Studio Accessories; Resources For Backgrounds, Props, And More

Look around any photographer's studio and you'll see all manner of tools aside from camera, darkroom or computer imaging station, and the requisite coffeepot. Studios can occupy entire floors of a loft building or a small room in the back of a storefront, but regardless of size it's a place where creativity and tools mesh. While different types of tools are required for different types of photography, such as commercial, portraiture, and tabletop, there are a number of tools in common to most studios, some of which we will cover here.

Aside from using trade association pamphlets and ads in Shutterbug, I researched this article by speaking with several long-established portrait and commercial photographers to find out where they get their props and accessories for their studios. While most work through established sources, many expressed that flea markets and garage sales were also a great way to discover interesting and fun props.

One-Stop Shopping
Several firms offer one-stop shopping for a wide variety of studio accessories, all available for browsing in large, well-illustrated catalogs. Just turning through the catalog can give any studio photographer lots of ideas. In addition to the backgrounds and props, many also offer lighting equipment and other necessary items.

The American Photographic Resources, Inc. catalog offers a broad selection of accessories geared to portrait studios. There are backgrounds of all types, including those made of canvas, muslin, and soft-spun materials. Props include seasonal and annual items. Some of the newer items include a baby poser made of wood with an adjustable seat and footrest that has a touch-fastener strap to hold the baby safe and still. A small teakwood bench is offered in stained or white wash coloring. A fairytale mushroom seat can be used in a forest set.

Posing Stools

The signature stool seen here is available only from American Photographic Resources, Inc. Several new colors have been added to this popular prop.

Backdrop Outlet has a large catalog listing dozens of accessories that are particularly suitable for portrait studios of all types. They recently introduced a new motorized roller system for 11-foot wide rolls that is ceiling mounted and is offered in both four- and eight-roller versions; it is also available with self-supported stands with prices starting at $599. A remote control box with a 20-foot cord is used to adjust all rollers. Also new is the RS4 rail system for studio lights, consisting of four floating heads on multi-wheeled trolleys that sells for $699.

Their catalog shows many different adjustable height posing stools, posing tables, benches, and chairs of wood and wicker in many styles and sizes and dozens of props for adults, seniors, and children. Of course, as their name implies, Backdrop Outlet also offers hundreds of different backgrounds of many materials, designs, and sizes.

Props For Infants

Flower Petal mattes and separate packs of petals have been popular props for Backdrop Outlet. Five matching colors are offered.

The Backgrounds by Maheu catalog displays a broad array of elaborate, custom-painted backgrounds with many different patterns, including classic, scenic, and fine art themes. To add to the versatility of their backgrounds, some new models are two-ended designs, which allow the photographer to easily select different looks with just one background. A new offering is a soft focus digital series of backgrounds especially designed for use with digital cameras. Props and ceiling mount motors are also offered.

Central Casting Costumes (Prof. Bloodgood's) offers an exceptionally broad selection of clothing and props. They are essentially a wardrobe department for stage performances, but many items are used by photographers to accessorize portraits. They have many items with Civil War-era themes and props plus Victorian-era costumes. They also have wardrobes for "Guys and Dolls"-type setups. Their catalog has pages of women's and girl's hats, shawls, gloves, handbags, and parasols.

Period Costumes

Other period clothing from Central Casting Costumes depicts dance hall girls as this Dodge City costume along with parasol, gloves, and hat props from the same era.

Chicago Canvas & Supply sells natural and colored canvas material by the yard in a wide variety of widths, including canvas in 3- to 12-foot widths and muslin in 12- to 35-foot widths in most any length desired. They also offer miscellaneous types of fabrics, dyes, theater fabrics, and scenic supplies. These are designed primarily for theaters and stage flats but are sure to inspire some creative thoughts among photographers.

Denny Manufacturing Company, Inc. is a well-known and established supplier of a broad range of studio items. Their catalog shows scads of backgrounds of all types, including hand- and computer-painted types plus a selection of unique fabrics and papers. Backgrounds are offered in muslin, stone wash, and other fabrics in an extensive array of patterns, designs, and scenes to fit every requirement. Their Twist Flex muslin backgrounds with a spring-like frame folds down easily to 24-35" diameter for storage or carrying, then expands to about four times larger size when sprung. Clothing of all types plus drapes, boas, and collars are available. An array of adult and children's furniture is offered, as are many different types of props.