How to Create a Complete Light Kit with 3 Color-Accurate Fixtures on a $150 Budget
Getting started with quality lighting doesn't have to be overwhelmingly expensive.
In fact, you can build yourself a great little starter kit (with fixtures, color-accurate bulbs, stands, and accessories) for $150 or less. In a recent video tutorial over on Tuts+, David Bode shows you exactly how it's done:
As is the case with most of the "build your first light kit" tutorials out there, Bode is recommending that you opt for the inexpensive clamp lights that you can find at your local hardware store. The main thing to note here, though, is that it's wise to invest a bit more money on certain parts of your light kit even though there might be cheaper options available.
For starters, the quality of the bulbs is paramount. If you want these lights to render the skin tones and the various other colors in your scene properly, you're going to want to invest in some higher CRI bulbs. The gold standard here are the Kino Flo CFL bulbs, which have a CRI of 95 and are designed specifically for use in motion picture and photography lighting. At $25 apiece, however, the cost adds up quickly when you purchase several of them. If you're looking for a less expensive alternative, Bode recommends these BlueMax bulbs, which have a CRI of 93 and come in at $10 a pop.
Secondly, a solid set of light stands will last for years, and will grow with you as your lighting equipment expands. A cheap set of light stands, however, will serve you in a pinch, but will undoubtedly let you down in the long run. That's why Bode recommends looking for heavy duty stands. A decent 8' stand (any shorter than that, and it probably won't be as versatile as you want it to be) will generally start around $30. Again, this adds up quickly when you buy several of them, so if need be you can opt for cheaper light stands when building your first light kit. Just know that investing in good stands will serve your best interest in the long run.
And last, but certainly not least, are the accessories that you'll need to bring this kit together. The most important thing to add is a good set of spring clamps in order to secure the lights to your stands. For around $10, you can find various packs of clamps that will serve all sorts of purposes when it comes to lighting and general filmmaking. Beyond that, you can never go wrong with a roll of gaff tape, a basic set of gels and diffusion, and a winning attitude. Luckily, that last one won't cost you a dime.