How to Choose a Photography Lighting Kit
The lighting kit you choose will depend on how you work and what you shoot, so start by narrowing down those criteria. If you need something small you can take with you on location, for example, you won’t want to carry around a massive multi-light kit. If, on the other hand, you shoot mostly studio fashion work, a bulkier setup with accessories like gels and modifiers might be perfect.
Your level of experience with photography lighting is another factor to consider. If you’re just starting out, avoid dropping thousands on a massive kit—you’d be better served to buy something simpler while you learn the basics. You can always upgrade later, and too much gear can be so overwhelming you never end up using it to its fullest potential.
Whether you shoot stills, video, or both are also important. Strobes will work great for still photography, but you’ll need a continuous light if you’re looking to shoot video. This list will focus on strobe lighting for still photography, but it’s something to bear in mind.
When shopping for lighting equipment, you want something powerful enough to get the desired result. Some cheaper kits look like a good deal on paper, but the continuous LED lights they often come with won’t put out enough light to get you a good still image. Check the wattage and read reviews for the kit you have in mind before you buy.
Speaking of purchasing—cost is also a factor. There are innumerable cheap options for lighting kits you can find online, some for less than $100. You won’t see them on this list. That’s because while they may work alright as a stopgap, they usually don’t have the necessary power for professional work and are not built to last.
With all that in mind, here’s our list of the best photography lighting kits. From beginner to pro, there’s something here for everyone.
- ✓ Two high-end strobes for the price of one from more expensive brands
- ✓ High flash sync speed (when used with Elinchrom trigger)
- ✓ Varied power output options
- ✗ A bit expensive, especially for beginners
- ✗ Doesn’t come with accessories like stands and a trigger
Elinchrom is a respected manufacturer of photography lighting gear that’s been around for years. The ELC 15/500 Studio Monolight kit includes two of their higher-end ELC flash heads—one ELC 125 and one 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 a power output range from 7W to over 500W.
Paired with Elinchrom’s remote flash trigger, which works with most major camera manufacturers, you can also get high flash sync speeds out of these strobes. The trigger has to be bought separately, as do stands and modifiers, but you’ll be able to freeze action at up to 1/8000th of a second. That’s perfect for fast-action studio work like shooting dancers or any other type of motion.
Buying into this system also gets you access to a range of modifiers, which opens up a ton of other creative options for your photo work should you choose to expand.
That said, these lights aren’t the cheapest, and you will need to shell out a little more cash to get the most out of these strobes. This lighting kit is best for someone looking to upgrade who already has peripherals like stands, but if you can afford those as well, this kit is a decent value.
- ✓ Great value for the price
- ✓ Portable and easy to carry
- ✓ Made by a recognized brand in budget photo gear
- ✓ Can be battery powered for location and outdoor work
- ✗ No TTL mode for the strobes
- ✗ Stands 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 isn’t the cheapest lighting kit out there, but it does offer great value for the 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 space. That means flash heads, remote triggers, carrying cases, and modifiers to get you started.
The strobes put out a respectable 300W of power, strong enough for studio work. They’re also compatible with any modifier that uses a Bowens mount, so you’ve got more options for attachments like umbrellas, softboxes, beauty dishes, and more to help shape your light. The strobes are on the lighter side, and easier to pick up and take with you than other options.
But, you do have to make a couple of sacrifices for the budget price if you go this route.
Compared to more expensive strobes, the recycle time (how long it takes the flash to recharge and be ready to fire again) is a little long. These Neewer strobes also don’t let you use through-the-lens (TTL) metering, which is important for some shots. You’ll have to adjust exposure by shooting and checking your exposure manually. Light stands aren’t included in the kit but can be bought for not much additional money.
Overall though, the Neewer Vision 4 is a solid budget or beginner kit despite its limitations.
Best Budget Photography Lighting Kit
- ✓ High quality, inexpensive kit from a reputable manufacturer
- ✓ Everything included, from strobes to stands
- ✓ Consistent light output from shot to shot
- ✓ Lot of modifiers within this brand to play with
- ✗ Remote upgrade needed for high-speed flash sync
Elinchrom’s D-LITE RX 4/4 SOFTBOX TO GO kit is a fantastic balance of cost and quality. It includes two 400W flash heads, a wireless trigger, softboxes, stands, and a deflector for a beauty dish effect—everything you need to get started.
As with the other Elinchrom entry on this list, buying into their ecosystem lets you pair their wide range of modifiers with these strobes. And unlike many other kits, you get a few modifiers to start you off.
Since it’s fairly compact, you can also take this kit with you without too much trouble. The included flash trigger also gives you pretty precise control of your power output remotely, so you can adjust the lights from your camera when shooting. If super-high-speed shooting with flash is important to you, you’ll need to upgrade your remote trigger to take advantage of that fully.
While not as nice as higher-end strobes, the D-LITE flash heads included with this kit are still quality. Cooling fans are built-in, and the controls are simple to use—a plus if this will be your first lighting kit.
Best Flash Kit
- ✓ Fits in a backpack for easy travel
- ✓ Fast recycle time and high-speed flash sync
- ✓ Accessories like softbox, gels, and trigger included
- ✓ Runs on battery or AC wall outlet power
- ✗ Could be too pricey for some
- ✗ Doesn’t come with a stand
Whether you’re a photojournalist on assignment or a fashion photographer that needs an extra pop of light on location, this kit is worth a look. The Westcott FJ400 Strobe Kit fits a high-end strobe and modifier in a backpack that’s easy to take with you on remote shoots, or if you’re just for a portable lighting kit.
The strobe included with this kit is 400W and has a super-fast recycle time—ready to fire again in as little as half a second. It’s powerful enough to out-flash direct sunlight and would be just as much at home in a studio attached to a light stand as out in the wild.
The kit even comes with a few colored gels for changing the color of the strobe’s 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 not the most expensive travel flash out there. If the $880 price tag is more than you can spring for, though, the Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Pro TTL Pocket Flash Kit is about half the price and holds its own pretty well.
Best Location Photography Lighting Kit
- ✓ Super high flash sync speed
- ✓ Super fast recycle time
- ✓ High end studio lighting made very portable
- ✓ Includes everything you need to shoot
- ✗ Will be too expensive for most people
A super high-end setup with an impressive set of features, the Broncolor Siros 800 L Battery Powered Outdoor 2-Monolight Kit is best suited to professional photographers that need to take their studio with them. This kit provides two flash heads with all the accessories, and it can all be battery powered so you can shoot pretty much anywhere you’re able to set it up.
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 is, you can catch it. At the fastest setting, these flash heads will fire around 50 times a second.
A number of accessories, like umbrellas and flash tubes, are provided with this kit and you can control the strobes via Broncolor’s BronControl app for Android and iPhone. Stands and a rolling backpack are also included for extra portability.
Because of all its high-end features, this kit is extremely expensive—like, “down payment on a car” expensive. If you aren’t quite ready to shell out around $6K, the Neewer kit listed above provides a serviceable degree of studio lighting and portability. It won’t be exactly the same but will get the job done.