Updated: Jan 10, 2021
When I started my business 3 years ago I purchased lights on amazon. It was an “all in one studio kit” and I thought I was hot s*** lol. Like look at me yal – I got lights and a camera and I’m ready to take photos of your babies! Those photos weren’t that great. At that time, I didn’t understand the value of lighting and how lighting can either make or break your images. I’ve done natural lighting, those amazon light kits (cringe) and I’ve used BETTER STROBE LIGHTING.
THAT BEING SAID – I HOPE THIS POST HELPS THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH LIGHTING TO TAKE THE LEAP INTO PURCHASING PROFESSIONAL STUDIO LIGHTING –not amazon kits. NO OFFENSE.
My last cake smash using the amazon lights in 2018
Mermaid Cake smash session in 2019 = 86 PLM Westcott + Diffuser and Alien Bee 400
What I use today :
Paul Buff strobe lighting Alien Bee 400 and Alien Bee 800 – yes I have both, I also have an Einstein. . I bought the 400 and then later on added the 800 thinking I might need a stronger light source but to be honest, the 400 is totally sufficient. Some people complain of color caste issues/ inconsistent coloring but I’ve never had any issues with my lighting. In 2020 I was given the Paul Buff Einstein Strobe and It’s fantastic but it's heavier. I love my Einstein. But I also travel a lot now and when I do , I use my Alien Bee because its not as heavy. ( I’m traveling now due to the Pandemic)
DO I SEE A HUGE DIFFERENCE? “ Eh?” I mean I could go either way. Yes my Einstein in regards to color looks more balanced but honestly look at your business budget and see what your business can afford. LISTEN TO ME - people will tell you, just get the Einstein, it will be better for you and worth the investment. If you are struggling with your sessions and can’t afford the $500 price tag on an Einstein, get the ALIEN BEE! Don't’ wait to save up- just do it. Get better lighting right away, that's how important lighting is.
Alien Bee: Einstein:
Cost : $224.95 Cost: 499.99
My alien bee 400 with 86 umbrella at an in home family newborn session.
Strobe vs Continuous lighting – I was taught- strobe creates sharper images. That’s what I use. I’ve never used continuous so I can’t really tell you otherwise. I LOVE MY STROBES. * I only shoot strobes. When I’m doing outdoor sessions I don’t use any lights. I can tell you from my own experience, my strobes create beautifully straight out of the camera images that are sharp. I am spending less time behind the computer editing which is a big deal for me.
Doesn’t flash hurt the baby’s eyes? NO. There is no scientific fact to back this up- if you find it let me know. The industry’s leading newborn photographers ALL use strobes. Don’t believe me, check out their work, here are my favorites :
What to buy to complete your set up:
Paul Buff now has a “NEWBORN KIT - $814.90 . Everything is great except I would replace the cybersyncs. This set has everything you need so if you're ready to purchase and don’t want to hassle with research and getting everything separately just get this. If you want to save money and need to buy a little here or there, I’ll post individual links to help you get started.
Alien Bee 400 strobe ( $224.95) I also have Alien Bee 800 strobe which is stronger ( $279.95) you really don’t need the 800, the 400 is perfect trust me. I now also have the Paul Buff Einstein. ($499.99) - Buy what is in your budget. If you don’t have a budget you need one.
86 PLM umbrella ($99) + black outer covering ( you can use a smaller one if you prefer, I LIKE MY 86. But I also have the space for it in my home studio. The 65 is great also if you're working in a tight space and when I travel I have a 43 inch shoot through umbrella.
- The umbrella comes with gold, silver and white lining. I use a white lining which creates softer shadows. The Silver creates darker moodier shadows and the gold creates a “warm” shadow which is BEAUTIFUL on darker toned skin tones. What you get is all personal preference and your style of shooting. You really can’t go wrong so if you can’t decide- close your eyes and flip a coin. Ideally you want a black covering on your umbrella as this helps keep the light from shooting out but an all-white shoot through umbrella works fine. The shoot through umbrellas will “light” the whole room, where as the black covering will help you direct the light only in one direction.
Diffuser to cover your umbrella ($30- 50) – really important. You need this to spread and soften the light. You don’t HAVE to use a diffuser- just get an all white shoot through umbrella. My 43 inch travel umbrella is a shoot through that came with my original amazon lighting kit.
Trigger and Receiver ($ 34.99): I love my ALTURA set. My receiver has never had to change batteries and it takes 2 AAA batteries. My trigger uses batteries like crazy and I have a stock of A23 batteries on hand at all times. The trigger goes on your camera and the receiver plugs into your light- this is how you can “trigger” your lights to go off.
*** I DO NOT RECOMMEND THE PAUL BUFF CYBERSYNCS.
Those have known to fail , everything else Paul Buff is fantastic. ***
Point the outside of the umbrella
towards your subject.
Black Umbrella with Diffuser
Light Stand: ( price varies - go with your budget) get a good stand- you’re going to use it all the time. You’ll also want to get a few weights to secure your lights. They sell light stand weighted bags but I just use regular 10Ibs exercise weights. Wheels or no wheels? Again totally up to you. Personal preference. In my home studio I use my lights on wheels, when I travel I don’t use wheels.
Links to everything:
Amazon - budget shop for supplies
Umbrellas - You just need one of these PLM’s.
Westcott 86 PLM Umbrella : https://amzn.to/3s5URZD
86 inch white diffuser for Umbrella : https://amzn.to/2XFefyJ
Fotodiox 65 PLM Shoot Through Umbrella https://amzn.to/3qcOGkN
43 inch Westcott Shoot Through Umbrella https://amzn.to/2Lif51D
Light stand with wheels : https://amzn.to/2LAgUGX
This is on my to buy for 2021 https://amzn.to/3nwQ4N2
Reverse light stand https://amzn.to/3i1TbMc
Budget friendly https://amzn.to/3q7sOah
Weights for stand https://amzn.to/3bqVpmM
Trigger and Receiver
Batteries a23 https://amzn.to/3breNQQ
Batteries AAA https://amzn.to/2Xu4vXG