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The best photography lighting for 2019

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Alexander Dummer / Unsplash

Photography is all about light, and one of the best ways to improve your photography is to learn how to bring your own light to a scene, whether on or off-camera, flash or video light. When it comes to photography gear, rarely is any product the definitive “best” for every photographer, and this is particularly true with lighting equipment. But the Profoto B10, with its elegant design and user interface, excellent light quality, and battery-powered portability, is certainly one of the best pieces of photography lighting gear you can buy.

That is, if you can afford it. The B10 may stand above other options, but it’s far from the most affordable way to get great lighting. Here are some of our favorite photo and video lights for different disciplines and budgets.

At a glance

The best photography light overall: Profoto B10

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Why you should buy this: High flash output in a compact form factor for bringing the studio to the field.

Who’s it for: Enthusiasts and professionals

Why we picked the Profoto B10:

The Profoto B10 combines studio lighting power with go-anywhere portability. With 250 watt-seconds of output, it is considerably brighter than the average external flash, yet the rechargeable battery still grants 400 full-powered flashes. Power can be turned down by as many 10 stops, giving a flexible range to balance the flash with a wide variety of ambient light levels. Depending on the power, the flash recharges as quickly as 0.05 seconds, or just 2 seconds at full power. It also connects directly to Profoto lighting modifiers like beauty dishes and soft boxes with an easy-to-use slide-on collar system.

Beyond the flash capability, there is also a dimmable, color-temperature-adjustable LED modeling lamp that can output up to 2,500 lumens, enough for some video applications. This wouldn’t be our first recommendation for a dedicated video light, but hybrid shooters will appreciate the option.

While it’s undoubtedly a very advanced light, it is also incredibly easy to use thanks to a simple user interface and support for TTL metering for automatic exposure control with Nikon, Canon, and Sony cameras (an optional universal trigger will work with other brands, but without TTL or high-speed sync functionality). It’s almost a shame that the B10 costs so much, as it would otherwise make for an excellent choice for beginners in addition to photographers making money with their craft.

Profoto now makes a B10 Plus, as well, which offers twice the flash power but is longer and nearly a pound heavier. We feel the original B10 still hits the sweet spot between output and portability, and that’s why it’s our pick.

The best affordable portable studio light: Flashpoint XPLOR 400 Pro

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Why you should buy this: Most of the capability of the Profoto B10 for less than half the price.

Who’s it for: Beginners, students, and photography enthusiasts

Why we picked the Flashpoint XPLOR 400 Pro:

The Flashpoint XPLOR 400 Pro, like the Profoto B10, is a portable, battery-powered studio light with wireless connectivity and TTL support (which goes beyond the big tree of Canon, Nikon, and Sony to also include Fujifilm and Olympus/Panasonic). It lacks the same level of refinement as the B10, but it offers 400 watt-seconds of output, up to 390 full-power flashes from the rechargeable battery, 1-second recycle time at full power, and a 30-watt modeling lamp — all for significantly less money than the B10. In fact, the EXPLOR 400 Pro costs about as much as a high-end Canon or Nikon speedlight.

Other features include a 9-stop adjustable power range, five wireless control groups, and a native Godox modifier mount for attaching lighting modifiers (Flashpoint is a rebrand of Godox, a popular Chinese lighting manufacturer).

The XPLOR 400 Pro is noticeably bigger than the B10 and over a pound heavier at 4.6 pounds, and it’s interface isn’t exactly as straightforward, but the cost savings make it a very attractive choice for photographers who want to be able to create studio-quality lighting virtually anywhere. If you’re looking to improve your lighting game, this is a product that can take you from beginner through to professional, growing with you as you learn.

Best cheap photography lighting kit: Interfit FLA2002K1 Studio Essentials

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Why you should buy this: Wireless strobe capability with everything included on a budget

Who’s it for: Photographers new to studio lighting

Why we picked the Interfit Studio Essentials:

Dubbed as an ideal cheap photography lighting kit for beginners, the Interfit FLA2002 Studio Essentials kit sits at a happy medium between price, features and build. Unlike the cheap lighting kits on Amazon, the Interfit isn’t a continuous lighting set and even includes a remote to trigger the lights cord-free. While you’ll need an AC outlet cord — finding a battery powered strobe lighting kit for a similar price is pretty much impossible — the wireless capability in a strobe kit is a big plus.

The two flash heads included with the kit offers up to 200 Ws, with power adjustable by five stops. That’s not as versatile as some high-end light kits, but plenty for beginners and the price point. The recycle time is about two seconds when using a full powered burst of light. An essential feature for beginners, a 75w modeling light option allows new photographers to preview how the position of the light affects the image before snapping a photo. And while opting for a studio slave instead of continuous lighting already cuts down the heat, the lights are also fan cooled.

Along with the two strobe lights, the kit also includes two 7.5 foot stands and two softboxes. Compatible with Bowens accessories, adding additional modifiers is easy to do as well. The wireless radio receiver is also included, along with a carrying bag.

While the Interfit kit may be basic, the set offers a lot of features for the price point. There are cheaper options, but they typically use a continuous light source instead of strobes, a less quality build, or don’t include a wireless transmitter in the set, instead relying on a wired connection to the camera.

Best on-camera flash: Profoto A1X

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Why you should buy this: High-end features meet natural-looking light falloff

Who’s it for: Photography enthusiasts, pros, and any photographer serious about optimal light quality

Why we picked the Profoto A1X:

There are many reasons why the Profoto A1X is the best camera flash, but one of the biggest perks to the Profoto A1X is obvious without taking a dive into the technical specifications — the shape. While most flashes use a rectangular flash head, the Profoto A1X uses a round flash head. That shape lends to more natural light fall-off at the edges, considering natural light (i.e. the sun) is also round. That round shape is also more similar to studio strobes.

But besides the unusual shape, the recently updated A1X has a number of perks, including a 450 shot battery life and one second recycle time, both improvements over the earlier version of this flash, without the X in the name. The flash is compatible with all the auto features you’d expect from a high-end flash, including TTL, high-speed sync, and a built-in autofocus assist beam. For using manual settings, the flash has a wide range from 1/1 to 1/256 and a 32mm to 105mm zoom range.

Off camera, the A1X uses a built-in transceiver, allowing the light to trigger other Profoto lights. To trigger the without one mounted on top of your camera, you’ll need to Profoto Air transmitter, but don’t need to add a receiver to your bag. The flashes offers 20 wireless channels in six groups, making it ideal for multi-light set-ups. A modeling light is also built-in, allowing photographers new to off-camera lighting to easily see how the light will look before the shot.

Those features are wrapped up in a flash that weighs roughly a pound and a quarter. And while the flash head design is a bit different, the head still rotates and tilts for bounce. The control scheme is also straight forward, making the sysm simpler to use despite the long list of features. The downside? The price of the Profoto A1X sits at four figures.

Best cheap on-camera flash: Godox VING 860II

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Why you should buy this: Advanced features without the advanced price

Who’s it for: Beginners, students, enthusiasts, and semi-pros

Why we picked the Godox Ving 860II:

A good flash doesn’t have to cost more than the camera body itself, and the Godox Ving 860II is the best cheap camera flash you can buy — and as good or better than many higher-priced first-party options. packs in a lot of power and advanced features considering the much lower price point. Coming from a brand favored for more budget-friendly lighting solutions, the Godox Ving 860II still sits at a 197-foot guide number, making it a good choice for most photographers on a budget, unless you really need that flash paired with a lens longer than 200mm. The flash also comes in versions compatible with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic, so chances are, it’s compatible with your camera system.

The 860II offers a respectable 1.5-second recycle time for the price point at full power. Both TTL and manual mode are included, along with high-speed sync for going beyond your camera’s flash sync speed, and an autofocus assist beam. The flash head both tilts and rotates for bounce possibilities.

But despite the budget category, the 860II will go off-camera easily, thanks to a built-in radio wireless transmission system with a 328-foot range and 32 channels. The flash can be controlled with a second flash or using a Godox transmitter.

The 860II also eliminates one of the major annoyances with name brand flashes — the need for AA batteries. The 860II uses a rechargeable li-ion battery pack. With the battery, the flash weighs around a pound.

Best video lighting on a budget: Viltrox L116T RA

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Why you should buy this: Inexpensive, versatile continuous lighting for video

Who’s it for: Beginner and enthusiast videographers — and photographers too

Why we picked the Viltrox L116T RA:

Videographers can easily spend thousands on a high-end continuous lighting kit, but for versatile, portable lighting, an inexpensive LED panel like the Viltrox L116T RA will do the trick for many videographers, and even photographers looking for some continuous light to shoot faster than what’s possible with flash or to assist the autofocus in low light scenes. With 987 lumens, the inexpensive LED is bright enough for many different applications.

Used on camera or off, the L116T can be used at full power or all the way down to 20 percent. Color temperature settings between 3300-5600K further allow videographers and photographers to match the added light to the light that’s already in the scene. Both settings are accessible from an LCD panel at the back that also makes the light easy to use for newbies.

At just over an inch thick, the Viltrox is also easy to bring on site, while the 7.6-inch by 5-inch front dimensions make for a light that’s large enough for softer light but small enough to easily tuck into a camera bag. The included battery lasts for more than two hours, and accessories to use with a cold shoe mount or tripod are also included.

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How to Make a DIY Photography Softbox

The post How to Make a DIY Photography Softbox [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video by DIY FixMan, you’ll learn a cool, easy way to make a DIY photography softbox!

Materials and tools

What you will need to make your own DIY Photography Softbox:

  • A lamp
  • A cardboard box
  • Knife
  • Hot glue
  • Aluminum foil
  • Spray Paint (optional)
  • an hour of your time

Steps to making your DIY Photography Softbox

  1. Cut out your cardboard to a size that will fit your lamp.
  2. Ensure you cut the angles of the sides so they are the same so that they will piece together.
  3. Get your foil and cut it to the size of your cardboard pieces (use your cardboard as a template to trace around.
  4. Attach your foil to the individual pieces of cardboard. Masking tape works fine for this.
  5. Attach one of the longest sides to a short side using the hot glue gun. Then attach the other sides – holding in place until set.
  6. Once set, take your lightbox frame to a well-ventilated area and use your spray paint to paint it.
  7. Once dry, fix in your long lamp.
  8. Attach to a stand using a bracket.

Editors Note: You could also cut a piece of white material and attach it to the front of the softbox with velcro so you can diffuse the light.

 

You may also find the following helpful:

 

The post How to Make a DIY Photography Softbox [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

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Tips for Achieving Minimalism in Photography

The post Tips for Achieving Minimalism in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

Minimalism seems to be a hot topic of discussion these days in almost every facet of life. It has made its way into a lifestyle that is often associated with a particular way of living, of creating and even a certain way of traveling. Even though the interpretation is subjective, the Webster dictionary defines it as a “style or technique that is characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity.”

Karthika Gupta CulturallyOurs Minimalism in photography Jaipur Fort India

Many of us are drawn to the ‘less is more’ concept, with simple lines, geometric patterns, clear shadows, colors, and isolated subjects. Sometimes these elements occur automatically in our surroundings and at other times requires some manipulation in terms of decluttering and removing elements from the frame.

The key is to train your eye to assess what is required to create a strong story. Here are a few tips and examples to get you started in your quest for minimalist imagery.

Tips for achieving minimalist imagery

1. Composition techniques

One of the key elements of minimalism is the concept of less is more. Keep it simple, light – concise.

However, keeping it simple does not mean keeping it boring.

Contrary to popular belief, a minimalist approach requires a lot of creativity. Well-placed subjects and key elements that help communicate a story are all challenging to get right all the time. These concepts often require much practice until it becomes the way you see.

Start asking yourself these questions even before you bring the camera to your face to take the shot. Take your time in composing and don’t be in a rush to click and move on. Put some thought into it. Sometimes if it is not obvious, look through the viewfinder and see the shot instead of cropping unwanted distractions in post-processing.

Karthika Gupta CulturallyOurs Minimalism in photography Portugal

I did not have room to move back and take a wide-angle shot. So in post, I just added a few layers and made the scene appear further than it actually was, and added negative space.

In situations where it is not possible to remove distracting objects from the frame, use depth of field to isolate your subject from the background by shooting with an aperture as wide (smallest number) as your lens allows. This, in effect, blurs the background, distracting elements and gives a sense of minimalism. You will need a lens that can effectively give that bokeh effect.

2. Colors and textures

Bright colors or even contrasting colors help with the minimalistic approach by adding the right amount of contrast. The key is not to go extreme but to pick one or maybe two colors that work well with each other and use them prominently in the image. Sometimes even adding a little texture in the image can assist in improving the visual appeal like the lines of sand in the image below.

Karthika Gupta CulturallyOurs Minimalism in photography

Initially look at the color wheel and familiarize yourself with contrasting colors. But don’t just focus on that. Trust your eye to catch situations like this one to practice minimalism – even if its on your phone (like this shot).

3. Leading Lines and Patterns

Lines and patterns, if done correctly, can also assist in the minimalistic approach. However, aim to keep it simple. Leading lines and other geometric shapes can make great backdrops for minimalist pictures.

But if there are too many elements in the frame, it can make the image appear chaotic and busy, which is not the minimalistic clean way.

Sometimes all it takes is to find a creative angle to photograph. Experiment with different angles – straight on, high up, or low down until you get a shot that showcases your vision for the image.

Karthika Gupta CulturallyOurs Minimalism in photography Portugal

A typical leading line lead the eye and the camera to this lady drying her rugs (which add a pop of color in an otherwise monotone scene).

4. Negative Space

Learning to use negative space is a huge advantage when embracing the minimalistic movement. Negative space allows the main subject matter to breathe freely. It conveys a sense of lightness in both place and space. Negative space is a great way to isolate your subject so that the viewer can easily interpret the story you are trying to convey.

Remember negative space does not always mean a single subject and nor does it mean always photographing in the rule of thirds. It means allowing less clutter in the frame. Negative space, along with the posing, can add a lot of drama to an otherwise simple portrait.

Karthika Gupta CulturallyOurs Minimalism in photography

Karthika Gupta CulturallyOurs Minimalism in photography Horses in shadow

5. Concise Storytelling

One of the best ways to practice and perfect minimalistic photography is to tell a story. Ask yourself if the elements in the frame help move the story forward or are hindering the story. Sometimes a human element is needed to tell the story, and other times, it is not needed. Symmetry, lines, patterns, and shadows take on the role of telling the story.

Karthika Gupta CulturallyOurs Minimalism in photography Utah

In the above image, the lack of a human subject is overcome by using the yellow median as well as the curve in the road to communicate the feeling of going off the beaten path. There really was not a single car for miles, and we had this magnificent landscape all to ourselves.

Sometimes the story and the environment come together spontaneously, and it’s the photographer’s job to see it and respond quickly. Other times it requires a bit of patience for the right subject to walk through the frame.

The good thing is that a minimalist approach to photography can be applied in nature as well as in an urban environment. You can practice anywhere, so get out there and open yourself to a different way of seeing with your camera – no matter the genre.

6. Post-Processing

Minimalistic photography doesn’t end once you take the shot. You can extend this concept into post-processing as well. The easiest way to approach minimalistic photography in post-processing is to keep the image treatment simple. Avoid highly saturated images, a lot of contrast, and intense color corrections.

With portraits, don’t correct all the skin and tone imperfections. Let the subject’s natural beauty show without too much retouching.

The image below uses grain and emulates a film look. This adds to the minamalism.

Karthika Gupta CulturallyOurs Minimalism in photography Lifestyle Editorial

A simple lifestyle editorial that focused on solitude and idleness was the epitome of minimalism. The post-processing here supported the story with a very light and airy look and feel.

Conclusion

In photography, minimalism is a visual statement where the story of the photograph is simplified, elements reduced, and clean space added. Not only has minimalist photography become its own genre, but photographers specializing in the discipline have come into their own. They have created an attractive space of art and creativity for us all to enjoy. As industry professionals, it behooves us to pay attention to this trend and see how we can apply this in our own body of work.

Feel free to share some of your minimalist images with us in the comments below.

 

The post Tips for Achieving Minimalism in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

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How To Choose A Digital Camera

  Choosing a digital camera can be tough because there are so many models to choose from, but the bottom line is you want a camera that you’re going to use. There are many things to consider when you’re picking out a camera, but the first question to ask yourself is “What do I want […]

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