October 20, 2014 at 3:22PM


Does it make sense to own a light kit? What would you recommend?

After a couple of years of camera obsession I finally started to value the importance of lights :-) I am thinking about getting a 3-light kit (spot, key, fill) to improve my work. What are your general recommendations about lighting? Does it make sense to buy lights as a small, one-man-band freelancer? What brands or types would you buy for a small, easy to use kit?


Yes, absolute. Yo must to have the three basic kid and if you need more, rent o fabric your self. But the basic, yes.

October 20, 2014 at 11:37PM

Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director

I fit into a similar category of one man band freelancer.

I'm starting to make the switch to LED lights. 1. I don't have to gel them because they're approximately daylight balanced , 2. They don't get hot like tungsten, 3. They can run on battery power if I need to shoot something outside.

I'm using B&H's brand of LEDs called Genaray. I throw one in a large roller case with my camera and lavs and I can do a talking head interview pretty easily. Carrying 3 might be hard though.

October 21, 2014 at 12:28AM

Daniel Finley

On the low end of the price scale I would take a look at the Aputure "iPad" sized LED lights that are the only low cost CRI 95 lights currently on the market. They are quite bright but can be dimmed down, and come with both batteries and AC power supply.


October 22, 2014 at 2:35PM, Edited October 22, 2:35PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

I'd say a basic lighting kit is a must. I picked up some stuff from youngnuo awhile back. 2 600 bead panels and 1 300. They are around $115 on amazon (bi-color or Daylight), super bright with no flicker below 1/500 (never tried higher).

Probably the best budget lights imo.

October 22, 2014 at 2:39PM

Josh Wilkinson
Music Video Director/DP

if you are shooting enough yes you should own a set for those low budget/ no budget shoots. But when possible absolutely rent the best you possibly can.
it's almost impossible to own the perfect light set but it's a great idea to own a set.
i have arri 3 piece tungsten fresnel set that's been good for 3+ years and im sure will serve me well for the next 5. also 2x 4 bank kinos, 1x mini kinos. those are good enough for no/low budget jobs. but it is very very important to use the absolute best light as possible.

October 23, 2014 at 1:00PM

Kazu Okuda

It may be worth it, I'd personally get a 3-4 kit of fresnels. Depends on your situation though and the work you're doing. As a one man band, it can help, but you need to weigh up whether the work you're doing is enough and pays enough to justify the purchase, especially over renting.

November 13, 2014 at 9:03PM

Director of Photography

It definitely makes sense to own a basic lighting kit. Kazu's advice above to rent the best you can afford makes sense, but not everybody lives within reach of a rental house. And owning your own kit means you can practice with it -- even just lighting and relighting your own living room -- and it's knowing how to use the equipment rather than the equipment itself that will improve the quality of your movie. Good gear will last for years, whereas camera go obsolete every 15 minutes.

One interesting point: owning lighting gear (or audio gear) can be a way to pry gigs out of producers. "Hire me, and I'll bring my lighting kit," can be a powerful incentive for the movie-maker with more talent and enthusiasm than resources.

For shooting low / micro / no-budget indies, I would suggest at least a trio of Arri 650-watt fresnels, and maybe even 1000-watt instruments -- but not 2,000-watt, because you can't power those off a standard 15-amp household circuit. CoolLights makes good and very similar instruments, and I've know people who've been pleased with those "As Arri" knockoffs from China that you can find on eBay. These are real workhorse instruments that you'll use all the time, even in these days of fluorescents and LEDs.

The next most useful instrument is the four-foot, four-bank Kino-style unit, and I suggest two of these. Even the knockoffs tend to be pretty darned expensive, though. If you know what you're doing, electrically and mechanically, you can make your own for between one-third and two-thirds the cost.

After that, a few small LED panels are great. As Daniel said above, the fact that they'll run on batteries means you can use them on a location where you don't have AC power. I've got the Aputure instruments Dan recommends, and a couple of Yongnuo ones Josh recommends -- all great, inexpensive units. I'm sure brand-name LitePanels are great, but I've only seen them used -- never worked with them myself.

One caveat: the fan on the YN-600 comes on above 96 percent (or lower as the room gets hotter), and is loud enough to be audible on the soundtrack. The YN-300 doesn't have a fan, but the moulded plastic mount will require hot-shoe / lightstand adapter (like this: http://miniimg.rightinthebox.com/images/384x384/201206/onfyyw13396678790... -- a couple of bucks on eBay).

And one modification: the Aputure unit has a 1/4" threaded hole on the bottom and both sides. Rather than mount it by screwing the adapter into the bottom hole, I bent a U-shaped yoke from a length of strip aluminum (many hardware stores will do this for you), and attached a lightstand adapter (this one: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/546490-REG/Manfrotto_014_38_014_38...) to the middle of the bottom. On either side, a short length of 1/4" screwed rod goes into the instrument's mounting hole and is held there with a lock nut, then a washer, then through the yoke, then another washer, then a wing nut on the outside. (Perhaps this is easier to view than to describe.) The result is a lighting instrument that attaches to a standard lightstand, that can tilt down and up, and that is held at two points in the middle of the weight rather than one point at the bottom (and so is less likely to break the plastic case with repeated use).

Also essential for a lighting kit (and what spells the difference between the amateur and the professional kit) is the supporting gear: lightstands or (more versatile, but more expensive and heavier) C-stands; reflectors and flags to control the light; arms and grip heads to hold reflectors and flags; and of course sandbags to stop gear toppling over onto cast and crew (safety always!).

(I do blither on ...)

November 16, 2014 at 12:59PM

Minor Mogul

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