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57:50 Duration

Week 1: Studio Setup

I get the idea that most people feel like they need so much stuff when they first start. And the truth is is what do you really, really need? What is your bare minimum? In this first week, we’re going to talk about the most basic setup that you need to get you started building your folio.

I honestly cannot reinforce any more how basic my studio setup is. This has never changed for me in 27 years.

As you will see, this basic studio setup is the backbone of my business and brand. It is 90 percent of what I still use daily. It is so easy to create this setup in your own lounge if you have to.

In order to help you build a business and sell your work, I first have to get you to a place where you can build a folio that you fall in love with. And that’s what the beginning of this 12-week startup is all about.


  1. Hi Sue, it’s Di, from Brisbane, Oz. The link to the v-flats in Australia is not working. I have checked Bunnings and they don’t have anything big enough which was surprising. I’ll keep looking but if you (or anyone on here) know where to source the materials for v-flats or polyboard then I’d really appreciate the heads up. Loving the course so far x

  2. Hi, this is Cheryl from Australia. I am also excited to be starting this course. I completed a Diploma of Digital Imaging at TAFE last year and Sue, you are fabulous at inspiring people and developing their confidence and motivation to succeed! I’m loving your tutorials.
    On a second note, has anyone been able to find the 6′ x 8′ v-flat / foam core boards in Australia – at a reasonable price? The only ones I have found are $160 but you have to buy two, so that’s $320 plus postage. (Given that you have to regularly replace them this is fairly expensive)

  3. I’m only on week one but do you recommend, if i’m able, (meaning not on a tight budget) to get seamless paper or a black/gray muslin background for a studio backdrop? Or should I stick to the v-flat?

  4. Hi, I tried to join the Start Up Group on Facebook…but can’t seem to get in. Anyhow…as a fashion photographer who is struggling to land a sale, but not struggling to find people who want TFP only…I am very excited and blessed to be able to finally join your Startup program and learn how to become successful and share my love of art and campaign to make everyone feel beautiful in their skin. πŸ˜€

  5. Sue, I’ve loved your work for a few years now and I’m so happy that you are teaching all that you know about photography and about overcoming your obstacles! I’m a trucking photographer and I know that I can do this! People talk about the hardships of trying to do this while working a 40 hr week, well I’m trying to do this while being an over the road trucker that’s away from home for 6 weeks. I have set up some portfolio building sessions in the next few months, hopefully they don’t fall through and I can get more portrait practice in and get my portfolio built. Thank you again for all that you do!

  6. Just an FYI the V Flats link for Australia, advises the content is no longer available πŸ™‚ once I locate some that are reasonable priced Ill be sure to let you know a new location )

  7. Hey Kristina! You mentioned in the graduation video that you ordered Blick canvas rolls. Could you provide the type of canvas you ordered to paint on? There are many on the site. I was leaning toward the medium weight primed. Would love your feedback when you get a chance. Thanks!

  8. I am too old, too fat, not in the same economical circle as my ideal client. To hell with that! Sue, I love you. This startup may do more for my business than I’ve been able to do in the last 14 years of operation.

  9. That was brilliant! The second half of “studio setup” made the hair on my neck stand up. I already have studio strobes and portable ones with a range of modifiers. I have a very good camera (Nikon D810) and a range of really good lenses. I also have a double garage and an office room in my home. As far as getting more materials; I am also a manager for Bunnings here in Australia. I forgot to mention I also have some people I can shoot. I have more than most can start up with but my only limitation is me. I am going to love this course.

  10. I have created a “Private Studio” out of my 400 square foot double garage/Florida Room. Still working on rebuilding the drop ceiling, soooo I just tell everybody, “don’t look up.” LOL I have two sets of v-flats which I have painted dusty rose and sage green and set up in the corner of the room with the double east-facing windows with sheer white curtains. I went ahead and got a 12×20 black drop cloth and a beige and brown one that B&H had on sale for half price. Yay! I now flip-flop between those two and a little white one that I can just throw over the top of them on the backdrop support. I found a couple of apple boxes at a flea market and at Michael’s and use those like Sue says to have the client sit on or point their toes on. I truly enjoy my little space, but my biggest fears are approaching people to get the ball rolling and get them into my studio to create the portraits. I love the folio I have created thus far, but need to get over the marketing hump and I know I can do this with Sue’s help and wonderful way of teaching!

  11. Transitioned a corner of my daughter’s well lit playroom into my studio. The poly boards and v-flats fold up right into the corner of the room so that they’re out of the way when I’m not shooting. I have 2 poly boards painted dark grey/sage on one side and light sky blue on the other. Have 3 yards of light cream with a rose gold pattern that can be pinned up. It was on sale at Hobby Lobby from $35/yd to $10/yd. Yesterday was the first shoot in that space and I was BLOWN AWAY by the light! Was able to shoot at ISO 160, 1/125 f2.8 from 10am-12:30pm. Shot with a 50mm and was shocked that I had enough space. No more excuses!!

  12. I’m excited because I do love what I shoot, I have evolved into photography from being a wedding planner and Celebrant. Shooting just for fun and a record of my work has come to peoples attention, so I guess if they like it others will and pay for it.

  13. Wish I would have thought of this, or someone would have told me about these hacks before I went into debt getting equipment, prior to losing my job that was paying for all of it. Thankfully things have picked up enough that I’m starting to get back on the plus side. Now to keep that momentum going and get better at it and make more on less work. πŸ™‚

  14. Thank you Sue for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us! I have been so confused about V-Flats vs. Foam Core….it all makes sense now when and how to use what!

  15. I live in Victoria BC, and with the amount of cloudy weather I need a studio! So… I have created a “pop up studio” my living room. I am having 4 gator boards cut to fit my ceiling height, then I’ll make two V-flats! I am painting a canvas back drop next week!!! This is an amazing resource Sue! I have been asking local photographers for a year or so for advice and have been brushed off. I am so grateful for your willingness to share you knowledge and appreciate your vulnerability.

  16. Last night my wife and I discussed turning our third floor into a photography studio. It is now our family/kids playroom and the room we watch movies as a family. She has a lot of questions, but supports me in the endeavor.

    1. If you create homemade v-flats with polystyrene boards then you want to buy boards that are at least 1.5 to 2 inches thick. The thicker they are, the less likely they are to bow in the middle while standing on their own. Official v-flats are made of sturdier, more rigid material and able to stand upright better than polys so they don’t have to be as thick. I think they’re about 3/8 inches thick (some are thicker).

  17. I am SO beyond excited to do this Sue! I have been looking for something like this course for so long. You know the right things to say and aren’t afraid to call us out on it. I love that! I’m doing this. I will be successful, and I can feel it.

  18. Thank you so much Sue for this 12 week startup, I do need a kick in the bum and really get started making my business work. I have everything for my start up studio. My question to you is after I tell someone that I would like to shoot them to folio build do I give them their photographs for free?

    1. me too…I asked the same question however I think this is where you can connect and ask questions. Do you need some help. We can help each other:)))

    2. Did you join the Facebook 12 week start up group? Request to join and Nikki or Kristine will accept you into the group.

  19. Sue!!! oh my I am so glad I jumped on board to all this valuable information… Thank you for being so amazing and providing this opertunity for us to learn from you… I am working on opening my mind and taking every single ounce of what you are teaching so I can improve myself and my business. Sending love to you… <3

  20. I’m setting up my home studio now. It’s my apartment, so I am figuring out how to space everything. It’s not a small space, but it’s also not a big space. I think my one mental block is worrying about how others may feel coming into some man’s apartment to take pictures.

  21. Wow! You are nailing my issues!!! NAIL! Got to do this, this has got to be the time to really truly break out and break through some of my hold backs…. listening to you just might get me there! Thank you Sue Bryce!

  22. What thickness of V-flat works? In the UK I have options of 5mm (0.2 inch) or 10mm (0.4 inch). Would I be correct in assumming that 5mm thickness will not stand up on its own?

    1. I think I recall her saying 3/8″ inch foam core. I think I will do Gator Board instead (if I can find), which looks the same but is a little bit stronger/sturdy (and more expensive than) foam core. It also comes in colors. I’m finding now that to get the 4′ x 8′ size, Where I’m located, I am limited to frame shops or sign shops (or specialty art supply stores. Stores like Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, Lowes (all in U.S.) do not have this type of material. And, it will most likely need to be a special order.

  23. Hi Sue, I just have to thank you for being so open and honest about how to start and run a successful photography business. I am just starting out and am buying some apple boxes. What do you suggest I get, the black, unfinished or clear finish? Thank you once again! Cindy

  24. I must say I am truly inspired by you and your brutally honest approach. I just joined the 12 week startup and I am excited to start folio building. Thank you for creating this!

  25. This is so so so incredible dear Sue. Love it, take it in…. <3 Just one question, how do you get people who are not in your family or friends circle to get them posing for your folio ? What is part of the "deal" ?

  26. I really think this startup is going to give me the push I have been needing. I think I have alot of blocks but Im starting to believe they are all in my head or most of them are.

  27. Gosh how I wished I had taken this class long ago. I have invested a small fortune in props and backdrops, lighting, etc…I am so happy to go back to basics and learn all of this. Sue, you make me excited and eager to build my folio and plan for the future.

  28. I am having a hard time finding 4×8 insulation sheets that don’t have aluminum on one side. I’ve checked our local lowes and home depot and neither carry them. Anyone have any other suggestions?

  29. “When you start building a folio you’re proud of, you’re going to sell it to every human being that comes near you out of sheer enthusiasm. I don’t need to sell myself anymore. I’m so excited by what I do, the fear of what you think of me is not in my mind anymore.” THIS is how I feel right now. I am so energized and excited to be folio building. I did a folio building shoot yesterday with a friend, and seeing her delight as I photographed her in the corner of my little living room was pure joy. I can’t wait to show her the photos!

  30. Hi Sue. Thanks so much for all of your advice and tips. You rock! I am in the process of painting my polyboards and was just wondering, if I want a white corner backdrop, should I paint them white or leave them as the bare polystyrene? Will they be too shiny unpainted? Thanks. πŸ™‚

  31. I loved listening to this, thanks Sue. The voices in my head keep telling me I need to have a whole wardrobe ready but it’s a distraction.. so ready to make this the year and excited for the challenge! Time to focus on the really important bits and build that portfolio just sitting in my head!

  32. THANK YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN! WHAT AN AMAZING TEACHER OF LIFE AND PHOTOGRAPHY YOU ARE!!!!! I’m so excited to be moving forward with my life, my passion, and my photography with you! Another super class! WOW!!

  33. I don’t even have the words to tell ou how grateful I was to have found your original “in Bed With Sue” 3 years ago … it lead me here and I love you. YOU will be the reason I succeed.

    1. I stopped by Mikes Camera in Sacramento and no luck. I was going to check out my local sign shop down the street but may opt just to do the poly boards instead. Home Depot has plenty!

  34. Visualizing creating the most amazing photographs for my clients Sue. Daily I shall speak my truth, to say out loud what I want in my life, in my photography business, how I want my clients to feel when they see my photographs. I shall post post it notes everywhere to remind me what I want in my life. Time to get busy and fail forward, to step toward the light and create beautiful photographs, build the folio of my dreams. Time to make it happen!

  35. I absolutely love you Sue! I have watched and re-watched week one. I was in tears as it hit home at how I keep saying I’m too old to start a business @ 50. I don’t value my work. Everyone loves my landscape work but I don’t know how to sell it. I am changing genre as I love portraits and have so many visions, and ideas. I am going to succeed at this. BRING ON THE 12 WEEKS I am so ready for this…. I needed this kick in the butt.. Thank you Sue.

  36. Thank you so much! I’ve been going in circles trying to figure out what needs done first. This 12-week course is something I’m so looking forward to. I love the step-by-step. It’s what I really needed. Thank you. I chose an amazing mentor, Sue Bryce.

  37. Hi Sue, I’m a bit late to the party but I just joined the 12 week start up and I’m so looking forward to diving in! Your energy is simply infectious πŸ˜‰

  38. Thank you. I wish I would have had this kind of coaching years ago. I am so looking forward to finally making my business a profitable one. Going to make my v flats tomorrow!!!

  39. Thanks so much for the wake up call Sue! I took a few months off my day job to get my business going and have been so focused learning about selling, marketing, networking etc that I have failed to work on and build my folio. Now I know how to get clients….If you build it (the folio)…they will come!

  40. I’ve never really asked myself if I loved my folio. My answer is, well sort of… I want to fall in love with my folio and looking forward to this 12 week startup. Thank you Sue.

  41. Hi! I am only partway through this weeks video. I didn’t have in mind to create a studio just yet? Im just starting out and live in SoCal where there is hardly ever bad weather (except rain tomorrow which may kill a shoot-haha) and I’ve been doing my shoots late in the afternoons before sunset. I do have a 3rd car garage space… could i make something like that work? Im sure I’ll have more questions by the time Im done with this session but overall very excited to jump in!!

  42. I live in LA. Would like to know where I can purchase V flats? After the show today I went by Sammys Camera on Fairfax but they do not carry them. They do have large foam core panels but they are either black or white not two toned , also they are thin and bend- not sturdy.

    1. I got my v-flats at Sammys in Santa Ana (Costa Mesa). You may want to call down there as the guy kept them in the back – but they may also just order them as people request.

  43. Sue I love this and you – for all you know and say to me / us. All you talk about is absolut logical and we all know that (IΒ΄m sure) but to hear it (again and again) makes the difference.
    So, please a question to !natural” light – the light you diffuse through the window is (strong) sunlight? You talk about areas with winter, IΒ΄m in Germany, we have a long winter period, this means this light is not enough, I need sunhine? One white reflector as a help for this winter-light is not enough? I Need flashlight? What is the difference between strobe and flashlight? is there one? Thanks so much for all your work!

  44. Just a quick question. Is there some place that says what a folio should consist of? how many images? etc? presentation format for the folio? Thrilled to be here. Thanks Sue et al…

  45. That was a great start. Lost my studio due to mold so starting over in my home. I’m excited about Folio building and looking for a new space. Let’s Go!!!!

  46. I love you Sue. Period. Thank you for this. It comes at the most perfect timing for me. I’m sure many others feel the same… but for me, it simply couldn’t be more perfect. Thank you my darling friend from the bottom of my heart!

  47. wow, Sue… I have been using the seamless paper and until you said that v-flats were a more “sustainable (re-usable) backdrop” I had not thought of it that way!

  48. Thank you for a outstanding first week to my future, during this session I got my first ever call to be a photographer for a special birthday event, wow! I put it out there my intention my conscious thinking, reading Science of getting Rich. Excited!

  49. Thank you for all of the reflector and backdrop inspiration! I’ve been using the heck out of small foam boards and am so excited to have access to EVS for v-flats after I move to SoCal! I’m now 100% excited to paint a backdrop with the chalkboard paint. I made a pink canvas that I adore but can’t wait to have the more versatile grey/black. I’ve been using a textured piece of black fabric for years that needs to be retired LOL!

  50. This is great information as always. I would like to print the pdf. Is there a successful way of doing this? It would be great to put into a binder. When I opened it the pages are side by side. So not sure how this will work. Thanks

  51. Thank you Sue. I always had the impression that a folio was a tool for others to judge the value of my work. Thank you for pointing out that the folio serves me as a tool to value my own work. This is way more empowering. ??

  52. I am so grateful that you expressed our need to do this with joy….I look back at the work I had done when I when I first started in photography…and that’s the first thing that pops out at me is joy. Every time I look at those images I’m impressed. Its time to find that place in myself again.

  53. WOWWWWWWWW, so real, so truthful., thank you for doing this. First time in my photo career where I am with others that are encouraging and empowering. My faith is bigger than my fear, (read it and say it daily) so many emotions now lets go build.

  54. Thank you Sue! You’re an amazing woman…..i’m french and my english is not very good, but like you told us…. If we believe in something, we can do it! … And i do… video after video I improve my english with you and I want to believe in myself and in my work….. with the 12 weeks, i will improve the way i see myself and my work… (I hope this message is understandable πŸ˜‰ )

  55. Wonderful segments for Week 1 Sue! I have pretty much everything you mentioned as basics, but have been frozen with the “not good enough” mentality/block. I am going to commit to working on a portfolio that I love with the tools I have right now so I can prove to myself that “I am good enough” RIGHT NOW! I will work thru this and any other blocks I have with your advice and guidance. Thanks for giving me and everyone else the opportunity to grow, challenge and prove ourselves.

  56. Thank you! What a great segment. I actually made my own apple boxes. Painted one set white and the other grey with leftover paint from my home. But I will paint a backdrop. I’ve been using seamless paper but I’m curious to see what a backdrop will result in. Again thank you so much! You are empowering! And have changed my way of thinking in so many ways. You are a brilliant teacher.

  57. Hi Sue,
    I learned about the Ikea stools, the importance and beauty of a black chalk painted backdrop, and how it can age with beauty. The special paper to paint on after applied to polyboards,. Knew ahead of time I knew a lot about this module, and as expected I still learned a lot. The most important detail I learned is that if you are in love with your portfolio, that is all you need, just sell it with passion. As a former outside sales person we were told, sell with passion. At company conferences I was always told that I sold with passion during role plays. Of course, I was blessed with incredible products as I am now. My portfolio, not perfect, but I love it and continue to work on it. The best part of this module is your enthusiasm Sue; it is contagious. Thank you!!!

  58. So encouraged! I’ve been a teacher and education professor for 25 years and although I’m blessed beyond measure to have the job I do, I’ve wanted to be a photographer for as long as I can remember. Now at 52, I’m taking the leap and starting to build a folio! You are empowering me, Sue! Thank you!

  59. On this rainy day in NYC, I feel like screaming from the rooftops “LET ME TAKE YOUR PORTRAIT AND SHOW YOU HOW BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE!!!” Thanks for the jolt, Sue! This is truly a gift; the wealth of information and inspiration is priceless!

  60. This was nice. Have everything but a black backdrop and adjustable stool. Think I might try my hands at painting a drop cloth and picking up a few of those stools at ikea. Isn’t this exciting.

  61. Thus ws nice. Have everything but a black backdrop and adjustable stool. Think I might try my hands at painting a drop cloth and picking up a few of those stools at ikea. Isn’t this exciting.

  62. Your passion for photographing & teaching others is heartfelt. I felt the tears well up few times wathcing –struck a cord. Working on my intention AND paying serious attention to where I’m constipated! You’re awesome, Sue. Thank you!

  63. Sue, I’m feeling the joy, commitment, and professional integrity absolutely rocking the content and it’s just day one! Very grateful to be a part of this group. Thank you.

  64. Sue, I am in awe of your commitment to excellence in teaching, in coaching. Your education site far exceeds my expectations. What you teach and the passion through which you present your wisdom is powerful and effective. Thank you for choosing to live your dreams, you have inspired mine.

  65. Section 3 12:11 “You’re scared and you’re avoiding what you need to face. And what you need to face is being in business and asking people for money.” True True TRUE! Working on this block. This will be my intention with this program but certainly these next few weeks.

  66. Wow Sue! Thank you! What a gift! I have been working at this for years (longer than I think I should have and not be further ahead) and it’s great to have you just pull me back down out of my messy head and start from scratch.

  67. Lesson of the day: ” Anything that you make with anxiety and fear is what you’re going to put into yourself, business, and anything you can create. You’re in charge of what you’re creating. Create joy!!!”

  68. Love the information, learned lots? Thank you Sue! I really appreciate when you stress about staying on budget an focusing on basics to get one making money.

  69. Sue, you are amazing! I love the work I’m shooting. It’s midnight in SA and I want to start folio building right now!! Can’t wait to build my portrait folio and adopt my current genre to portraiture πŸ™‚

    1. I got mine from Omer des Serres. I bought 4 black and 4 white and taped them together to make 2 black and white v-flats

    2. Anywhere you can buy foam board you can make V-Flats. I have to order mine from the local art store because I live in Alaska. But when it comes in I will be able to tape two together and have a v-flat.

    1. Wendy, I did some with primer first and they are really stiff. Next one I did straight to the canvas and it is much softer!

    2. Thank you! I did use a primer and it’s stiff and cracking. I will try straight paint on the next one πŸ™‚

    3. I did one sooooooooooooooo many years ago and it’s still hanging in there – no primer

    4. Sue does not prep first to use fabric softener. Maybe try the chalkboard paint. It worked well for Sue. I also do not prep

  70. The week 1 studio setup pdf is AMAZING! It is so awesome to see all this info in one place. It’s a cheat sheet that points you to more content. Thank you so much!