The Essential Budget Portrait Kit: Canon Photographer

Canon is still the top dog in the photography industry, and that means that a lot of you may be thinking about building out a solid portrait kit with your Canon camera. The good news is that since the system is so popular doing this on a budget is very doable without breaking the bank.

We will specifically not be promoting one camera or another, you pick your camera, but we will discuss the rest of the kit below. Oh, and since this is a budget kit, we are trying to keep the entire package, lens included, under $1000.

Let’s do this!

The Main Components

Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM


The 50mm focal length isn’t incredibly popular just because of the price, but thanks to the fact that it is incredibly versatile in what you can accomplish with it. Portraits being one of those areas that the 50mm F/1.8 STM can shine, allowing for equally good environmental or tight looks (though admittedly not earth shattering in either respect). Plus at under $200, its hard to argue with this. However if you prefer a more traditional 85mm portrait look, the 85mm F/1.8 also makes a good option (for around triple the price).

EF 50mm F1.8 STM: [amazon_textlink asin=’B00X8MRBCW’ text=’Get It On Amazon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’adade149-31b3-11e7-8345-af8da274a6b8′]  (Cost: [amazon_textlink asin=’B00X8MRBCW’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c685be1c-31b3-11e7-b87b-3feecaf63e8e’] )

Yongnuo YN560-TX

Canon’s branded wireless speedlights and triggering system are great, but considering we are setting up a budget kit here, we feel like they are not favorable in the price-performance category. As such, we are opting to go with the Yongnuo system, because its incredibly affordable and easy use.

Yongnuo YN-560TX: [amazon_textlink asin=’B00KM1QZRY’ text=’Get It On Amazon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’04a29352-305b-11e7-94ec-87942515f7b3′] (Cost: [amazon_textlink asin=’B00KM1QZRY’  template=’PriceLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’325444b5-305b-11e7-abc7-dd0f6e9c8980′] )

Yongnuo YN560 IV Wireless Speedlight (x3)

To go along with our YN-560TX we have three YN560 IV wireless speedlights, which you can control wirelessly with the YN560-TX. These three speedlights will help you expand your shooting capabilities beyond relying on the sun and can help you craft a unique/signature look to your location lighting.

Yongnuo YN560 IV: [amazon_textlink asin=’B00PGTOX26′ text=’Get It On Amazon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’afb94a9f-305c-11e7-a320-49b65aa0a309′] (Cost: [amazon_textlink asin=’B00PGTOX26′ template=’PriceLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c028e7f7-305c-11e7-acdc-d11dae6d6ba6′] )

Portrait Pro Tip: Use color gels to add splashes of color to your image and add interest to an otherwise boring scene.

The Accessories

Impact Light Stands (x3)

Since we are introducing lights into this kit, we need some stands to put them on. These impact light stands are solid and still relatively affordable, there are definitely much cheaper alternatives out there, but any cheaper than these and you start to run into big reliability issues with heavy use.

Impact Light Stands: [amazon_textlink asin=’B004U5F3R6′ text=’Get It on Amazon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b08643b4-3052-11e7-ba6c-f3668277966e’](Cost:[amazon_textlink asin=’B004U5F3R6′  template=’PriceLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’bbe8ff6b-3052-11e7-8b6b-858b991b434c’])

Phottix Luna Folding Beauty Dish

We also need at least one modifier for our key light, so we decided to go with an easily portable option like this 33″ folding beauty dish from Phottix. This will give you some beautiful light on your subject while remaining compact and easy to transport around.

Phottix Luna Folding Beauty Dish: [amazon_textlink asin=’B00SX7661E’ text=’Get It on Amazon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’7bb270d8-31b6-11e7-a766-eb336cc8e45e’]  (Cost: [amazon_textlink asin=’B00SX7661E’  template=’PriceLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’86edce9b-31b6-11e7-93e4-3b1070c034fa’] )

Portrait Pro Tip: Don’t always have your subject look directly into the camera, change it up and have them look away to add some more interest to your image and some variety to your shoot.

Godox S-type Bracket Bowens Mount Holder for Speedlite

In order to use the beauty dish above we are going to need a Bowens Speedlight mount so that you can use your speedlights with the beauty dish. Its a small, but essential piece to this kit unless you want to use duct tape, which for obvious reasons we don’t recommend.

Godox S-type Bracket Bowens Mount Holder for Speedlites: [amazon_textlink asin=’B0188PA3Q4′ text=’Get It on Amazon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’2a190bf6-31b7-11e7-b407-33c67acad575′] (Cost: [amazon_textlink asin=’B0188PA3Q4′  template=’PriceLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’38b3c097-31b7-11e7-8b6d-7b88878dd2de’])

JOBY GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead

Tripods are pretty options these days in the portrait world, unless you are doing something pretty static that needs repeatable or consistent camera position That said, you never know when you might need a place to put your camera down in a pinch, and that is what makes these Joby Gorilla Pods so perfect. Use them on the hood of your car, a table, an unused light stand, pretty much anywhere.

JOBY GorillaPod Focus w/ Ballhead: [amazon_textlink asin=’B06XWHYVB9′ text=’Get It on Amazon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’5bd65061-3053-11e7-ad1d-6d8bd17537da’] (Cost: [amazon_textlink asin=’B06XWHYVB9′  template=’PriceLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’67bd2f98-3053-11e7-a730-3baf81d05adc’])

Total Damage: $714.91

(at time of writing)

So there you have it, a killer budget Canon portrait kit all ready to go, and well under our $1000 cutoff. If you are looking to get your portrait kit in the Canon system started this is a great place to start.

Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.