is low budget and includes most everything:

2 400ws monolights

1 100ws monolight

A radio sender and receiver wireless trigger to fire the flash

2 10’ stands

1 background light stand

1 24 x24 light box

2 umbrellas

Carry case

B&H part # for the above:

Single monolight 160 ws

Single monolight 300ws

Also needed with this kit:

You can have a low budget approach with one grid and clamp it to your reflector with a spring clamp. (I have done this a million times) or a complete kit with reflector. There may be a grid set for you lights so be sure and search for your model.

Single 7” grid for Impact Lights $29.95


Complete kit: Bowens grid reflector and 2 grid spots $176


***Higher Budget:


This Scott Kelby Kit is higher budget and includes ALMOST everything:

2 500 ws monolights

2 light stands

Octa Midi Bank light box

Strip light box

Wireless triggers

Grid reflector with grids

17” beauty reflector

B&H kit #


This kit also needs:

1 more monolight Elinchrom 250

2 umbrellas $13 each

Larger Light Box: 36 x 48” $124

Carry Case for light boxes, umbrellas $70

OR I use SKB Hard Golf cases from the golf shop and it holds all stands, boxes, umbrellas.

Carry case for lights $200





2 more large light stands for your background support if you want to use my home made system shown in lesson 1. Stands are $39 each:


This complete background kit $99.99


Manfrotto Portable Light Boom $109


Manfrotto Super Boom $500



1 SEAMLESS paper background WHITE

1 SEAMLESS paper background GREY



If you want a recommendation for a painterly canvas background I recommend something like this one as it is neutral in color. There are many options available. You just don’t want the colors to be over bearing.



A flash meter to measure your strobe for perfect exposures.

Sekonic 308 $240

Sandbags to hold your light stands from falling or blowing over. I have 8 of these. $19

Multi Cart for hauling your gear around $169

Interfit Reflector PANELS $87






The above kits contain wireless triggers which send a signal to the strobes to fire when shutter is pressed. If you do not buy the kits but need triggers here are options: 

Pocket Wizard Plus III

You need at least two: one on camera, one on a strobe. If you have more strobes they should have a photo cell in them that will see the first strobe fire and they will fire. You can have a PW on every strobe if you wish and this is helpful if you are shooting outdoors in sun with strobes and where the photocell may not see the main flash fire with on one trigger on the main strobe.

Note: If you plan to incorporate a Flash unit like a Canon 580EXII or Nikon SB800/700, etc. into your lighting setup you need a PW for that as well AND appropriate cables to connect. If you use the SB900 it has SU4 mode built in and no PW is needed.

Photoflex Wireless Trigger

Photoflex is a very reputable company and this flash trigger is a lower cost alternative that fires flash and strobes. Make sure you order correct cables.