Three best photography lighting sets
The fundamental elements of photography are light and shadow. Once you master those two components, you will be much better equipped to bring your artistic visions to life. And since a shadow is merely the absence of light, all you really need to master is lighting. A versatile photography lighting set will provide you with the tools you need to begin your career in photography or videography.
However, understanding how lighting works and then narrowing down which set to buy can be quite overwhelming. Our concise guide has everything you need to know before you invest in a photography lighting set.
Considerations when choosing photography lighting sets
Types of light bulbs
There are three types of light bulbs you can use with photography lighting sets: incandescent, CFL, or LED bulbs.
Old-fashioned tungsten filament bulbs can get quite hot. They provide clean light and are inexpensive, but they don't last long, they are fragile, and they don't mix well with natural light.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are spiral-shaped bulbs that last a long time, do not get hot, and have come down in price over the years. On the downside, they are large in size (so they might not fit in some softboxes), they contain hazardous material (mercury), and less expensive CFL bulbs do not offer the cleanest light.
The future is LED. These are amazingly flexible light bulbs that last a long time, use a fraction of the energy of traditional bulbs, and do not get hot. The downside for photography is that they aren't very bright, so it takes several LED bulbs to equal the light of one incandescent bulb.
Photography lighting set essentials
A diffuser is a screen that softens harsh lighting to allow for a smoother, more even tone with less contrast. You could use a diffuser outside in midday to soften the afternoon sun.
When you put your light bulbs in a softbox, the light that passes through the cloth cover is less harsh. Think of softboxes as a diffuser for your direct lighting.
An umbrella essentially does the same thing as a softbox, but it is much more cost-efficient. The main difference is that softboxes are directional, whereas umbrellas (either reflective or shoot-through) offer a wider coverage area.
For indoor studio shooting, a backdrop is essential. It typically consists of a sturdy frame and a lightweight material called muslin that comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Muslin appears solid when photographed.
Q. What is the difference between continuous lighting and strobe lighting?
A. Continuous lighting is lighting that is always there, like the sun or a lamp. Strobe lighting is an intense burst of light that is only there when triggered, like a flash.
Q. Which is better, continuous or strobe lighting?
A. It's a matter of preference. Strobe lighting offers a more powerful light, but technology has also advanced to give us more powerful cameras, so intense light is not always needed. For the beginner, continuous lighting lets you see exactly how your subject will look, while strobe lighting involves a bit of calculation and some trial and error.
Q. How much should I expect to spend on a photography lighting set?
A. A single light for your photography setup can be as low as $25. Most beginners' sets, which come with several lights, stands, and a backdrop, range from $100 to $150. More durable professional sets can cost $600 or more.
Photography lighting sets we recommend
Best of the best: Fovitec Complete Photography and Videography Studio Kit
Our take: A comprehensive photography lighting set for the serious photographer/videographer.
What we like: This impressive studio lighting kit comes with three softboxes, three stands, three five-bulb sockets, and 15 bulbs, along with black, white, and green muslin backdrops and a carry bag. The die-cast aluminum construction makes this kit easily transportable with an overall weight of only about 50 pounds.
What we dislike: The higher price may place this set out of range for the casual or entry-level photographer.
Best bang for your buck: LimoStudio 800W 5500K Umbrella and Softbox Lighting Kit
Our take: An affordably priced, versatile continuous photography lighting set for beginning photographers/videographers.
What we like: This set includes two white umbrella reflectors, two softboxes, four stands, four bulbs, two bulb sockets, and eight clamps, along with black, white, and green backdrops and a heavy-duty carry bag. It offers smooth, even lighting for a variety of shooting situations.
What we dislike: It's not as durable as higher-priced models, and setting up the backdrop can require patience.
Our take: This photography lighting set is ideal for beginners and hobbyist shutterbugs.
What we like: This kit comes with two softboxes, two translucent umbrella reflectors, four stands, four bulbs, two bulb sockets, and six clamps, along with black, white, and green backdrops and two carry bags. Even a beginner can achieve decent lighting with ease using this set.
What we dislike: It's not necessarily designed for heavy-duty or professional use.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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