Recommended Lighting Kits for Photography
Recommended Lighting Kits for Photography
If you follow some basic lighting principles, you can get impressive results from even the cheapest of motorcycle light combo kit. This is great news for businesses with smaller budgets or folks just starting out with video. As an experiment, we went to Home Depot and built a lighting kit with clothespins, clip lights, and LED bulbs.
While this is not the be-all, end-all lighting kit, it is an attainable and repeatable setup that will keep people on camera looking sharp and well-lit.
Please allow us to introduce Wistia’s “Down and Dirty DIY Lighting Kit” – all for under $100.
Our trip to Home Depot
You can build almost an entire DIY lighting kit with items you can find at any hardware store. Places like Home Depot, Lowes, and ACE should readily stock everything you’ll need.
The effectiveness of this motorcycle fog led light kit hinges on good quality bulbs. Look for daylight balanced bulbs with a high CRI (color rendering index). This will help to produce the highest quality and most flattering light possible. Also, make sure you purchase bulbs that are dimmable. We’ll explain more about this later.
Lights, lights, lights, lights, and more lights. You’ll find them all here at B&H and, even if you are a professional photographer with decades of experience, the sheer number of lighting options today can drive you mad. It drives us mad. You might be thinking, “Where do I even start and how do I find the great auxiliary light combo kit?” Well, today’s your lucky day, because the place to start is right here, with this list of 14 recommended lighting kits—seven flashes and seven continuous—that will help photographers get the job done.
We are going to start with a staple of photography: flash. Also known as strobes, these are awesome for photographers because they provide plenty of power, can help freeze motion, and come in nearly any size. Also, the various sync methods—and the fact that now many have built-in radio receivers, make multi-light setups easy. There are plenty of variables to guide your decision, including recycle time, battery versus AC power, accessories, wireless system, and power, so here’s a healthy helping of different types to peruse.
In the very beginning of your lighting journey, you will want something versatile and with the ability to mount directly on your camera. Something like the Bolt VB-11 Bare-Bulb Flash. Being bare bulb means that it can provide a similar look to classic strobes with 360° coverage and high power at 180Ws. It benefits greatly from accessories to modify the light, all of which are included in the Flash and Accessory Kit. Another advantage is the ease with which you can set it up on a light stand or slide it into the hot shoe of your camera, depending on how you want to use it that day. Want something easier to start out with? Go with the Bolt VD-410 Manual Flash and read up about speedlights.
Need something that’s portable, like a speedlight? How about a bare-bulb design that gives the 360 degrees of coverage? Get both with the Godox AD200Pro TTL Pocket Flash Kit. It has the basic form of a speedlight, though without the bounce functions, and has the ability to swap the head from a standard rectangular speedlight to a bare-bulb flash. It’s good and affordable with an excellent 200Ws of power that should be ample, and it runs on a rechargeable Li-ion battery pack that’s good for 500 full-power flashes on a single charge. It also features a built-in X Wireless System Receiver so you can use optional X Series TTL Transmitters to control and trigger the flash remotely. Adding this also enables high-speed sync via TTL. It’s an awesome and versatile lighting choice.
Among Profoto’s latest releases as they push forward with their off-camera flash, or OCF, range is the stellar B10. Available in a two-light kit complete with backpack, the ultra-compact light is battery powered for use nearly anywhere you can stick it. The B10 is rated to 250Ws and has a 10-stop power range. Tack on a 0.05-22 second recycle time, freeze mode with a 1/50,000-second T0.5 flash duration, AirTTL support, and you have a seriously good flash to work with. Oh yeah, it also has LED modeling with with adjustable color temperature and CRI of up to 96 for video shooting on the side. All you need to complete the setup are any of Profoto’s highly regarded OCF Light Shaping Tools and a Profoto Connect for wireless TTL.
A more conventional dirt bike light combo kit comes from the well-known and reliable Elinchrom. By conventional I mean the D-Lite RX 4/4 Softbox To Go Kit is close to what many picture when they think of advanced LED light kit—a couple of monolights with stands and softboxes. These strobes are no slouch, with each of the two heads including offering 400Ws of power. They run on standard AC power and can recycle in just 0.35-1.6 seconds, depending on power. Also, the D-Lite RX 4 has an EL-Skyport Receiver built in, so that you can trigger the camera remotely—easily—via the included EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus. Completing the kit are stands, an octagonal softbox, and a square softbox. Everything you need.
When you hear the name of some brands, you just know you are getting a solid product. In lighting, one such brand is Broncolor, and one of its more recent releases is the Siros L 800Ws Barry-Powered Monolight, which we recommend in the 2-Light Outdoor Kit 2. These are among the most powerful battery-powered strobes, with a rating of 800Ws and benefits from Enhanced Color Temperature Control that ensures the ultimate in consistent color with repeated shots. This is something that Broncolor is known for and something that makes its lights so appealing to professionals. However, if you need some extra speed, there is a mode that will forgo these protections to provide faster recycle times and shorter flash durations, up to a minimum of 1/18,000-second. Optional RES2.2 Transmitters open the door for Broncolor HS, enabling sync speeds at up to 1/8000-second with supported systems. And, you can control multiple lights from your tablet or smartphone using the bronControl app.
Regarding equipment for the rest of us, Dynalite has made the solid Baja A6-600 Monolight 2-Light Kit. This more affordable system can be very enticing, partially because it offers an impressive 600Ws output, which is more powerful than many of its competitors. These are AC-powered monolights, but the added power and 300W modeling light should be appealing for many studio shooters. Also, it comes with a wireless receiver that can work at distances of up to 590' when used with an optional transmitter. The transmitter also unlocks High Speed Sync with Canon or Nikon cameras. It is very much a traditional monolight, but it is a good one and a quite affordable kit, too.
Speedlights and monolights changed the way photographers worked with lights by making them more portable and user-friendly. For the ultimate in performance, it is tough to beat your standard power pack, and the Profoto Pro-10 2400 AirTTL is among the best you can get today. Two outlets, a max of 2400Ws, a built-in Air receiver with TTL support, flash durations that can be as short as 1/80,000(!) second, and recycle times of just 0.02-0.7 seconds make this pack an absolute monster if you need the best of the best. There aren’t any pre-built kits, considering the super-pro nature of the Pro-10, so build your own by adding a couple of ProHead Plus Flash Heads to your bag.
These days, many photographers are spending a healthy portion of their time working with video. Unfortunately, all those awesome flashes and strobes we just talked about can’t do both, since you need a continuous light to work with motion. While, yes, some strobes are packing LEDs that can serve as your video source—the recent Profoto B10 Plus comes to mind—it will be tough to beat dedicated tools such as the ones below.
Relative newcomer Luxli has been killing it lately, and one of its latest is the awesome on-camera option that is the Viola2 5" On-Camera RGBAW LED Light. Its small size and outstanding color controls make it exceptionally versatile. For standard white adjustment there is a variable 3000-10000K temperature range, while the RGBAW nature of the fixture enables complete color tuning, including the ability to set 150 digital gel filters and 10 different special effects. This is ideal for a portable, on-camera light because it eliminates the need for other accessories in your bag. One other thing to consider is this kit with a softbox and diffusion filter. Additionally, it’s part of the Orchestra series, which can be controlled via a mobile app on your smartphone and work in sync with any other members of the band.
Litepanels was one of the first major brands on the scene when LEDs first began to make inroads into photographic and cinematic lighting. It all had to do with the now-ubiquitous 1 x 1' LED panel, now having been updated to the Astra Bi-Color LED Panel. By using an array of high-quality LEDs, Litepanels was able to create a fixture that was lightweight, powerful, and could produce a soft output—all beneficial qualities when considering lights for photography. They could even run on batteries if you needed to use one on the go, and are practically silent. The shape is now classic, and if you want to pick up more than one, Litepanels has numerous Astra Traveler LED Panel Kits available.
Hot lights made Lowel popular for decades. Now, the company is taking a good shot at the LED world by bringing out a new version of one of its most popular lights ever. The TotaLED Daylight LED Light is this reimagining, though it makes sure to maintain similar features to its predecessor. This includes an equivalent output to that of a 750W tungsten bulb, a beam angle of ~65° that can be expanded to 100° via the included diffuser, built-in barndoors, and more. Where this one differs is in its native 5600K color temperature, quite cool operation—no need for gloves with LEDs—and the ability to run on batteries, as well as AC power. If you want, there are two-light and three-light kits ready for purchase.
Go beyond the panel with the Aputure Light Storm LS C120D II LED Light Kit. Using a chip-on-board (COB) LED, it effectively creates a single-point light source, which is more akin to classic tungsten fixtures with a single bulb. No worries about multiple shadows here, and the LS C120D II is exceptionally powerful with the equivalence of a 1000W hot light, while consuming just 180W of power. It also has DMX control, a redesigned handbrake-locking yoke, and can accept all types of Bowens S-mount accessories natively, including Aputure’s popular Light Dome II. Photographers on the go will appreciate the ability to run on either V-mount or Gold-mount batteries. You can pick it up by itself, or in two-light and three-light kits.
Making the list as a personal favorite is the Light & Motion Stella Wedding Photographer Kit. The reason I like them so much that they were included here is that the company is one of very few that makes highly capable lights that are completely waterproof. They really mean waterproof, too. The Stella Pro 5000 and Stella 2000 in this kit are ready to go diving with ratings that make them usable down to 328' underwater. Tough lights can survive some of your crazier ideas and the Light & Motion ones are perfect for it. Both are battery powered and feature a COB LED with excellent, high CRI output that makes them a solid option for photographers working on location. They are also great, compact lights, and the Stella 500 can accept an optional Profoto Adapter to use your more conventional modifiers on it.
The thing about LEDs is that they can be used in ways you never would’ve imagined. One such light that follows through on this is the Westcott Flex Bi-Color LED Mat Cine Set. It’s a completely flexible LED panel measuring 1 x 1', and there are plenty of other sizes available. Why would you want a flexible light? I would counter with a, “Why wouldn’t you want a flexible light?” It can be used on a stand just like your standard panels, yet, when the moment requires it, you can use it in very niche ways. It’s light enough to be taped up to a wall and thin enough to stay out of the shot. You can tuck it down into a case and fold it up so the light is directed a specific way. And that just touches the surface, I’m sure plenty of more imaginative photographers will find even more exciting ways to use it.
LEDs are dominant, though we shouldn’t forget about classic tungsten, HMI, and fluorescent lighting. I’d like to draw your attention to one in particular: the Kino Flo 4Bank 4' Gaffer 2-Light Kit. Essentially the name to know when it comes to fluorescent lighting, Kino Flo’s lights are long revered in the industry for their soft, flicker-free output. Using True Match Fluorescent Lamps, the 4Bank can create a large, soft, and daylight-balanced fixture that has the equivalent output of a 1000W soft light with a fraction of the draw. The separated ballast can be located in an easy-to-access position, as well, while the fixtures’ flexible barndoors provide a simple way to control the light. These are great fixtures, and this kit gives you everything you need except the lamps.