Every photographer should own a tripod, but it’s absolutely mandatory for a portrait studio. While light weight and portability are highly desirable for travel and outdoor photography, in the studio, size and weight are less important than maximum height and stability. Features to look for include easy-to-use, quick-release adjustments, multiple leg segments for greater adjustability and the option to splay the legs to get close to the ground when photographing babies. A geared center column is also a nice feature, as you can smoothly adjust precise height.
HEAD WITH QUICK RELEASE
For portraiture work, we like a ballhead for its quick, multidirectional adjustability. One key feature to look for is a built-in level so you can be sure your composition is straight. This, along with your tripod, is an important investment in quality. Don’t be frugal here—get a professional-quality ballhead that can support considerably more weight than you plan to mount on it and that can be locked down to ensure no movement.
You’re going to want to shoot on a tripod basically all of the time, but occasionally, you might want to come off the tripod for a few shots to explore angles or work with a particularly animated subject. That’s when a quick-release design is another nice feature to have when selecting a ballhead.
SEATING & FURNITURE
At a minimum, you need at least one adjustable-height stool. This can suffice even for couple or group shots by seating one person and posing others around him or her. More than one stool is obviously better, though, and if you really want to get creative, visit your local secondhand store or raid grandmom’s attic and collect a variety of chairs in different styles and sizes. Unique chairs not only provide a functional place for subjects to pose, they can bring personality to the shot, especially when combined with complementary backdrops and props. Over time, you might also collect a few end tables and quirky lamps to further dress your set—and add an additional light source.