Great Beginner Light Sources

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Some day soon I hope to set up a home-based studio. That “soon” is dictated by the whims of our 21-year-old daughter, who moved back in with us in July and has no firm plans for moving out as of yet. Since she occupies what used to be the only “free” room in the house, my plans will have to wait. But that’s okay! Because the delay is affording me the opportunity to do a lot of research into what I want for my dream photo studio. Not that I’ll be able to afford everything that I want. Unless I win the lottery between now and then. Hope springs eternal.

Anyway! One of the first purchases I intend to invest in is some good beginner’s light sources. Nothing overly fancy or complicated, just some basic gear to get started with, and to learn on. Since the only types of lighting that I currently have experience with is ambient, and a lamp bounced off of a reflective surface, and (eep) my built-in flash, the type of light kit I’m looking for needs to be simple and easy to use.

I favor soft lighting in my photography, so I’m playing around with the idea of getting a couple of softboxes. Scott Kelby featured the Lastolite KickerLite Indirect Floor Softbox on his site recently, so I looked into the product. They’re around $200 each, which seems to be a reasonable price to me. They seem to be very flexible and easy to place and manipulate (just set them on the floor and angle them toward your subject as desired), which is one of the things I’m looking for. And the reviews on the quality of light they cast have been very favorable.

I’d also like a couple of light sources affixed to stands, to get the lighting up higher and avail myself of multi-directional capabilities. Essentially, a basic light kit that will cover the full range (or as much of it as possible) of lighting scenarios that I might need. This is where I started to get a little overwhelmed, because there are SO MANY lighting kits on the market today. The CowboyStudio 2275 Watt Digital Video Continuous Softbox Lighting Kit/Boom Set comes with a carrying case, two light stands, two softboxes, and one boom kit, which seems like a great deal to me at around $250.00. The product is well-reviewed on Amazon and seems to have all of the flexibility I would need in a studio setting.

If I added in a good simple backdrop (nothing fancy required, though I would like something like this Photography Backdrop Support System/Crossbar) and a couple of reflectors, plus an external flash such as the Canon Speedlite 580EX II or Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight, I believe I’d have everything I would need for a home photography studio.

I’d love some advice from our readers, though. What sort of external light sources do you use? What products would you recommend for the amateur photographer setting up their first home studio? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and thanks!

Photo Credits (in order of appearance):
- “Studio work” by geishaboy on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Photographic Studio of Lonely Objects without a Subject” by Wonderlane on Flickr Creative Commons.

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