lighting kit help

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by leslie_carpenter|1, Nov 29, 2011.

  1. I am new to photography, and am using a Canon 20D. My Mother in law offered to buy me a lighting kit I have been wanting. I am sooo excited! I need to know what would be the best one, at a range of $140.00.... I take alot of portriats. PLEASE HELP! I need to send her the link to buy it soon. THANK YOU!!
  2. What kind of lighting kit? There are many kinds, and $140 doesn't get you much in the way of any kit, much less a decent one. What kind of portraits, children, adults, small groups?
    So slow down a little, what other equipment do you have besides a 20D? Also expand upon what you want to use it for and where you will set it up. Does it need to be portable?
  3. For $140 I strongly recommend getting a Certificate of Deposit. When you turn that CD into something like $500 (and really the more the better), then come ask again. I wouldn't spend $140 on a lighting "kit", that would be a false economy. In general terms, an Alien Bee kit is the least expensive solution I would consider and if you check that out, you will see any kit there exceeds the stated budget.
  4. With your budget you are probably going to be pretty much limited to "hot lights"; considering that you say that you are new to photography, this is not really a bad thing. Fixed lights that are on all the time have the advantage of being easier for a beginner to use in that you can easily see exactly what the lights are doing, where and how deep the shadows are, etc.
    You will need to use high-wattage photoflood bulbs (300 watts to 500 watts) to get enough light to work with, and, if you shoot mostly color, you will want blue bulbs since they approximate the color temperature of daylight film. Note that they call these "hot lights" for a reason...they heat up a room very quickly.
    I often use such equipment for lighting still-life setups, but, due to the heat involved, I got multi-bulb adapters from a local lighting company and use multiple daylight flourescent bulbs instead of photoflood bulbs. I use three bulbs in each large Smith-Victor reflector and find that it gives me plenty of light.
    A basic setup would consist of three reflectors on light stands; this will provide you with enough light for most portrait or still-life work and still be in your price range.
  5. if you want a kit as such, $140 will buy you a two or three-light photoflood setup from Smith Victor. This is the traditional set of three light stands, socket and reflectors that beginning photographers -- and some professionals -- have used since the 1940s or so. Very simple but it has potential if you use it right. Photofloods come in 500 watt and 250 watt bulbs. Stay away from compact fluorescents -- the ones that are available in this price range simpy don't put out enough light no matter how many people try to tell you how great they are. If you prefer flash, go to and read up on how to use shoe-mount flashes for studio results. For your $140 you can definitely get a stand, umbrella and mounting adaptor that will let you do studio quality one-light portraits with the flash that you might already own. If you don't have a flash look at the $90 Vivitar 285HV. It's not modern at all but it's a hockey puck that was the industry standard before TTL came along and is still the most flash for the money.
  6. If you are practical and can make your own stands you can be well away with the Strobist approach and a couple of YoungNuo flash units which I gather are going for about $65 each, you might even find stands within the budget. But one light and a good reflector, white polystyrene or similar, will do great portraits for you while you save for extra lighting.
  7. I'd agree with the previous comments regarding budget. Depending upon the reason for the lighting kit, you may find that a pop-up reflector can be pretty useful. I use one of static nature shots, filling harsh shadows outside and when people stand in front of windows.
    One problem with limited lighting kits is lack of control over all the light sources - so colour balance can be problem with the mix in temp from different sources.
  8. For $140 I strongly recommend getting a Certificate of Deposit. When you turn that CD into something like $500 (and really the more the better), then come ask again.​
    Please don't suggest that to new photographers asking for advice. It's incorrect and rude. There are very few strobes out there in your budget but you can get a decent single strobe setup for under $300. The Westcott Photo Basics 220 kit includes one 300ws head, a 43" shoot-through umbrella, a 40" 5-in-1 reflector, a reflector arm (that will hold your reflectors where you want them), and two 7.5 foot stands. I realize it's a bit outside your budget but something to consider if you can stretch that budget a little.

    You might also consider the ~$200 Promaster 9163 which is a two 160ws strobe setup that includes two umbrellas, two stands, and a case. They look and feel cheap (I've used them) but for someone just starting out, they work great! The housing is cheap, shiny plastic and, unlike the Westcott heads, you can't use standardized light modifiers on them but as a simple strobe, they work really well.
  9. I should add that the less expensive option (the Promaster) comes with 15' sync cables, I'm not sure if the Westcott does or not. Both the Promaster and the Westcott have built in slaves so that when one strobe flashes it will signal the other to flash at the exact same time. Also, they both have 100w halogen modeling lights.
    You will need to figure out a way for your camera to trigger the strobes, I don't recall if the 20D has a PC sync port but if it doesn't, you can get a hot shoe to PC sync adapter that slips on the flash bracket on the top of your camera which will allow you to plug the sync cable into your 20D and trigger the strobes. The adaptors typically cost between $10 and $15.

    This photo was lit exclusively with the Promaster kit I linked in my previous post.

Share This Page