What Equipment for the Beginner Fashion-Beauty Photographer?

A Very Short but Effective Primer

I have been asked on several occasions

“what gear would I need to get started in fashion/beauty photography?”

That is really dependent on what kind of stuff you want to shoot, but what I will try to do here is give you a pretty good base that will allow you to attack most challenges.


An entry or intermediate level DSLR with at least 10 megapixels.  You may also consider one of the older version Canon systems with 8 mega pixels as well.  They are extremely capable cameras. They should have a hot shoe or sync X contact to allow for attaching either a sync module or dedicated flash (which I do not recommend)  Some DSLR’s will have a dedicated sync port which is preferable.  Brands to consider that produce DSLR’s are Canon, Sony, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Sigma, & Leica. These brands all offer products that you can grow a system with.  However, it should be noted that they all use slightly different sensor formats and the output quality will be affected by their pixel size.  It should be noted, that all of the current brands could be used to produce a professional looking quality output that easily outperform all film formats up to 6×6 Medium Format.


I suggest the following.  A reasonably good medium wide angle to medium telephoto lens i.e. 18-55, 17-50, 17-40, 16-50 type that will allow you to work in relatively tight spaces.  A fixed focal length 50mm lens with an aperture of f1.8 or faster i.e. f1.4, 1.2.  This will allow you to shoot in lower light conditions and makes a great all round fashion and beauty lens in the APSC format of DSLR’s.  I would also recommend a reasonable macro lens i.e. 100 mm or there about, for the occasional macro beauty shoots. Finally and this is for those who like shooting telephoto fashion, a 50-200, 70-300 or a variation of this type of medium telephoto to telephoto zoom lens.

Flash & Light Meter

A reasonably good flash/light meter like Sekonic, Gossen, Kenko & Polaris are some examples of what is available.

Two or three mono bloc studio flash units. Most will do the job. Most strobe kits come with strobe trigger devices that attach to the hot shoe of the camera. Some brands to consider are Alien Bee, Multiblitz, Balcar, Dynalite, Bowens, Elinchrom, Profoto, Dynasun, Lumedyne, Hensel, Broncolor, Photoflex, Speedotron and Norman are some examples of what is out there.

Continuous Light

A couple of 500 watt halogen lights with barn door modifiers. Or a couple of tungsten Mandarine lights. You might also consider the “Faux” Kino Flo lights out there. In fact I just purchased 3 Two Bank Kino Flo’s.


Faux Kino Flo type lights

A couple of umbrella’s, a light box or two, a few 7″ bowls with honeycomb grid modifiers and a couple of snoots. If in a studio type space, a few Styrofoam 4′ x 8′ panels, seamless paper support stands and a few colors like white, gray, black and what ever else pleases your fancy.

Oh and a reasonably recent laptop with Photoshop or similar program for doing post prod work at least on a cursory level to commence with.

“How much will this cost me?” Well, without the strobes, you could get away with a reflector and the camera and kit lens for around 400-500 Euros. From the research I have done, you can get the whole system for around 1500-2500 Euros. A lot less than a lot of you probably thought.

With this gear, you will have enough to do pretty much anything that your imagination can throw at you. That will be the biggest challenge of all. Not being afraid to explore the infinite possibilities.

Have a Ball!

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…