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Digital Photography Tips, Tutorials and Resources
Digital Photography Tips, Tutorials and Resources
by Dawn Gilfillan on Apr 13, 2021
In this article, we’ll look at the best photography lights under $200. This is part of an ongoing series where we offer advice on what photography lights you can buy within a specific budget. Each of the articles in this series shows a selection of equipment that best fits the price level.
We are photographers and photography enthusiasts with decades of experience. We use various photography software and hardware for all types of photography scenarios.
Beginner photographers or professionals looking for the latest photography lights under $200.
Before purchasing, consider your needs and do further research to ensure the product is an ideal choice for your situation.
Each item in this article comes from our past experience, and each could be useful in various situations.
There is a huge range of photography lights out there. From budget options to professional lighting systems that are beneath or right on the $200 price point.
Some options are great if you’re just starting out in photography. Other options may be temporary solutions while you save up for that top-of-the-range lighting kit you’ve always dreamed of.
45W | 5500K | CFL Bulbs | Umbrellas | Light Sands | Bags | Case
I started my photography career with a continuous lighting kit. It helped me learn a lot about how light falls on the subject, which can be difficult to judge when you’re using studio strobe flash.
Continuous lighting tends not to be as bright as strobe flash. I quickly found out that you need to use a tripod for your camera to get the best out of these lights. The reason being you will need to shoot at a slower shutter speed or use a wider aperture to get a well-lit photo with continuous lighting. That being said, these lights are great for portraiture or food photography.
These lights are daylight-balanced, so you won’t get any unwanted color casts if you set your white balance on the camera to the daylight setting. The lighting modifiers are very versatile, with two white shoot-through umbrellas and two silver reflective ones.
Umbrellas are great for quick setup and takedown. They take up less space than clumsy softboxes, so this is a good kit to use if your space is limited and if you want to travel with your lighting kit.
As mentioned, continuous lighting kits like this don’t pack the power of a studio strobe, and you will need to use a tripod to get the sharpest, well-exposed images. This kit is a good choice for a beginner on a budget and will serve as a good springboard to using other kinds of studio lights.
LED | Ball Head | Diffused | Remote
Ring lights vary wildly in size and quality, and I would suggest you get as large a ring light as you can to give extra flexibility in use. This 18-inch ring light is an ideal size for portrait photography, as well as for video lighting.
The ring light is a favorite of portrait photographers, YouTubers, and beauty photographers. The reason is that the circular shape of the light casts a soft and even glow all over the subject, and it really does seem to minimize flaws and blemishes in the skin. It also gives the subject those beautiful circular catchlights in the eyes.
Another reason to choose a ring light is the portability. It’s easy to pack away and travel with, and you can use both a smartphone and a DSLR with it. The hole in the center of the light often comes with a clamp to hold your phone or camera steady in the middle, which makes a ring light much easier to place and move around than a traditional softbox.
A ring light does have limitations, though. It’s great for video, portrait, and beauty photography, but although some brands claim they’re good for food and product photography, I don’t find that’s the case, in my opinion.
Light Stands, CFL Bulbs, Umbrellas, Softboxes, Muslin Backdrop, Clamps, Background Stand, Bags
Lighting kits are a great way to get everything you need to start your home studio. This one features different colored backdrops, a backdrop stand, clamps, lights, softboxes, and umbrellas.
It’s a continuous lighting kit so you will need a tripod. However, it’s a great way to get everything you need as a beginner. When or if you decide to move onto strobe flashes, you will still find the backdrops and stands useful.
Another great thing about continuous lighting kits is you don’t need to mess around with light triggering systems as you do with strobe flashes. Just set up your lights, turn them on, and start shooting without worrying about transmitters and receivers.
This makes continuous lights great for shooting videos or using a smartphone or DSLR for still photography.
250W | 5600K | Strobe | 75W Modeling Light | Wireless Transmitter and Receiver | Umbrellas | Softbox
Right on the line of our $200 budget comes this 500W studio strobe flash lighting kit. Strobe kits tend to be more expensive than continuous lighting because of the extra technology involved, but if you want a kit that’s versatile and powerful, then studio flash heads are the way to go.
500W is plenty powerful for any kind of photography, from portrait to product and everything in between. The great thing about studio flash heads is that you can control the power output on each specific flash head, so you can fine-tune the lighting in any way you wish. Flash heads will also take a range of lighting modifiers, from barn doors to octaboxes, so you can further shape your light.
This kit is great for those dipping their toes into the waters of studio photography. It comes with its own wireless trigger and receiver, as well as two umbrellas and a softbox.
The only limitation with studio strobe flash is that they can’t be used with a smartphone or for recording video – they are purely for camera photography.
RGB LEDs | Tripod | Strap | AC Adapter
While a light wand may make you think of a Jedi warrior, these LED tube lights are great for creative photography and for shooting videos with different special effects.
They are obviously a very niche type of lighting, so if you’re looking for an all-round lighting solution, then light wands are not for you. However, if you are looking for a light to get your creative juices flowing, a light like this offers a lot of versatility – as well as being a lot of fun to use!
They offer a vast range of colors across the RGB spectrum, so you can use whatever color suits the mood of your shoot. They are handheld, portable, and with this model can be used underwater to a depth of 16 feet.
You can shoot using a smartphone, DSLR, or video camera. Many light wands come with a range of built-in special lighting effects for those who are into filmmaking. This one features CCT Flash, Hue Flash, Storm, Police Car, TV, Fire, Disco, Bad Bulb, Fireworks, and more.
It’s also magnetic, so you can attach it safely to a metal surface while you shoot or use the mini tripod that comes with it.
It’s not a light that will suit everyone but would make a great gift, a good light to use on location, or a useful addition to a studio lighting setup.
Wireless built-in | 5600K | 150W Modeling Light | Barndoors | Gels
This flash head is a powerful studio light with a built-in Godox Wireless X triggering system, and a barndoor kit.
Barndoors are a lighting modifier that gives a harsher, more directional light than a softbox or umbrella. You control how much light comes out by closing the barndoors (metal flaps on hinges) or opening them wide.
This barndoor kit comes with four colored gels – red, yellow, blue, and green to give you different colored lighting options. A strobe and barndoor kit like this is a great addition to your ordinary strobe setup. You can use the colored gels to light your background in different colors while you use other strobes to light your subject, or you can light your subject in your color of choice.
The strobe can also be used as an ordinary studio flash head. Godox compatibility with Bowens-mount lighting modifiers means that you can use a wide variety of modifiers on this strobe.
300W | LED Modeling Light | Wireless Transmitter | Battery
Okay, so this strobe is nine dollars over the budget limit, but I had to include it because it’s not just a versatile studio strobe but also a great outdoor flash head.
Cordless outdoor strobes like this one are powered by a battery. They can go literally anywhere with you to give you the power and controllability of a studio flash head – even if you’re halfway up a mountain. This one gives you around 700 full-power flashes on one battery charge and has a decent flash recycle time.
Cordless strobes are also great for shooting indoors. There’s no need for finding power outlets or having cables lying around for people to trip over. They are the ultimate go-anywhere flash head, and they take all the usual lighting modifiers too.
200W | Transmitter & Receivers
If you really want studio strobes instead of continuous lighting but are working with a very tight budget, these 200W monolight flash strobes may just fit the bill.
At 200W, they aren’t massively powerful but will still give you that studio strobe versatility for all kinds of photography. Unfortunately, they don’t come with any lighting modifiers. Still, you can actually create your own by using a diffuser cloth or diffuser reflector on a stand in front of the light. This will give you a softbox effect and blunt any harsh shadows.
A kit like this will work for a beginner to the world of studio flash and for those who are on a very tight budget.
LED Lights | Dimmable | Stores Easily
I had to include a light tent in this list because serious photographers often overlook them, but they are useful in their own way.
I have used a light tent in the past to successfully photograph various products, from silverware to handbags. They are a great budget alternative to studio strobes and large backgrounds for product photographers and are fabulous if your shooting space is limited.
Because they are lit with built-in LED light strips, light tents like this one can be used with a smartphone or tablet for photography as well as a DSLR. The different colored backdrops let you show off your products, and the white background is great for those shooting for e-commerce websites like Amazon, where the rules for photography insist on a white background.
This light tent is a generous 90x90x90cm, which gives you plenty of room to work, and it’s foldable, which means it’s easy to pack up and transport. If you’re starting with product photography, a good-quality light tent like this one will give you a solid foundation to build your skills with.
We really hope you got some useful ideas on how to find the right kind of photography lighting for under $200 or saw some handy gift ideas for the photographers or videographers in your life.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to find the lighting solution to suit you!
Do you have your own suggestions to share? Leave a comment to share it with the Envira Gallery community.
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