Camera Lights Buying guide (2022): Flashes LEDs Softboxes Remotes Video Lights

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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 flashes or continuous lights that are set up on stands around your photographic subject or held in your hand, and not mounted on your camera. 

I’ve written an entire guide on How to properly light your videos and photos. It includes advice from lighting experts who have spent years studying the art. And it is lifelong process, but with a few basic concepts and a few inexpensive tools, it’s a process that is surprisingly approachable.

Below are some product recommendations by me and the experts. We have good choices for both beginners and experienced videographers who are looking to upgrade their equipment.

Check out the other photo buying guides like the The Best Mirrorless Cameras, Best Compact Cameras, Best Camera Bags?, and Best Action Cameras

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Start with One Light

Camera lighting doesn’t have to be expensive. Sure, if you want the world’s best Swedish-made lights, they’ll cost you as much as a used car. But if you’re just looking to grow your skills and start experimenting, you can start with an affordable one-light kit.

“With a one-light kit, you can easily create photos that are both more evocative and more three-dimensional,” says photographer and lighting instructor David Hobby. “For that reason, I would suggest to any serious-minded photographer that she get an off-camera lighting kit—and learn how to use it—before even getting her second lens.” Hobby even recommends getting a Second light before getting a second lens: “With a second light (even cheaper than the first, because you don’t need a second wireless trigger) comes the ability to control your subject in layers. Or to create a lighting environment in the absence of any good quality ambient light at all.”

Hobby recommends choosing a reputable third-party flash—something made by a manufacturer different than the one that made your camera—because they are often more affordable. Camera manufacturers enjoy high profit margins on flashes in order to offset the small margins on lenses and camera bodies. Hobby says that you can buy third-party products to put together a complete kit, which includes a flash, lightstand, swivel adapter and lighting umbrella. This is less expensive than a basic first-party flash.

A second thing to remember is that high-end lights with proprietary accessory mounts around the bulbs to attach different light modifiers are more costly than the light itself. The Bowens Mount is the standard mount that holds most accessories. This will make accessories more affordable and allow you to explore different options.

Flash is a good entry-level option

Godox Photography

This flash, which costs only $65, is what David Hobby recommends as an entry-level 1-light kit. (This flash can also be purchased as Flashpoint ZoomR2 with US warranty.) Mount it directly on your camera. Or, you can purchase a mount to mount it on a lightstand with modifiers like an umbrella or softbox. This is the complete flash. Kit $229Hobby recommends Hobby Strobist website.

Get Remote Triggers Too

A remote trigger is required to fire an off-camera flash, strobe or flash remotely from your camera. You must ensure that the remote trigger works with both your flash camera and your brand of camera. This remote trigger is compatible with Flashpoint and Godox flashes. The large backlit LCD screen makes adjustments easy to read. You can use a smaller mirrorless camera like a Fuji or Godox. smaller versionHobby recommends it. It’s the exact same price.

Optional Flash Upgrade

Photograph: Flashpoint

The hybrid flash can also be sold under the Godox AD200 Pro name, but the Flashpoint model comes with a US warranty. The 250-watt flash comes with both a flash and bare bulb heads. The latter offers a better light spread when used with a softbox, umbrella, or other lighting accessories. See our suggestions for these add-ons and read more in our Comprehensive guide to lighting.)

The light is portable and affordable, making it far more useful than traditional flashes. If you’re choosing between this and a regular flash, bear in mind that this will not mount on your camera like a flash will. The $25 price includes a swivel mounting for a light stand and a mount to hold the flash. Mount bracket for Glow S2This (or Godox S2) will enable you to mount any flash onto a lightstand. The S2 has two mounts: one for umbrellas and one for softboxes.

Continuous Lights for Video

Photograph by Aputure

The new continuous LED video light of 65 watts from Amaran is ready to plug in. However, it can also run on its own if you have compatible rechargeable Sony L-Series batteries. When shooting video plugged into AC power, the locking connector will ensure you don’t accidentally pull it out while you’re in the middle of a shot. A companion mobile app allows you to control up to 100 Aputure/Amaran branded lights using your phone or tablet. You can dial in your entire multilight setup from your mobile device.

Both the 60d and 60x have just been released. The 60d is $30 cheaper and provides more brightness at full power. But the 60d’s color is daylight-balanced whereas the 60x is bi-color, which means it can be adjusted to emit light ranging from the bright white of daylight to yellowish light more akin to candlelight. This versatility was more appreciated than the extra brightness of the 60x. Both versions come standard with the Bowens Mount. They should be compatible with a wide range of third-party light modifiers, such as softboxes.

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