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Best Overall: Fovitec StudioPRO at Amazon
"Celebrated for its solid build quality, versatility, and powerful lighting."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: LimoStudio 700-Watt at Amazon
"Great for beginners looking to take nearly flawless portrait photography."
Best Budget: LimoStudio 600-Watt at Amazon
"For the price, this studio kit gets the job done with room to spare."
Best for Beginners: StudioFX 2400-Watt at Amazon
"The lights are designed to work great with DLSR cameras no matter the level of expertise of the photographer."
Best Splurge: Fovitech StudioPRO 3000W at Amazon
"The extra few hundred bucks will get you a more robust lighting system to kickstart your studio setup."
Runner-Up, Best Budget: Julius Studio Umbrella Kit at Amazon
"The perfect starter pack for your home studio or a nice secondary rig."
Best for Video: Cowboystudio at Amazon
"Includes three daylight bulbs, dual seven-foot stands, and a lone mini light stand."
Celebrated for its solid build quality, versatility and powerful lighting, the Fovitec StudioPRO softbox lighting kit is an outstanding option. Included are two stands, three softboxes, two five-socket heads, one one-socket head, one boom stand with standbag, 11 45-watt light bulbs and one transportation bag. Essentially, the StudioPRO is full of everything you need to create the perfectly lit studio. The entire package weighs 26.1 pounds, which makes for easy transportation from studio to studio. Ideally, the Fovitec is best used for portraits, art and product photography since the medium-sized softbox and two lights are arguably the bare minimum for a professional-grade setup. The five-socket head is a powerful source of artificial light and with another softbox added to it (plus the 5-inch boom arm), the result is a great lighting setup for portrait photography.
If it’s a three-point kit you need, LimoStudio’s 600-watt simple kit is just what you’re looking for and it’s available at a very budget-friendly price. This continuous lighting kit offers dual 86-inch tall shoot-through translucent umbrellas, a set of three fluorescent lights, plus a light holder (28-inches tall) that acts as an accent light (which comes in handy for any macro shots). Easily tucked away in the included storage bag, the 10.1-pound LimoStudio 600W adds 45-watt bulbs that can be replaced with more powerful options for even better lighting no matter what kind of shooting scenario you encounter. Unlike it’s more expensive sibling, the 600W limits the amount of hardware that can be used to focus the light, but, for the price, this studio kit gets the job done with room to spare.
Geared specifically toward beginners, the three-piece StudioFX 2400 lighting kit includes three main softbox units, three light stands and three light heads. The softboxes can fit a total of five bulbs, each with their own separate on/off controls, making them perfect for portraits, product shots and even video shooting. The lights are designed to work great with DLSR cameras (compatible with Nikon, Sony, Canon Olympus and more) no matter the level of expertise of the photographer. If there’s any downside (and you may not call it a downside), it’s that the StudioFX weighs 29 pounds, making it slightly less portable than some of the competition. If you can overlook the weight, this 10-bulb set with its overhead boom adds all the professional performance you need while still being beginner friendly.
The StudioPRO lighting set is the step up from the 2500W set and it has a bit of a price jump. But the extra few hundred bucks will get you a more robust lighting system to kickstart your studio setup. The kit comes with three different muslin backgrounds -- black, white and green -- to make sure you’ll have a professional backdrop at the ready for even the simplest shoots.
The light stand is 7’ 6” with a 5/8th-inch stem mount, so it will fit most standard lighting rigs and systems. Each included stand is built from di-cast aluminum, so they’ll be super sturdy while only weighing about 2.5 pounds each. Each softbox is 20 inches by 28 inches and even includes a removable inner light diffuser for ultimate control over the softness of the light you’re putting out. Each of the lights puts out 3000W, so it gives you a good base level of brightness to go with the diffusing softboxes, and the manufacturer has designed the whole 50-pound system for use with studio interviews, portrait shooting and more.
The Julius Studio umbrella-based kit is the perfect starter pack for your home studio or a nice secondary rig. The two 33-inch diameter umbrellas make up your standard reflector diffusion system that will let you redirect light perfectly for studio purposes. There are three different lighting systems that accommodate the three included CFL, 45-watt lightbulbs, so you won’t have to purchase additional bulbs to get your studio off the ground.
There are two included 86-inch floor-oriented stands and one 28-inch tabletop light stand that will allow you more versatility for setting up an array of lighting, particularly for formations that diffuse through the umbrella system. The bulbs are fluorescent and offer an energy savings up to 80 percent, according to the manufacturer. The whole bundle weighs just over 10 pounds and it comes in a sturdy carrying case, so you can leave it as a studio setup or make it a more on-the-go system.
Created for professionals who focus heavily on video production, the Cowboystudio four-piece lighting kit includes three daylight bulbs, dual seven-foot stands and a lone mini light stand. Added to the mix are three light sockets that include two white umbrellas to help create the perfect lighting environment for shooting. The stands are constructed of aluminum alloy for a strong and sturdy build that will last for years to come. Weighing 12.95 pounds, the Cowboystudio remains portable with a padded carrying case to help transport the entire studio set with you on your travels. Whether you’re shooting for YouTube or Facebook, the 45-watt 5500k daylight bulbs help create a soft glow that highlights you or your subjects.
We had a professional photographer spend 13 hours testing four of the most popular studio light kits on the market. To really get the full picture, she set them up at home and used them to experiment with different shooting techniques. We asked him to consider the most important features when using these kits, from portability to light control. We've outlined the major points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Experience level - How advanced of a photographer are you? And more importantly, how far do you want to take this hobby? If you’re a pretty experienced photographer who wants to earn some extra cash on the side, you’ll want to purchase a higher-end kit than a beginner.
Portability - Are you planning on shooting mostly at home, or will you be visiting the homes of friends, family, and perhaps even clients with your lighting rig? It’s important to take the weight of the kit into account. Some can weigh over 50 pounds, while others are designed as 10-pound portable systems. If you’d like a kit that’s easy to transport and stow, consider both weight and portability.
Light control - If you’re an experienced photographer, you know how important it is to have precise control of your lighting. But if you’re new to all of it, constant, always-on lighting (that you can easily test) is likely a better fit. Different setups allow for different levels of control — some let you control the lights individually and others are always on or have a strobe setup. If you’re not sure what you need, then going with a kit that has a more basic setup is probably best.
Good for studio portraits
Not that sturdy
Our tester thought that the setup process felt complex — even though she herself is a photographer. “The instructions weren't that clear for someone who has never set up a softbox before,” she explained. “I had to find YouTube videos to make sure that I was attaching things properly.” She also thought the kit wasn’t very sturdy. However, overall, our tester noted that it had a great value — especially for the price. “I’d recommend this product if you’re looking for a very cheap lighting setup for a basic purpose,” she said, “such as live video streaming, product photography for an online store, or a very standard headshot.”
Not very pricey
Easy to set up
Good for tight spaces
Not very solid construction
Tough to fit equipment in carrying bag
Quality control issues
Our tester liked that this lighting kit was “very easy” to set up and break down. He also noted that it had a small footprint: “This means it’s well suited for tight spaces like a studio apartment,” he said. Its construction, on the other hand, wasn’t a highlight: “The hardware in this kit, such as the stands, is very cheap quality and feels flimsy,” he noted. “The fabric parts, like the bags and softboxes, have poor-quality stitching and the user will need to trim loose threads.” Overall, he felt that this product was worth buying for beginners but not for semi-professionals: “We think it’s a good way to test out lighting kits, but anyone who’s looking to do more professional photography will want at least a mid-quality level kit.”
Equipment fits easily in bags
Not very bright
Stands not sturdy
Low-quality stitching on bags and umbrellas
“This product is very inexpensive, making it a good way to try out lighting kits and see what they have to offer before making a bigger investment,” said our tester. He also liked that it was easy to set up and noted that everything fit well into the included carrying bags. The kit’s performance, however, was lacking: “This kit is not very bright and has limited uses,” he said. “The stands are very cheap and do not feel very well-built at all,” he said. “All of the fabric parts, like the bags and umbrellas, have poor stitching and loose threads will need to be cut off.”
Pretty sturdy hardware
Good-quality softbox material and stitching
Boom stand is tough to adjust
Boom stand softbox only has one bulb
Fits into two bags instead of one
This kit was a hit with our tester because of its solid construction: “This lighting kit has the most sturdy hardware compared to the other kits we tested,” he said, “and the boom stand had much wider legs, making it more stable.” He also liked that it was versatile: “There are power switches for each of the five individual bulbs in the two primary softboxes,” he explained. On the other hand, he thought that the boom stand was difficult to adjust: “Loosening the arm also loosened it from the stand, causing it to fall down if not held up with one hand while adjusting the angle.” He also wished it packed into one carrying bag instead of two different-sized bags.