Top 5 Lighting Gifts for the Photographer

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The holiday season is a time for lights, but it can also be a time to delve into lighting as a tool, especially if you’re a photographer. Photography is all about light, and knowing how to use it, shape it, and control it gives you that much more command over your photo practice. Especially during wintertime, when the days are shorter, it’s the perfect time to hone your lighting skills or help out a budding photographer you know with these lighting gifts.

1. The Intro 2-Light Kit

The introductory lighting kit is a lot like buying a camera and a lens together; it’s great because it includes everything you need to get going immediately and gives you a strong foundation to learn from and later build on. I’d also recommend choosing monolights for the first strobe-lighting kit, because they give you an ideal mixture of power, control, and convenience compared to starting right away with pack strobes or speedlights.

At the top end of the spectrum is something like Profoto’s B10 OCF Flash Duo Kit, which includes everything you need for a two-light setup, except for the stands. The B10 is a great choice that’s not intimidating to beginners; it has built-in radio connectivity to help simplify the process of triggering the lights, runs on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, and the lights are impressively compact. Also, they have the unique advantage of being able to sync with Apple iPhones through Profoto’s app, so you can even up the lighting possibilities for your mobile shooting.

At the other end of the spectrum—something a bit more affordable—is the super simple and dependable EX-100A 2-Monolight Kit from Impact, which bundles a pair of 100Ws monolights with softboxes, reflectors, sync cords, and light stands. Sure, it’s lacking the bells and whistles of the Profoto kit, but this straightforward option provides you with everything needed to get up and running and let you dive into the world of lighting.

2. The Radio Transceiver

If you already have a foot in the world of lighting, then you’ll likely be looking for ways to improve your process even more. One of the most useful accessories is a wireless trigger or remote, which lets you cut the cables for more freedom in positioning your lights. Radio and IR systems also open up greater possibilities for multi-light setups and creating more complex configurations.

PocketWizard has been a go-to standard of triggers due to their versatility, ease of use, and seeming omnipresence in professional studios. The PlusX 2 Pack is an ideal entry into the system because it’s the simplest model in the lineup, with just a manual knob to change channels, but still an incredibly effective way to trigger your strobes accurately. For a bit more sophistication, look for a TTL-enabled trigger, which you’ll need to match to your specific lights and camera system, for remote lighting adjustment. For users of Godox flashes, the XProS TTL Wireless Flash Trigger is a popular option that gives great range and power control.

3. The Flash Modifier

For those using speedlights, a go-to accessory is a flash modifier. Greatly expanding the versatility of your humble flash, modifiers are simple ways to change and control the harsh light quality and shape it into something to fit the scene.

The Vello Mini Softbox attaches to the flash head and diffuses the light for softer shadows. For even more versatility, something like the MagMod system is a great place to look, beginning with the MagMod Basic Kit. Differing from other on-flash accessories, MagMod items connect to your flash head using magnets for quick, on-the-fly swapping. And, if you’re just looking for a bit of color to distinguish your photos, something like the Rogue Gels Universal Lighting Filter Kit is an ample 20-color set of gels and a band for adding dramatic splashes of color to your strobe shots.

4. The Light Stand

It’s true, the light stand might not be the most exciting gift, but it is one of the most essential pieces of lighting equipment. In the same manner that a tripod is the surest way to get sharp, shake-free shots, a light stand is the best way to hold your lights securely and safely and position them in a way for consistent use.

Check out The B&H Light Stand Buying Guide for help finding the perfect stand for your lights, but here are a few of our favorites: Impact’s 8' Air-Cushioned Light Stand Kit includes a pair of these versatile stands for holding a variety of strobe types; Matthews Hollywood Century C-Stand Grip Arm Kit is the industry standard studio stand for holding heavier lights; and the Manfrotto 5001B Nano Light Stand is the perfect lightweight and portable option for location lighting needs.

5. Collapsible Reflectors, Panels, and Butterflies

Aside from directly modifying the light from a flash with a soft box, for example, another trusted way to shape and control light is through external reflectors and diffusion, namely with collapsible reflectors and butterflies/panels. These tools, which are often used handheld, give you a chance to make on-the-fly fine-tuned adjustments to the light and change looks quickly and easily. In the case of reflectors, they also effectively serve as a secondary light source and can create drama or balance out harsh light.

Something like Raya’s 42" 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector Disc is an indispensable accessory for portraiture and product shoots because it includes five separate surfaces to adjust the light quality and it folds up into a small pouch for easy carry on location. For studio applications, there is little more useful than V-Flat World’s V-Flat, which is a hinged pair of boards with one black side and one white side, which can then be positioned to reflect light or control unwanted reflections. Finally, there is Westcott’s 6 x 6' Scrim Jim Cine Kit, which can be used as a large diffusion or bounce panel and is suitable for strobe or natural-light use. As simple as it is effective, the Scrim Jim system is a versatile and portable means for gaining better control over your light.

Do you have any suggestions for gifts or items to help improve one’s lighting game? What’s your favorite piece of lighting tech? What’s that one crucial piece of lighting gear you can’t live without? Let us know, in the Comments section, below.

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