Studio Lighting on a Budget

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

sarah.BW A long time ago an old photographer told me, “light is light.” What he was trying to say was that it doesn’t matter what kind of lighting gear you use—speedlights, power pack and head systems, or monolights—the most important this is the light is produces. Expensive computer controlled lighting systems may be more convenient to use and those that I’ve tested for Shutterbug have been amazing to use in the amount of control provided but shooters getting started may not be able to afford them.

One alternative is to buy used lighting equipment and I had a friend upgrade his studio by getting rid of his inexpensive monolights replacing them with a comprehensive power pack and head system and it works for him. Those last three words are important. What works for him may not work for you depending on your particular situation.

Portrait at left shot with Panasonic Lumix GH4 with Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (at 28mm) with an exposure of 1/200 sec at f/9 and ISO 200.

Do you have a home studio, even one like the 11×15 foot one in my basement? Do you have to convert your living room, as Mary and I did when we got started 30 years ago. (Then have to convert the room back into a living room.) Do you have to shoot in location? Most importantly what is your budget? Once again keeping in mind that “light is light.” B800

The studio lights I currently use are inexpensive Flashpoint and Paul C. Buff monolights. Especially the Alien Bee 800B’s. The Alien Bee 800B ($279.95) is adjustable from full power (320 Watt-seconds) down to 1/32nd using a slider that’s capable of adjusting in full stops and everywhere in between. When adjusted from a higher to a lower setting, the unit will automatically dump the excess power for accurate output. Both of these monolights are older models and I like them because they are inexpensive, simple to use, and work for me, all the time keeping in mind that “light is light.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 9.13.43 AM If you’re interested in shooting portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from with new copies selling for $17.50 plus shipping, just a few bucks more than used ($15.34)