Best photography setup lighting

Camera & Photo

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with many lighting options. When lighting a subject, start with one key light and only add other lights as needed.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which photography setup lighting is best?

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. 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. The Fovitec Complete Photography and Videography Studio Kit has pretty much everything you need to properly light a photo setup.

What to know before you buy photography setup lighting

Types of lightbulbs

There are three types of light bulbs you can use with photography lighting sets: incandescent, CFL, or LED bulbs.

Incandescent 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.

CFL bulbs: 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.

LED bulbs: These are amazingly flexible lightbulbs 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

Diffuser: 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.

Softboxes: 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.

Umbrellas: 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.

What to look for in quality photgraphy setup lighting

Backdrop

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.

How much you can expect to spend on photography setup lighting?

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 setup lighting FAQ

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.

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.

What’s the best photography setup lighting to buy?

Top photography setup lighting

Fovitec Complete Photography and Videography Studio Kit

Fovitec Complete Photography and Videography Studio Kit

What you need to know: This is a comprehensive photography lighting set for the serious photographer/videographer.

What you’ll love: 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 you should consider: The higher price may place this set out of range for the casual or entry-level photographer.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top photography setup lighting for the money

LimoStudio 800W 5500K Umbrella and Softbox Lighting Kit

LimoStudio 800W 5500K Umbrella and Softbox Lighting Kit

What you need to know: An affordably priced, versatile continuous photography lighting set, this is ideal for beginning photographers/videographers.

What you’ll love: 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 you should consider: It’s not as durable as higher-priced models and setting up the backdrop can require patience.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Neewer 800W 5500K Umbrella and Softbox Continuous Lighting Kit

Neewer 800W 5500K Umbrella and Softbox Continuous Lighting Kit

What you need to know: This photography lighting set is ideal for beginners and hobbyist shutterbugs.

What you’ll love: 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 you should consider: It’s not necessarily designed for heavy-duty or professional use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.