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Shopping Guide for Best Photography Lighting Sets

Great photography doesn’t always involve buying the most expensive camera on the market. Certainly, great cameras yield very good results. But even the best camera can’t perform to its best level without great lighting in the scene. Quite often, that great lighting will come from the sun with outdoor photos. However, when you have to shoot indoors, you need to provide your own lighting. Although you can produce this lighting with an on-camera flash unit, photography lighting sets provide the best quality of light. You also can make significant adjustments to the intensity and direction of light when using a set, giving you maximum control of the photo quality.

If you’re ready to step up your photography skills, consider purchasing a quality photography lighting set. At BestReviews, we take pride in performing detailed research in each product category we cover. Through our research, we give readers the trustworthy information required to make a wise purchase. You can count on our information and product selections to be free from bias, as we never accept free samples from manufacturers. Please continue reading our shopping guide to pick the best photography lighting set for your needs.

Photography lighting systems commonly consist of anywhere between one and four lights. Even more lights will be appropriate in some specialty photography situations.

Parts of a Lighting Set

Several pieces make up the typical lighting set. Some basic sets will only have a few of these parts. However, a more expensive and extensive lighting set will contain most of the available pieces.

Features

Light

The light is the most important piece in the set. We’ll discuss the different light technologies that are available in bulbs later.

But the first choice you’ll have to make involves selecting a continuous lighting source and a flash lighting source. The flash produces a powerful light in a fraction of a second, while the continuous light remains on at all times.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

StudioPRO Complete Studio

Valuable Accessories

The StudioPRO 3000W's included backdrops add a lot of value and a professional touch that users love. The 10-foot power cord often eliminates the need for an extension, and can reduce anxiety over tripping on a taut line. The lightweight equipment and small case store easily, and if you travel a lot, you would be hard-pressed to find a more portable model.

Features

Light Stands

This stand looks a little bit like a camera tripod, but it has the lighting source mounted to the top. The stand usually allows you to adjust the height and angle of the light.

Features

Filter

The filter attached to the light reduces the intensity of the light and spreads it, creating a softer look. The filter usually consists of some sort of fabric, although gel filters are available that change the color of the light. A filter can be part of one of the devices listed below, or you can hang a sheet-sized filter in front of a light.

EXPERT TIP

Reflectors redirect the light, giving you a softer light on the subject.


Staff  | BestReviews
Features

Background

Some sets include a background cloth or fabric. You also may be able to use this to diffuse the light in certain circumstances.

Features

Power Sources

Some types of lighting require large amounts of electrical power, which means you may need a power pack. This ensures a safe amount of electrical power for each light without overloading any of them.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some photography sets are made to be used in remote locations, running from battery power.

Features

Scrim

A scrim consists of a box that fits over the light with a fabric diffusion material that you can remove if desired. The box has an opening on one side to direct the light.

Features

Softbox

A softbox offers more diffusion than the scrim, as it features a wider box. The softbox also fits over the light. The filter fits over the end of the softbox.

Features

Umbrella

The umbrella can serve as a reflector, to bounce the light throughout the room. Or you can aim the light through some umbrellas to diffuse the light like a filter. It fits onto the light stand.

Umbrellas and softboxes can play a key role in creating pleasing, soft lighting from your kit.

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BestReviews

Continuous Lighting Options

You can select the type of bulb that will be used in a continuous lighting source. Each of the light technologies we’ve listed here has some advantages and disadvantages.

Options

Fluorescent

A fluorescent light is a desirable option in a studio because it doesn’t generate much heat.

Many cameras have multiple white balance settings to compensate for slight color differences in the the fluorescent light, which makes fluorescent a nice option.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

LimoStudio Photo Video 2400 Watt

Entry-Level Value

There's no hiding the fact that the LimoStudio 3-Piece Softbox Set is a bare-bones package. The only accessories included with this package are three stands, three softboxes, 12 bulbs, and a case. The boxes and stands are of a good size, and the stands are adjustable to different angles. In the end, however, brightness (and a budget price) are the features that make the LimoStudio a standout.

Options

LED

An LED light works well as a continuous light in a photography lighting set because it doesn’t generate heat, and because of its excellent energy efficiency.

Options

Tungsten

A tungsten light works when using a photography lighting set outdoors, because it generates a bright light. It also creates heat, but that won’t cause problems outdoors.

Many cameras have a white balance setting to compensate for tungsten light.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some studio lighting kits will give you both continuous and flash lighting options.

Synchronizing Lights from Flash Units

As part of the photography lighting set, you need a way to activate the lights. Synchronization only matters with flash light setups. Because continuous lights are on all the time, they don’t need to be activated and synchronized.

Synchronization

Wired

You can run cables between your camera and external lights. When you press the shutter button on the camera, it sends a signal through the cables to all of the lights to fire simultaneously.

The length of the cables limits where you can set up the lights, though, which may leave you unable to create the exact photo you want.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

If you’re using a large number of lights, you may need a power pack to provide the proper amount of electrical power.

Synchronization

Triggers

Perhaps the easiest and cheapest means of firing remote lights works through triggers. These triggers are sensitive to light. Each external light has a trigger attached to a port. When one light fires, the triggers read that light and fire the other lights.

You normally have one light attached to the camera to trigger all the other lights.

Synchronization

Wireless

A wireless signal can be sent from the camera to the lights. Options for the wireless technology include infrared, WiFi, and Bluetooth.

An infrared signal works well indoors, but it needs line of sight. Bluetooth requires that the devices are all in close proximity to each other. And the WiFi connection only works if the area has a WiFi network available.

EXPERT TIP

If you have a small budget for photography lighting sets, start with basic equipment. Spend more for high-level equipment later when you have more experience.


Staff  | BestReviews

Choosing a Lighting Set

Understanding what type of light you need to create in the photo will help you pick the right components for the set.

Considerations

Direct Overhead Sunlight

A simple flash unit or continuous light unit with no filter or reflectors will create a representation of overhead sunlight. It will have the harshest shadows, which can create some dramatic photos.

Considerations

Early Morning/Evening Sunlight

Diffusers reproduce the soft sunlight found just before sunset and just after sunrise. Just place a filter over the continuous light or flash in your photography lighting set to diffuse it and recreate this type of pleasing light.

DID YOU KNOW?

Studio lighting that’s continuous will cost less than flash lighting, but it does generate more heat.

Considerations

Remove Shadows

If you want to take shadows out of the equation for your photo, use reflectors with your photography lighting set. Reflectors bounce the light around the room, which eliminates shadows. One to four reflector umbrellas will accomplish this task.

Considerations

Dramatic Shadows

Place a scrim on one side of the subject, and you’ll create an interesting image. The dramatic shadow on one side of the subject’s face with full lighting on the other side looks great and creates a mood.

If you want to tone down the intensity of the light, you can use a filter on the scrim or a softbox.

EXPERT TIP

Synchronizing the firing of each of the flashes in the set is important to achieve the results you want.


Staff  | BestReviews

Lighting Set Prices

The price of a lighting set varies quite a bit, depending on how many components you purchase.

A set with a lot of different parts will run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $1,000. Basic sets can be had for less than $100.

Set a budget and stick to it, selecting the lighting kits and gear that best meets your photography needs.

A pro-level, extensive lighting setup can run $1,000 or more, but amateur photographers can still receive good results while spending less.

FAQ

Q. What are some advantages and disadvantages of continuous light in a photography lighting set?

A. Many photographers choose a continuous lighting set as a introductory set because of its low starting price. Additionally, continuous lighting allows you to control shadows, and to take the time to figure out the exact camera settings to use. However, continuous light generates heat, so if you’re shooting portrait photos, your subjects could grow uncomfortable.

Q. What are some advantages and disadvantages of flash lighting in a photography lighting set?

A. Flash lighting, also called a speedlight, appears suddenly, at a high intensity. Flash lighting can “freeze” the action, allowing for a sharp photo of moving objects. Speedlights can be attached to the camera, or they can be placed on mounts away from the camera. Because the light from the flash appears suddenly, however, you won’t know ahead of time exactly what kinds of shadows the light will create.

Q. What are my options for controlling the photography lighting?

A. Regardless of the lighting system you’ve selected, you should have at least some control over the light intensity. A basic lighting system should allow you to adjust the power of the lighting to half or full. More complex systems will give you several settings options to control the intensity of the lighting. If you purchase an inexpensive lighting system, you’ll have to spend more time adjusting the physical position of the light to achieve the exact intensity of light on the subject you want.

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