The best way to build your skills as a photographer or videographer is to learn about the art of off-camera lighting – the use of strobes or continuous lights placed on stands around your photographic subject or held in your hand, and not mounted on your camera.
I’ve written a whole tutorial on how to properly expose your photos and videos. It is full of advice from experts who have spent their entire career mastering the intricacies of lighting. And it’s a lifelong process, but with a few basic concepts and a few inexpensive tools, it’s a process that’s surprisingly approachable.
Below you will find product recommendations from myself and the experts. We’ve put together good picks for those just starting out, as well as choices for seasoned photographers and videographers looking to upgrade to more professional setups.
Be sure to check out our many other photo buying guides such as the best mirrorless cameras, the best compact cameras, the best camera bags, and the best action cameras.
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Start with one light
Camera lighting doesn’t have to be expensive. Of course, if you want the world’s best Swedish-made lamps, they’ll cost you as much as a used car. But if you just want to increase your skills and start experimenting, you can start with an affordable single-light kit.
“With a single-light kit, you can easily create photos that are both more expressive and three-dimensional,” says photographer and lighting instructor David Hobby. “For that reason, I’d recommend any serious photographer buy an off-camera exposure kit — and learn how to use it — before even getting her second lens.” Hobby even recommends buying a second bulb before buying a second lens: “Having a second bulb (even cheaper than the first, as you don’t need a second wireless trigger) gives you the ability to layer your subject. to control. Or to create a lighting environment without good quality ambient light.”
Hobby recommends choosing a reliable third-party flash—something made by a different manufacturer than the one your camera made—as they tend to be cheaper. Camera companies enjoy big profit margins on their flash units to make up for the small margins on their camera bodies and lenses. By buying a third party, Hobby explains, you can put together a whole kit that includes a flash, light stand, swivel adapter, lighting umbrella, and a wireless remote for less than the cost of a standard first-party flash.
Another thing to be aware of is that if you buy a high-end lamp with a patented accessory attachment around the lamp to apply various light modifiers, not only will the lamp be expensive, but the accessories will also be more expensive. If you buy gear with a Bowens mount (the standard mount for the vast majority of third-party accessories), buying accessories will be cheaper, giving you more freedom to experiment with different options.
A good entry-level flash
At just $65, this is the flash David Hobby recommends for an entry-level single-light. (This flash is also sold as Flashpoint Zoom R2 with US warranty.) You can mount it directly to your camera, or you can buy a mount to use it on a light tripod with modifiers such as an umbrella or softbox. This is the flash included in the $229 complete kit that Hobby recommends on its Strobist website.
Also get an external trigger
With a remote flash or strobe, you need an external trigger to fire the flash remotely when you press the shutter button. This remote should be compatible with both your flash and your specific brand of camera. If you use Godox or Flashpoint, your adjustments are easy to read thanks to the large illuminated screen. If you’re using a smaller mirrorless camera like a Fuji, Hobby recommends the smaller version. It’s the same price.
A Flash Upgrade Option
This hybrid flash is also sold as the Godox AD200 Pro, but the Flashpoint version has a US warranty. This 250 watt flash comes with both a flash head and a bare lamp head, the latter offering a better light spread for use with a softbox or umbrella. (See our recommendations for these add-ons below, and learn more about them in our comprehensive lighting guide.)
Affordable and highly portable, this light is much more powerful than a typical flash without adding much more bulk to your gear. If you choose between this and a regular flash, keep in mind that it will not be mounted on your camera like a flash. It includes a swivel mount for a light tripod, but the $25 Glow S2 mounting bracket (or Godox S2) allows you to mount this (or a flash) to a light tripod. The S2 also has the added benefit of having an umbrella holder and a softbox holder.
Continuous light for video
This new 65 Watt continuous LED video light from Amaran comes ready to plug in, but can also work without a power cable when using Sony L-series rechargeable batteries (or compatible aftermarket batteries). When recording video connected to AC power, the locking connector ensures that you don’t accidentally pull it out while you’re in the middle of a recording. Using a companion mobile app, you can control up to 100 Aputure and Amaran lights from your phone or tablet, dialing in your entire multi-light setup, all on your mobile device.
The 60d and 60x have both just been released. The 60d is $30 cheaper and offers more brightness at full power. But the color of the 60d is daylight-balanced, while the 60x is two-tone, meaning it can be adjusted to emit light ranging from bright white daylight to yellowish light that looks more like candlelight. I appreciated that versatility in practice more than the added brightness of the 60x. Both versions have a standard Bowens Mount, so they should work with a wide range of affordable third-party light modifiers, such as softboxes.
This post Camera Lighting Buying Guide (2022): Flashes, LEDs, Softboxes, Remotes, Video Lights
was original published at “https://www.wired.com/story/camera-photo-and-video-lighting-buying-guide/”