Great for lighting large rooms. 10-foot power cord. Stores and travels well. Backdrops included.
No arm extension for direct overhead light.
Offers excellent lighting that's suitable for amateurs and hobbyists on a budget. Stands are fairly sturdy and easy to set up and take down. Packed with accessories.
Instructions could be better. A few consumers griped of burnt out bulbs or missing parts upon arrival. Backdrop material is thin.
Adequately lights a number of different angles. Includes durable backdrops and a crossbar.
Backdrops are a bit thin, but this does not seem to affect photo quality.
A basic package for beginners that includes the essentials.
Only one lofted light bulb. (However, this bulb produces a bright 85 watts.) No backdrops.
Built for novices and hobbyists, as it has components that are useful for making social media videos and basic still photography.
Owners gripe about the durability of some of the equipment, including flimsy clips, broken pieces, and lighting that seemed dimmer than 800 watts.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Great photography doesn’t always involve buying the most expensive camera on the market. Great cameras certainly 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some sets include a background cloth or fabric. You also may be able to use this to diffuse the light in certain circumstances.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 fluorescent light, which makes fluorescent a nice option.
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.
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.
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.
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 cable limits where you can set up the lights, though, which may leave you unable to create the exact photo you want.
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.
A wireless signal can be sent from the camera to the lights. Options for 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.
Understanding what type of light you need to create in the photo will help you pick the right components for the set.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Q. What are some advantages and disadvantages of continuous light in a photography lighting set?
A. Many photographers choose a continuous lighting set as an 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.