Inside the camera bag of photographer Jessica Gwozdz

My photography gear with Jessica Gwozdz

Five things about me:

black and white family photography by Jessica Gwozdz

1.  I am a mom of two and am married to MacGyver.  No, that is not his real name.  Everyone just calls him that because he is super-handy.  We rarely have to call repairmen because my husband can pretty much build or fix anything.  You will see several MacGyver-creations in the following photos of my workspace.

2.  I am a PPA-certified professional photographer and I am passionate about studio lighting.  I am somewhat of a control freak and studio lighting gives me that control.  I have permanent studio space set up in the basement of my house.

3.  I come from a mixed-religion family.  I have a Catholic mom and a Jewish dad.  This made for a very rich and diverse childhood.

4.  I have degrees in higher education (bachelors degree in biomedical engineering and a masters degree in mechanical engineering) yet I still tie my shoes with bunny ears.

5.  (cue scary music here….)  I was born on Friday the 13th.

My bag and workspace:

In the past my talented CM Team colleagues featured here have shared their camera bags as well as the contents of those bags.  I think I am the first home based studio shooter to be featured on “A Peek Inside” and since I have some different gear than has been shown before, I thought it might be interesting to showcase those items.  I would like to show you my true “workspace” – not my computer workstation, but the spaces where I shoot and sell portraits.

Before we dive into the gear and workspace details, let’s briefly touch on the topic of my bag.  For a girl who rarely shoots on location I sure have a lot of camera bags!  I think maybe my collection reflects how many years I have been shooting, seeing as though many of the bags I have are no longer manufactured.  Although I am constantly upgrading camera and computer gear, it seems like I keep bags forever and just pull out what best suits my needs at that moment.  Here is my current bag lineup:

  • Tamrac Adventure 8 Daypack
  • Lowepro Novo 5 AW
  • Tracy Joy Reese
  • Jill-e Medium
  • Epiphanie Stella
  • Tenba Shootout Mini
  • Tamrac Adventure 7 Daypack

I get a lot of questions about the studio gear that I use.   Here is a list of my current gear and photos illustrating some of these items implemented in my workspace.


  • Nikon D700
  • Nikon D7000


Strobes and Speedlights:

  • Alien Bee 800 (2)
  • Alien Bee 400 (2)
  • Photogenic PL 1250 (1)
  • Adorama Flashpoint 320M (1)
  • Nikon SB800 speedlight (1)
  • Nikon SB28 speedlight (2)

Stands and Supports:

  • Calumet Backlight Stands (2)
  • Calumet Heavy Duty Background Stand Kit
  • Rolleasy Ceiling mounted roller system
  • Amvona 13′ heavy duty air cushioned lightstands (These are several years old and I don’t think they are available anymore. MacGyver also modified one by putting wheels on.)
  • Several other random light stands I bought at garage sales.

Wireless Triggers:


  • Alien Bee Grids, 10 degree and 20 degree
  • Alien Bee Giant Softbox
  • Larson 4×6 Softbox
  • Photoflex Half Dome Small Striplight (2)
  • Alien Bees brolly box (2)
  • Alien Bees 47″ Octobox
  • Alien Bees Barn Doors (2)
  • Flashpoint 16″ Beauty Dish
  • Assorted umbrellas & gels


Favorite Backdrops:


  • Manfrotto 055XPROB with 488RC2 quick-release ball head
  • Meters:
  • Sekonic L-308S
  • Sekonic L-358

This photo is a glimpse into my shooting room.  The layout of the room allows me to shoot on two perpendicular walls, the orange wall and the pale green wall with the rolls of paper on it.

studio photographer shooting space by Jessica Gwozdz

1 – Larson 4×6 softbox.

2 – Denny Twist Flex 6×7′ background.

3 – Photoflex Half Dome softbox.

4 – Larson reflector.

5 – Pulley bar system by MacGyver.  The bar has velcro on it so I can easily attach velcro backdrops (like Silverlake Color Smacks) and the pulleys make it height-adjustable so I can position it as needed for clamping fabric.

6 – Orange painted wall that I use constantly as a backdrop.

7 – Rolleasy ceiling-mounted roller system

8 – Rolls of 107″ seamless paper, stored on the wall on brackets.

9 – Sheet of white melamine that I use on the floor with my white vinyl backdrop.

10 – A portion of my prop storage area.

Opposite my shooting walls, there are prop shelves and a production/packaging area.  There are lots of shelves and bins to store blankets, fabric, and folded backdrops plus random props and posing devices.  I won’t label everything here but just point out a few highlights.

photographer's prop storage area by Jessica Gwozdz

11 – Lightweight fiberglass fake rocks.  These are really great when shooting outside and I need something for a subject to sit on that blends in with the surroundings.

12 – Photogenic Tony posing table.  I love this for headshots.  It gives the subject something to rest their arms on and it’s height-adjustable.  I tried several other posing tables and returned them all due to poor quality.

13 – Client essentials:  kleenex, baby wipes, and boogie wipes.  I also keep a pump of hand sanitizer there and I am make sure the client notices me using it before I would interact with their kids.

14 – Our old kitchen cabinets and counter.  This is another thing I have to thank MacGyver for.  It was his idea to create this production area for me down in the studio.  The cabinets give me a lot of extra storage space.

15 – Past competition prints with ribbons.

16 -Small hanging bar.  In this photo there are pettiskirts there, but clients will usually hang a change of clothes there.  I also have a folding screen (not shown in photo) that I put up near the cabinets area to create a small private dressing area for clients who want to shoot with different outfits.

Here is my proofing room.  It’s attached to my shooting room.   I have an antique dresser in there as well as a couple of more mod pieces from Ikea that give me a ton of storage room for packaging supplies.  I try to keep the color palette of this room to match my branding colors of brown with little pops of red and lime green.

studio proofing room for photographers by Jessica Gwozdz

17 – Hanging lamp with Ott Light bulb.  The Ott Light provides true neutral lighting and is a place for clients to evaluate the color of frames, album leather swatches, etc.

18 – Basket of press-printed greeting card samples.

19 – Basket of album leather swatches and fabrics.

20 – 46 inch TV.  This is set up to be my “3rd monitor” and is connected via long HDMI cable to the computer at my desk (behind the couch, not visible in this photo).

21 – Album samples.

22 – Jewelry samples.

Just to the side of the couch is a section of carpeted wall.  No, this is not a flashback to 1970.  This is a MacGyver creation for me to display frame corners.  We painted the stairs next to the carpet wall a vibrant red to match my branding colors.

custom picture frame samples by Jessica Gwozdz

About the Author:

Jes, armed with a Nikon D700, has always loved photography and received her first camera, a 126 film camera to be exact, when she was 6 but ended up working as an engineer after college. When not spending time doing photography, Jes likes to relax with her husband, aka MacGyver, and their two children, go spinning or read a book, preferably a vampire novel. She loves getting plenty of sleep, comfy shoes, the Kindle, iPhone, and an occasional peanut butter and bacon sandwich.


  1. sabrina Sep 12 2012 at 11:44 am - Reply

    I love your space, Jes! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. heidi Sep 12 2012 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Loved seeing all of this!!!! What a great space!

  3. cribtales Sep 12 2012 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Wow! What a fantastic space. Thank you for opening it up and sharing your "secrets!" As someone who shoots very little that is not naturally lit this was a great peek into controlled lighting.

  4. Michelle Sep 12 2012 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Love this – thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Jen Sep 12 2012 at 11:58 am - Reply

    My favorite "peek inside" thus far!

  6. KElly Sep 12 2012 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing!! <3 seeing all of your fab gear 😉

  7. Crystal Sep 12 2012 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Awesome! Thanks Jes!

  8. Nanci Sep 12 2012 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    So inspiring!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. Amy Sep 12 2012 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    Hey Jes – how big is that Larson reflector? Is it easily collapsible or meant to be permanently setup? Thanks!

  10. Amy Sep 12 2012 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Oops – I see the size listed above – just wondering about it's ability to travel.

  11. Monica Wilkinson Sep 12 2012 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    Look at your space!!! I would love to have an organized set up like that!!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing Jes!

  12. Rebekah Sep 12 2012 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    What you didn't tell us is how to pronounce your last name. ; ) Pretty please?

    • Jessie Gwozdz Sep 12 2012 at 12:54 pm - Reply

      It rhymes with the word "quads", as in your quadriceps (leg muscles). So basically, quads but with a G instead of a Q. 😉

  13. Kay Sep 12 2012 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    You are awesome!

  14. pixelperfectmemory Sep 12 2012 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    I can't wait till I can have my own studio one day. 🙂 Beautiful and AWESOME equipment. 🙂 I love my Nikon and my 85!

  15. Monica Sep 12 2012 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Great post…thank you for sharing. Have you ever posted about the business and insurance needs when you have a home studio?

    • Jessie Gwozdz Sep 12 2012 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      Monica, I have not ever done a post specifically about that. Ironically think that my insurance needs are probably not all that much different than someone who shoots on location. My equipment is covered on a separate business policy and I also have additional liability insurance (above and beyond my homeowners) in case someone gets injured on my property during a session. I would think that a location shooter would have both types of insurance as well, though maybe not as much liability. But as I type this I think that someone can trip over a lightstand at the park and break their neck, suing the photographer too. This would be an interesting thread to start in the forums!

  16. Carmen Sep 12 2012 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Hi Jessie! Thanks so much for this great post! I also have a basement studio and I am looking to replace all my lighting (I am using a kit I bought on ebay for cheap years ago when I was just starting out and defiantly need to upgrade!) What would you say are the must haves? I shoot on my much loved Nikon d7000 and have one sb900 (it tends to overheat) and a 5 in one collapsible reflector. I am thinking of the alien bees. What ones and how many would you suggest to get started? Thanks so much 😉 Carmen

    • Jessie Gwozdz Sep 12 2012 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      Hi Carmen. This is not really easy to answer in a blog comment. Are you a member of the CM forums? There are several threads inside about this topic with lots of group discussion, including my own opinions too. There is a studio lighting subforum in "Light Baby" here at CM.

  17. Laura Sep 12 2012 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    I especially loved seeing your Proofing room. Thanks!

  18. Julia Sep 12 2012 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    It looks AMAZING, Jes!! Love all of the changes you've made since I was there last (makes me want to come over again) 🙂 So great to get a peek into your world (and those red stairs ROCK!).

  19. Heather Rodburg Sep 12 2012 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    Jes, loved seeing your space!! So creative with how you use every inch and incorporate your branding throughout. Thanks for sharing!!

  20. Kathy Thorson Sep 12 2012 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Holy Cow! This is great Jes. Thank you for taking the time to share with us. Can you send MacGyver to the Ottawa area for a few fix its. 🙂

  21. Megan Sep 12 2012 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    Beautiful space, Jess! I love getting the chance to be a fly on your wall 🙂

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  23. Jocelyn Sep 18 2012 at 12:07 am - Reply

    This is absolutely amazing! Thank you for taking the time to share this with us! IT's a great sneak peek.

  24. Jodi Sep 18 2012 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    i need a MacGyver in my life! loved looking at your space (and life!) here, jes!

  25. Tyler Bow Sep 26 2012 at 4:00 am - Reply

    like them, love them, call them! I did and my business runs smoother with their help!

  26. Jordan Gayton Oct 15 2012 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Kudos!

  27. Elena Dec 03 2013 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for showing the pull backs! Absolutely amazing!

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