This is in response to a question I received about lighting kits (see video below). Specifically, a photography lighting kit for beginners. Now I’m a minimalist when it comes to gear. And to me, that means keeping things light, portable, and simple. But I also think you should purchase the best lighting you can afford for the type of photography you’ll be doing. Let me explain.
Better quality gear will maintain a higher resale value. And that might help when you’re ready to trade up to an even better lighting kit, or components. The other benefit is dependability. Better gear tends to be more robust, consistent, and dependable. That can be very important when you’re in the middle of a photo shoot. You really don’t want your flash units to fail you when you need them most. I’ve had some issues with cheaper units and I would’ve paid anything in those moments to fix the problem. Lesson learned: buy quality gear.
What Type of Lighting Kit?
If you’re just starting out, make sure you have a good guide for learning the fundamentals. If you don’t learn the basics now, you’ll spend more time trying to fill in the gaps of knowledge later. So, grab my free beginner course and/or my free guides to help you with this part. You might also want to take a look at some good lighting courses.
I suggest you buy lighting you can use for actual work; for serious projects. Don’t buy with the notion that this will just be a starter lighting kit for practice. I mean, if you’re going to spend any money at all, and you’re serious about what you’re doing, then buy stuff you can use for real work.
Also, consider the type of portraiture you’ll be focusing on. I’m not saying that you should buy everything now, but buy lights and modifiers that can be used together with the future gear you’ll need (as part of a larger lighting kit). Will you be shooting individual headshots, family portraits, babies, weddings, in and out of the studio, eventually? What can you start out with?
If you’re shooting on-location, are you more comfortable with battery-powered lights vs strobes requiring external power? If outdoors, you might want to consider using smaller softboxes over umbrellas. Light breezes can topple your lighting without warning!
Speedlights Are Versatile
Personally, I think you can do just about anything with a good pair of speedlights and a couple of modifiers. You can use a lighting kit like this in various off-camera configurations for everything from sophisticated portraiture to large group shots. A TTL-equipped flash that’s compatible with your camera can make quick work of good on-camera flash pictures, too. This is perfect for event photography where you can do run-and-gun shots as well as quick bounce flash portraits. And even if you decide to move up to larger studio strobes, speedlites can serve as good accent lights in a multi-light setup.
Your Lighting Kit Will Change
As your needs and working style evolve, you’ll want to change up your lighting setup every now and then. You might decide to keep building up your lighting kit, or create separate kits for different types of shoots. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself paring down your setup as you gain more confidence and experience. I’ve found that as I’ve simplified my lighting, I’ve been able to focus more on my subjects and less on the technical aspects of a shoot. For me, this frees up more time and headspace for creativity and spontaneity. That means, better pictures.
See the video below for the rest of my answer and advice. View on YouTube to add your advice in the comments.