How To Set Up a Photography Lighting Kit For Under £600

Your home studio is never complete without lights.

In photography, lighting is the be all and end all of everything that we strive to achieve. Lighting help us chisel a photo out of the sheer emptiness of darkness. Even when you aim your camera at night at the seemingly empty heavens, there is a faint sparkle of light that is captured by the sensor. If there were no light there would be no photography.

Now that we understand how important light is in photography, let’s find out how we can set up a small studio lighting arrangement. We have a relatively small budget in hand – just £600.

What you Need

For the set-up I’ll select a couple of flashes, transceivers, light stands and some flash modifiers. I’ll explain how each of these work below.

Lights

I love flashes simply because they are cheap, convenient and easy to set up. They have their limitations though.

For full body profile shots or engagements at twilight hours I wouldn’t opt for a flash. I will need something more powerful and certainly something that runs on a larger battery pack to support an extended shoot. But on a tight budget and specially working out of a small home studio I don’t need larger lights.

The question is which flash to choose? The ideal option would be to select a flash of the same brand as your camera. These flashes tend to support the metering system on their respective camera systems.

For Canon systems I would recommend two of the Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT.

canon-speedlight

For Nikon camera systems I would recommend the Nikon SB-500 AF Speedlight. Both these systems are compliant with their respective camera TTL metering systems.

4814_SB-500_front

The abovementioned Canon flash has a guide number of 141’ at ISO 100.

The guide number of the Nikon flash is 79’ at ISO 100. It is kind of underpowered when you compare the guide numbers of the two flashes.

In a studio environment if you use a fast prime like an 85mm f/1.8 and shoot wide open, you wouldn’t feel your flash is under-powered. Stopping down you will have to compensate with an equal increase in the ISO number.

If you must have more power, upgrade to something like the Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight. It has a guide number of 92’ and will give you a bit more power to play with.

For a slightly smaller budget (Canon systems) you can get the Canon Speedlite 270EX II. Similarly, for Nikon systems you can get the Nikon SB-300 AF Speedlight. Having a cheaper option allows you to buy two lights instead of one and give options for a more balanced lighting set-up.

Transceivers

The next item on the shopping list is transceivers.

This comes directly from the need to set-up your lights off-camera. Thus, transceivers are a must have.

There are many different transceivers available in the market, but not all of them are reliable. PocketWizard is one brand that make reliable quality transceivers which last a long time.

I’d prefer the PocketWizard PlusX 2 pack. These come in a bundle of 2, which offers good value for money – especially, when you have a tight budget to work with like we do now.

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A pack of two transceivers gives you the option to use one on the camera hot-shoe as the transmitter. The other one needs to be connected to one of the flashes. This one becomes your receiver.

You don’t need too much range on these things. At least not when shooting inside a studio.

However, you need the option to use different channels and of course the reliability that comes with using a good product.

Being able to use separate channels comes from the fact that you might have a requirement to set up two or more sets of lights. You can control each channel and the lights set-up under it independent of the other channels.

Flash Modifiers

Light modifiers come in all shapes and sizes.

It can get pretty confusing and stressful after a while if you are hunting for flash modifiers.

The same goes for light modifiers for bigger strobes. Though we are on a tight budget the good thing about this is we are limited by the options.

There is no point looking at expensive products because they are beyond our budget. The thing about flash modifiers is that one is never enough. You need a few depending on the type of shoot you have planned.

Let’s look at the Neewer 70 x 70 cm Speedlite Studio Flash and Umbrella Softbox.

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This one retails at just under £25.

The best thing about these tiny soft boxes is that they are compatible with most portable flash units. Thus, regardless of the flash system that you may have, this softbox will probably work.

Larger softboxes soften the light considerably. So, opting for a medium sized one makes sense for portraits and product photography; something that you would normally do in a studio.

By default the light output from a flash is intense and harsh. This light is unsuitable for shooting portraits and macro works. You need a light source that is broad, soft and therefore produce minimal shadow.

The Neewer 70 x 70 is perfect for that purpose.

Light Stands

Light stands are imperative for the purpose of mounting your lights off-camera. You can’t always have a VALC at all times (Voice Activated Lighting Control = Your assistant) helping you out, especially if you are a fledgling photographer with a tight budget. Thus, lighting stands are a must have.

You need one light stand for each of the flash units, just in case you wish to use all of your lights at the same time.

You don’t need all the light stands to be of the same height. You can have one about 8’ height and one that is about 10’ high, or both the same maximum height you need.

The higher stand will work perfectly when you need to set-up your key light above the eye-line. E.g., butterfly lighting, for clamshell lighting with a reflector or a second light, for artistic lens flares or for a high-contrast lighting set-up with deep shadows under the chin and the eyes.

Impact makes a number of good heavy duty lights stands. The 8’ stand costs £40 and the 9.6’ costs £55.

  1. Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT – £200
  2. Canon Speedlite 270EX II – £135
  3. Nikon SB-500 AF Speedlight – £194
  4. Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight – £250
  5. Nikon SB-300 AF Speedlight – £93
  6. PocketWizard PlusX 2 pack – £119
  7. Neewer 70 x 70 cm Speedlite Studio Flash and Umbrella Softbox – £25
  8. Impact 8’ light stand – £40
  9. Impact 9.6’ light stand – £55

Total for Canon system – (1) £200 + (2) £135 + (6) £119 + (7) £25 + (7) £25 + (8) £40 + (9) £55 = £599. Under by £1!

Total for Nikon system – (3) £194 + (3) £194 + (6) £119 + (7) £25 + (7) £25 + (8) £40 + (9) £55 = £652. Just over by £52.

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