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Studio Lighting Kits for Beginners

Studio lighting kits for beginners are not necessary the cheapest ones. However, if you already have a good flash, you can compile you studio lighting for really little money. I remember the days when I first wanted to try studio lighting at home. What I did was simply to use my Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight and a 36” shoot through umbrella. I can tell you that even though this doesn’t sound like a serious equipment for studio I have made some good portraits of my son with it. Here is an example:

Portrait with shoot through umbrellaShoot through umbrella works pretty well for this kind of shots. I don’t want to go too much into details why, but the most important reason is that the distance of the light source to the subject is very little but yet the light is really soft (because it is defused by the umbrella).

These studio lighting kits (if we can call them so) are good for beginners because they are easy to assemble, they are cheap – you only need a light stand and a shoot through umbrella. Another advantage is that this setup is very portable.

However, there are some disadvantages compared to strobe studio lighting kits:

– Strobes usually have much more power than flashes. Just to give you an example with my SB-900. This is amazing flash but here is what I read in it’s specifications regarding recharging time – 4 Seconds with fresh alkaline batteries & full power; 4.5 Seconds with Lithium batteries & full power. Usually, powerful flashes like mine produce 90-100 ws. Compared to a 300 ws. strobes you can imagine how much faster a strobe flash would recycle at 1/3 of it’s power.

– This setup is good as mostly because it is portable. However, if you want to try something with 2 or 3 lights than it becomes very expensive (a Nikon SB-900 is around $500!).

You probably already know that for $200 – $300 you can buy studio lighting kits which are really good for beginners. They come with everything you need to setup your studio – light stands, umbrellas and softboxes, backdrops etc. If you need to buy these separately you would spend much more. Of course they are not as potable as a flash and a shoot trough umbrella. However, all studio lighting kits come with handy bag so you still can move it if you really need to do so.

Here is what I would expect from a “beginners” studio lighting kit:
– Two or three 200 to 300 watt MonoLight strobes with stands for each of them
– Two 20×28” Soft Boxes
– A wireless trigger kit
– One reflective umbrella
– One shoot through umbrella
– One barndoor with 4 gels
– One gold/silver reflector

Please, take a look in some of the studio lighting kits listed in our site. You will definitely find something which will suit your needs.

One Strobe Studio Lighting Kits – Pros and Cons

Couple of people asked me  “How many strobe lights should my first studio lighting kit have?”.
I’d say that you only need one strobe in the beginning. Why? There are many reasons to consider one strobe studio lighting kits. Here are some of them: (Please let me know if you can think of something else…)

We naturally are used to have only one source of light (the Sun). When we have more sources of lights we may become a little bit confused. We nay get even more confused when light is coming from different position from above the subject. Imagine light coming from bellow. The shadows produced are so unnatural that the picture may even become scary. Anyways, this is another story and I will try to provide some examples here in the near future. Another reason to consider studio lighting kit with one strobe is the fact that it is much easier to find the proper position of your light. When you have multiple light sources it’s not obvious how to position them. Also, if you are like me you will always want to use whatever you have. My studio kit has 3 strobes and to be honest I sometimes feel like I don’t want to setup so much equipment just for “few shots”. Of course there are some cases where you definitely will want more than one strobes. The first (most obvious) usage of a second light would be to lit the background. And also you can use third light source as “hair” light, so that you will achieve nice separation of your subject and the background. This is long discussion and we have already discussed some studio lighting techniques, but in general I really recommend starting experimenting with only one light. In my opinion it is better in the begging to become more used into using light modifiers like umbrellas, softboxes etc… Also, positioning your subject is very important. I remember my first attempts in studio photography – I was so focused on my equipment that in some cases I completely have forgotten my…

Next time I’m planning to talk a little bit about light modifiers. Have you ever tried to use your studio lighting kit without assembling the softboxes and shooting just with strobes? I almost always use some modifiers, but I recently realized that some great results can be achieved with hard light.

Some Simple Ways to Protect Your Studio Lighting Kits

Today I want to talk a little bit about the light stands  and how important they are. Most (if not all) not all of the studio lighting kits on the market include light stands. However, some of them are not reliable enough as they should be. My studio lighting kit is a cheap one and even though I’m very happy with it I have to admit that the quality of the light stands is really poor. :-( Here is what happened the other day. Friend of mine came to my place to take picture of him and his family for the US DV 2011 lottery. I went trough the requirements and prepared my studio lighting kit and started shooting. Everything was going just fine when at one moment one of my strobes fell down and flashed 5-6 times in a second. Then it stopped working.  You can imagine my frustration when one of the strobes stopped working. :-(. Of course, one of the first things I checked was the safety fuse and of course it had burned. Fortunately we have finished with the shooting session it was not so urgent to fix the strobe right away. All this happened because of poor quality light stands! I knew how important it is to secure the light stands with sandbags, or with whatever you can, but this time I didn’t do it, relying solely on the light stands. This mistake may be will cost me a lot… Anyways, I’ve ordered some 5A safety fuses from eBay. These are cheap, and I hope that when I replace the fuse the strobe will work fine again. We’ll see… I could avoid all this if I have taken some simple precaution steps:

1. Use sandbags to make your light stands sturdier! (Just want to mention here that some sandbags can be filled with water, which makes them really very portable). This is really affordable solution and is proven way to protect your studio lighting kit for long time!

2. Avoid too much wire around you. If there is some make sure to ask your clients to be careful with it. The simplest way to avoid some of the wires is to replace your sync cord with radio remote flash trigger if you haven’t done this yet.

3. Tape your stands to the floor. This is simple, yet very effective solution to protect you studio equipment.

So, that’s all from me for now. I’m planning to make an in-depth review of some of the studio light stands next week, so stay tuned and make sure you check our site regularly.

Are the Strobes Coming With Studio Lighting Kits Reliable Enough?

So many people ask for a complete package of lights to get them off and shoot like professionals. Studio lighting kits are great way to start with because you can literally save hundreds of bucks! In addition, they contain all the accessories to make the perfect portrait package so the beginner and professional can receive all the equipment at one time. This is very important as you save money and time.
Today I’m going give you a brief idea of what a good studio strobe is. As you know strobes are the most important part of a studio lighting kit and how it functions and what light it produces is the key of a successful shot. Depending on their quality they can be used in commercial studios, location photographers as well as advanced amateurs at home. Strobes are used for a main light, fill light, back light, or hair light.
Today all strobes come with variable power setting which give complete control over the light output. Depending on the quality you can adjust the output light to 1/10 of a stop or even less. Also, strobes come with modeling light which means that you get pretty good idea how your final shot will look like. Some people have asked me if the modeling light actually affects the end result. The answer is “No”, as the light from the strobe is tens to hundreds times brighter than the modeling light.
There are two main distinctive kinds of studio strobes – monolights, and power-pack/head system. Which one is better? My personal preference is the monolights. Mostly because it requires less wire. Also if the power-pack fails completely there is no workaround. And last monolights are much more portable. Today, most of the studio lighting kits come with monolights.
Which brand to choose? This is a tough question. It is almost the same as choosing a SLR camera. However, for home studio I would recommend a studio lighting kit with as much as possible accessories. If you later want to go for professional studio lighting you can use your kit for on location events…
What power do I need? The power of a studio strobe is measured in watts per second (w/s). For home studio I recommend at least 300 w/s.
What else? Here are some of the other things that you should consider when choosing your strobes:
Reliability and consistency – this is very important! Once you adjust the power you should get consistent result (output light). Otherwise you will end up with poor results. Most studio lighting kits come with strobes which produce light within 1/5th stop. Of course more expensive studio kits and strobes come with better accuracy – 1/25 stop or even more.
Recycling time – most home studio lighting kits come with strobes with recycling time of 2 to 3 seconds. In my opinion this is good enough for home studio.
Portability is another factor you may consider when choosing you studio kit. Fortunately, most studio lighting kits come with a good bags and are easy to assemble.
Cost – I’m not sure if I should recommend something regarding price. At home I personally use a good studio lighting kit which I bought while ago for less than $300. I’m very happy with it as I have made some of the best portraits of my family and my kids. This is something that nobody can buy for me. I could wait a bit more to buy better kit for sure, but then I would regret all missed moments.

Studio Lighting Kits – Which One to Choose?

Choosing the right equipment for your studio is not an easy task. Today, there are so many Studio Lighting Kits to choose from available on the market and often, most of them are with very similar specifications. This is especially true for the entry level studio lighting kits.
Photographers are always trying to achieve the most impressive and attractive pictures. That’s why there is big number of gadgets that they want bring into play. Studio Lighting Kits are great way for all of us to save some money when we want to have them all.
The usability of the studio lighting kits makes a border between professional and beginner’s ones.
Basic studio lighting kits should be stretchy, that is, they should be able to accommodate different shots. They should consist of at least two soft boxes and two umbrellas. If you have an intention to shoot people, then you can make use of the studio photography strobes. They are handy and produce camera flashes. For the same idea, floodlights can be effectual for producing an extravagant result. However, negative aspects for the later equipment include the heat and energy usability.
If you research the market, you will come across tremendous number of products that can suit your necessities as a beginner. Below are some of the features and questions you may want to consider while comparing some of the studio lighting kits:
– Strobes: Photography Strobes are the most curtail part of studio lighting kits. If you are looking for beginner (home) studio lighting kit, than 250w/s power should be enough.
– Is it possible to easily replace the strobe tube lights? Check what’s their lifetime? Usually most bulb last for more than 8000 flashing.
– What is the modeling light power? 75w/s is good enough for beginners.
– Light Stands – look for sturdy, stable light stands. Also make sure they are easy to fold so that you can transport them if needed.
– Softboxes – most beginners studio lighting kits come with 2 20’’ X 30’’ softboxes.
– All studio lighting kits come with the shaping tools and light modifiers like reflectors, soft boxes, umbrellas, detachable grids and barn doors, color gels, intensifiers etc.
–    Backdrops – most studio lighting kits have 2 or 3 backgrounds.
–    For continuous studio lighting kits the ventilation system is very important as it accommodates the smooth running, maintenance of colors and temperature. All these factors help to run the system for a longer life.
The appropriate usability of light can only give you the best result. For this reason, the option for using the lightning source in a controlled environment is the best option. The studio lighting kits come along with two options, including video lighting or the flash lightning. Both have an influence over the shooting of your photographic session. It wholly depends upon you, that what type of studio lighting kit you want to use. For a starter, you might try all the options and see the results. Further on you can use which gives the optimal results.

studio lighting kits

Studio Lighting Kit

I purchased my studio lighting kit few years ago when I was a student attending a photography course. I wanted a studio lighting kit just for portraiture photography and to experiment with lighting. What I really like in studio photography is the controlled environment.

You probably already have researched the market and you know what to expect from a studio lighting kit. Here is what was included in the lighting kit which I’ve purchased:

  • Three sync photography strobes
  • Three stands
  • Two soft boxes
  • Two umbrellas
  • A wireless remote trigger kit
  • A honeycomb light filter
  • Three backdrops (black, white and grey)

Let’s take look into the most important parts of a studio lighting kit:

Photography Strobes: There are two basic design types of strobe systems – with power pack built into the strobe unit (monolight) and with power pack separated from the head. My strobes allow me to adjust the power into one tenth of a stop. They give me enough power (400 w/s) but I rarely use half of it. It has audio beep, so I know when they are ready to fire again. Also, the recycling time is pretty good (less than a second). Of course I can turn the modeling light on and off whenever I want.
By the way, you don’t always need three strobes in a studio. You can achieve very good results with just one strobe and a white card or reflector for fill light. However, with three lights we have much more freedom and we can achieve much better results. The first light is called the “key light”. It is the main source of light. We usually place it just in front of the subject. In that configuration we have dark shadows on one side of the face. So we fill the shadows with the second strobe (“fill light”). Similar we get rid of the shadows on the wall behind the subject with “background light”. This configuration is also known as “three-point lighting”. We can also add a fourth light behind the subject to bring more details in the hair. This is so called “hair light”.

See Portrait Studio Lighting for the most common portraiture lighting techniques.

Reflectors: Every strobe head can accept different kind of accessories. Mostly used are reflectors. A 7 inch reflector is known as standard (universal) reflector and we mostly use it with an umbrella. We can also attach all other different kind of accessories like grid spot (honeycomb) light modifiers.

Umbrellas: Umbrellas are the mostly used light modifier. They are attached to the reflector and the light unit. The light is bounced into it and then backed to the subject. They come in different colors – white is the most common type but there are also silver and gold umbrellas. Some umbrellas can be used as shoot-through umbrella which further defuses the light.

Softbox:Similar to umbrellas softboxes are used to defuse the light. They come in different sizes. A 3×4 ft softbox is considered as large softbox.

Light stands: Usually light stands extend from about 30 to 90 inches. Some floor stands however, allow attaching an adapter to them and you can have strobe light very low to the ground. What you would expect from a light stand is to be sturdy. You may want to invest in a light stands with air cushion. This will prevent you from incidents and eventually damage expensive strobes.

Studio Lighting Kit