How to Choose a Photography Lighting Kit
The lighting kit you choose will depend on how you work and what you’re shooting, so start by narrowing down those criteria. If you need something small that you can take with you on location, for example, you won’t want to carry around a huge multi-light kit. If, on the other hand, you mainly shoot fashion work in the studio, a bulkier setup with accessories like gels and modifiers might be perfect.
Your level of experience with photographic lighting is another factor to consider. If you’re just starting out, avoid dropping thousands on a massive kit – you’re better off buying something simpler while you learn the basics. You can always upgrade later, and too much gear can be so overwhelming that you never end up using it to its full potential.
Whether you take photos, videos or both is also important. Strobes will work great for still photography, but you’ll need continuous light if you’re looking to shoot video. This list will focus on strobe lighting for still photography, but it’s something to keep in mind.
When shopping for lighting equipment, you want something powerful enough to achieve the desired result. Some cheaper kits look like a good deal on paper, but the continuous LED lights they often come with won’t emit enough light to give you a good still image. Check the wattage and read the reviews on the kit you have in mind before you buy.
Speaking of buying, cost is also a factor. There are countless inexpensive options for light kits that you can find online, some for under $100. You won’t see them on this list. Indeed, while they may work as a workaround, they generally lack the power needed for professional work and are not built to last.
With all that in mind, here is our list of the best photography lighting kits. From beginner to pro, there is something for everyone.
- ✓ Two high-end strobes for the price of one from more expensive brands
- ✓ High flash sync speed (when used with Elinchrom trigger)
- ✓ Various output power options
- ✗ A bit pricey, especially for beginners
- ✗ Does not come with accessories like brackets and a trigger
Elinchrom is a respected manufacturer of photographic lighting equipment that has been around for years. The ELC 15/500 Studio Monolight Kit includes two of their high-end ELC flash heads, an ELC 125 and an ELC 500, along with a carrying case and power cable. Both heads are encased in a metal chassis, fan-cooled to prevent overheating, and provide an output power range of 7W to over 500W.
Paired with Elinchrom’s Remote Flash Trigger, which works with most major camera manufacturers, you can also achieve high flash sync speeds with these strobes. The trigger must be purchased separately, as must supports and modifiers, but you’ll be able to freeze the action down to 1/8000th of a second. It’s perfect for fast-action studio work like shooting dancers or any other type of movement.
Buying into this system also gives you access to a range of modifiers, which opens up a ton of other creative options for your photo work if you choose to expand.
That said, these lights aren’t the cheapest, and you’ll have to shell out a bit more money to get the most out of these strobes. This light kit is best for someone looking to upgrade who already has peripherals like stands, but if you can afford it as well, this kit is a decent value.
- ✓ Great value for the price
- ✓ Portable and easy to carry
- ✓ Made by a recognized brand of budget photo equipment
- ✓ Can be battery powered for location and outdoor work
- ✗ No TTL mode for flashes
- ✗ Brackets not included in the kit
- ✗ Longer recycle time
At over $500, Neewer’s Vision 4 Double Strobe Kit doesn’t look like a budget option at first glance. It’s not the cheapest lighting kit on the market, but it offers excellent value for money.
The Vision 4 comes with almost everything you need to set up a basic photo studio at home, outdoors or in a small studio. That means flash heads, remote triggers, carrying cases and modifiers to get you started.
The strobes come in at a respectable 300W, powerful enough for studio work. They’re also compatible with any modifier that uses a Bowens mount, so you have more options for accessories like umbrellas, softboxes, beauty dishes, and more to help shape your light. . Strobes are lighter and easier to pick up and take with you than other options.
But, you have to make some sacrifices for the budget price if you go this route.
Compared to more expensive strobes, the recycle time (the time it takes for the flash to recharge and be ready to fire again) is a bit long. These Neewer strobes also do not allow you to use through-the-lens (TTL) metering, which is important for some shots. You will need to adjust the exposure by taking pictures and checking your exposure manually. Light stands are not included in the kit but can be purchased for little extra money.
Overall though, the Neewer Vision 4 is a solid budget or beginner’s kit despite its limitations.
Best Budget Photography Lighting Kit
- ✓ High quality and inexpensive kit from a reputable manufacturer
- ✓ Everything from strobes to mounts
- ✓ Consistent light output from outlet to outlet
- ✓ Lots of modifiers within this brand to play with
- ✗ Remote upgrade required for high speed flash sync
Elinchrom’s D-LITE RX 4/4 SOFTBOX TO GO kit strikes a fantastic balance between cost and quality. It includes two 400W flash heads, a wireless trigger, softboxes, brackets and a deflector for a beauty bowl effect – everything you need to get started.
As with the other Elinchrom entry on this list, purchasing from their ecosystem allows you to pair their wide range of modifiers with these strobes. And unlike many other kits, you get a few modifiers to start with.
Since it is quite compact, you can also take this kit with you without too much trouble. The included flash trigger also gives you fairly precise control over your power output from a distance, so you can adjust your camera lights while shooting. If super high-speed flash shooting is important to you, you’ll need to upgrade your remote shutter to take full advantage of it.
Although not as beautiful as high end strobes, the D-LITE flash heads included with this kit are still quality. Cooling fans are built in and the controls are easy to use – a bonus if this is your first light kit.
best flash kit
- ✓ Packs into a backpack for easy travel
- ✓ Fast recycle time and high speed flash sync
- ✓ Accessories such as softbox, gels and trigger included
- ✓ Runs on battery or AC wall outlet
- ✗ Might be too expensive for some
- ✗ Does not come with a stand
Whether you’re a photojournalist on assignment or a fashion photographer who needs an extra splash of light on location, this kit is worth a look. The Westcott FJ400 Strobe Kit packs a high-end strobe and modifier into a backpack that’s easy to take with you when shooting remotely, or if you’re just looking for a portable lighting kit.
The strobe included with this kit is 400W and has an ultra-fast recycle time, ready to fire again in as little as half a second. It’s powerful enough to outrun direct sunlight and would be equally at home in a studio attached to a light stand as it is in the wild.
The kit even comes with a few colored gels to change the color of the strobe light. You also get a universal flash trigger that works with most major camera brands, eliminating the need to buy something brand-specific.
This kit is a bit pricey, but it’s not the most expensive travel flash out there. If the $880 price tag is more than you can get, the Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Pro TTL Pocket Flash Kit is about half the price and holds up pretty well.
Best Location Photography Lighting Kit
- ✓ Super high flash sync speed
- ✓ Ultra fast recycle time
- ✓ High-end studio lighting made very portable
- ✓ Includes everything you need to take photos
- ✗ Will be too expensive for most people
A super high-end setup with an impressive set of features, the Broncolor Siros 800L Battery Powered Outdoor Single Light 2-Light Kit is best suited for professional photographers who need to take their studio with them. This kit provides two flash heads with all the accessories, and it’s all battery-powered so you can shoot just about anywhere you can fit it.
Broncolor’s strobes have a flash sync speed of up to 1/19,000 of a second, so no matter how fast the action you’re shooting, you can catch it. At the fastest setting, these flash heads will fire approximately 50 times per second.
A number of accessories, like umbrellas and flash tubes, come with this kit, and you can control the strobes through Broncolor’s BronControl app for Android and iPhone. Stands and a wheeled backpack are also included for added portability.
Due to all of its high-end features, this kit is extremely expensive, like an expensive “car down payment”. If you’re not quite ready to shell out around $6,000, the Neewer kit listed above offers a usable degree of studio lighting and portability. It won’t be exactly the same but it will get the job done.