Top 10 Camera Lights for Your At-Home Studio Setup
Lights you need for an at-home studio setup, spcanning both budget and high-end picks.
Our work is meaningful as photographers and videographers, but we must also exemplify our skill sets in real-life scenarios.
Having a nice lighting setup at home, like in the event of meeting a client for the first time virtually, is a fantastic way to show off your lighting abilities without being too obvious. Taking small opportunities to be somewhat subliminal about our skills is a great way to put a client at ease.
But with so many lighting options, what should you use? I have some recommendations below, but to make good decisions around lighting for your at-home setup, I encourage you to take a moment to think deeply about two things.
What you're using your lights for.
Being honest about your budget.
What qualifies me to talk about this? I'm a professional photographer, but I also taught an online class on navigating a photo studio. Check it out.
When answering those questions, especially regarding budget, remember you'll need two lights. The first, your key light, will be your primary light source, while your secondary fill light helps fill in shadows so you have even light across your face.
The right equipment will allow you to alter the strength of the key or fill lights to make things more dramatic or moody when necessary. If you're looking for bonus points from me — including a third light for details like hair can help showcase yourself in the best rays.
Without further adieu, here are my picks for everything from Zoom calls to filming for YouTube and everything in between.
Your Journey Into Studio Photography with Aundre Larrow
In this lesson, Aundre Larrow breaks down shooting studio portraits and lifestyle images, so you can go into your next shoot with confidence.Buy for $99.00
For The Desk:
This Lume Cube Edge Desk & Video Conferencing Task Light is ideal for people who, like me, really prefer to work at a desk or flat work surface. It's flexible and attaches directly to your veneer but is sleek enough to fold up and stay out of the way. The light is soft and has an adjustable white balance varying from 3200-5600K — an excellent range for matching this light with additional overheads.
Ideally, you'll want two of these: the one with more power placed on the side of your face you like better, your key, and then the second, your fill, will be much less powerful — about half the brightness of the first.
You can get away with one in a pinch, place it behind your camera, keep it around 50-60%, and watch your spectral highlights. But if you can find the funds for two, that's ideal.
Edge Desk & Video Conferencing Task Light
Look your best on those video calls! The Lume Cube Edge, a light specifically designed give you soft light on your face and even has convenient charging portsBuy for $129.99
For Remote Workers:
Let's face it. A huge part of being a photographer is keeping mobile. If you need gear that can adjust to your lifestyle, this Lume Cube Video Conference Lighting Bundle is the way to go.
With the ability to clip this to the back of your laptop, you can ensure you've got good lighting wherever you're working. Keep in mind this will have less stability than something you can attach to a desk or work surface.
In this particular use case, you'll want to turn the brightness at a reasonable rate carefully. If you aren't mindful, single powerful light sources can blow your skin and wash out your tone. If needed, you can augment the light with a poster board to bounce or a sheet to diffuse — some light is always better than no light!
Video Conference Lighting Bundle
Others need to see you! Brighten up your next video call and look your best even from home or on the go with the Lume Cube Video Conference Lighting BundleBuy for $79.95
Great Lights for Creating Personal Art and Recording
Here's a range of light recommendations organized by budget for YouTubers and short-form creators.
While I did mention everyone would need two light sources, for this working scenario, you will need three because solid talking heads require as much light as possible for an optimal appearance.
Since your work likely includes a mix of gear reviews, vlogging, and interior shots with more complex lighting scenarios, the following picks are long-lasting and portable for easy coverage.
The Expensive Option
If you've got some wiggle room in your budget, I recommend picking up one of Lume's 18" Pro Ring Lights and two of Aputure's Amaran F21X fabric lights.
In this case, the ring light is for you and will give you smooth, even light across your face. One of my favorite things about this product is that it comes with a sturdy stand; add a sandbag, and you're ready to go.
The bi-color LED mat is incredible, and two are even better than one! They'll provide even, bright light for you to use with sunlight or in a dark room. These will do the trick to brighten an entirely dark room. Mix these with your ring light, and you can film cooking classes, interviews, and whatever is required. They're also super easy to pack, lightweight, and don't draw much power.
The Mid-Level Option
If the Amaran F21X fabric lights are too expensive, choose this option for your secondary lights. Stick with the single Lume 18" Pro Ring Light and grab two of Aputure's Amaran 200d LEDs.
The Amaran's fill lights are cost-effective daylight LEDs, meaning they look like daylight and are great for mixing with open windows. Bes part? They don't become overly hot, which is excellent, as you want to avoid ending up in a sweaty mess due to a heated room.
I've used all these countless times, and with a softbox, you can light pretty much any scene with this three-light setup.
If you need more budget-friendly alternatives, the LumeCube Cordless Mini Ring Light and the Apurture Al MX are great options to get the job done right.
18" Ring Light Pro
Eyeing a powerful ring light? Lume Cube's 18" Ring Light Pro with its 96+ CRI rating, internal battery, will shine beautiful even light on your subject anywhereBuy for $269.99
Amaran F21x Bi-Color 2x1 LED Flex Mat
Eyeing a great Studio light? The F21x will give you accurate bi-color white light with included diffusers, light shapers, and excellent transportabilityBuy for $399.00
200d Studio LED Light
Needing a great studio light that won't break the bank? The Amaran 200d is a daylight LED fixture that delivers pro-quality lighting with Bluetooth app controlBuy for $263.00
Cordless Ring Light Mini
Need uniform lighting? Ring Light Mini is a premium quality 12'' Ring Light designed to help you capture better content and includes all accessories you needBuy for $119.99
AL-MX On Camera LED Light - Open Box
Brighten your scene! The Aputure AL-MX is the brightest Pocket-Sized LED light with adjustable color temperature ranging from 2800-6500KBuy for $149.00
The Best Flashes for Creators
The Expensive Option
There's a reason so many professional photographers suggest Profoto's A1X. Everything you've heard about this on-camera flash is probably true.
Obtain two of these and place them on a stand. With that setup, you can handle a wide range of studio work — from more miniature product photography to lifestyle photoshoots with a model or two in a medium-sized scene.
Profoto got its name by creating products that are equal parts, reliable and intuitive. Although this isn't as powerful as their strobes, this flash will deliver everything you need for small to medium photoshoots while giving you great contrast in your final product. It's endlessly versatile and worth the purchase.
The Mid-Price Option
Here's a little secret: the trick to getting a great flash isn't to think about how powerful it is. Every flash is powerful. Instead, look for something flexible that determines how well you can use the light in your environment. The more flexibility, the more you can use walls or ceilings as giant soft boxes.
One super flexible option is this Sony HVL-F46RM Wireless flash. It's versatile while remaining robust, so it comes in as a sound pick for you if the Profoto is out of your price range or you won't use flash or strobes that often.
The Budget-Friendly Option:
This Profoto C1 mobile light is a favorite of mine. Do not be fooled by the "mobile" here.
I can't tell you the number of times I've needed one last punch of light on a product but didn't want to use a bunch of extra props. Enter the mighty C1.
If you haven't used the C1 before but are interested in flash, shooting a lot on mobile, or already have a light kit, and want a finishing piece, this is the light for you.
It's inexpensive and still packs a lot of power. The Profoto app is also great, and it charges via USB-C. It's small enough to carry in your bag and take excellent photos on the fly. Need I say more?
Alpha HVL-F28RM External Flash
Looking to get an external flash for your Sony mirrorless camera? Designed for your camera, the HVL-F28RM is a compact flash that will light up dark situationsBuy for $248.00
C1 Plus Mobile Light
An external flash for your iPhone! The Profoto C1 Plus Mobile Light syncs via Bluetooth to your phone’s shutter and functions as a studio quality flashBuy for $299.00
All of these recommendations help you feel informed to make the best decisions for your current budget and preferred way of working. If you take time to research and care for your lights once you purchase them, they last a long time.
Always remember — the best lights are the ones you'll use. Go with your gut, have fun, and remember that your kit should fit your needs, not the other way around.