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Published Sep. 28, 2021

Light is crucial when it comes to portrait photography. Shooting during golden hour sunset or having access to a large window are both great tools for harnessing the power of the sun when shooting portraits, but sometimes the weather isn’t going to be on your side. The best portrait lighting kit will go a long way in improving the creative control you have as a photographer when shooting portraits. 

These lighting kit setups will help you control the light, so you can feel confident shooting portraits regardless of location or what time of day you might be shooting. These are some of our favorite lights and lighting kits for shooting portraits.

Here are some of the best portrait lighting kits

Best portable portrait lighting kit: Flashpoint XPLOR 600 Monolight

Flashpoint XPLOR 600 Monolight Flashpoint

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Why It Made The Cut: Flashpoint’s XPLOR 600 Monolights are a fast and reliable tool for inside the studio or on location, plus they are a fraction of the price of other battery-powered strobes. 

Specs:

  • High Speed Sync up to 1/80000 seconds
  • Built-in 2.4G wireless
  • 500 full-power flashes per charge 
  • Recycle time of 0.01-2.5 second when fully charged

Pros:

  • Affordable compared to other monolights
  • 600w lights with 9 steps of power adjustment
  • Built-in wireless receiver compatible with Canon or Nikon
  • Fast 0.01 to 2.5 sec recycle time 

Cons: 

  • Not sold as a kit, have to purchase stands separately 
  • Built-in wireless receiver not compatible with non Canon or Nikon cameras

Flashpoint’s XPLOR 600 Monolights is one of our favorite mid-level monolights on the market. Although you will have to purchase light stands and light modifiers separately, the XPLOR 600 is the best portable portrait lighting kit for a photographer looking to build out a studio lighting kit. 

These lights offer 600 watts of power, 500 full power flashes time with a recycle time of 0.01-2.5 seconds on a fully charged battery and offer a stable 5600K color temperature. Built in 2.4 G wireless transmission is stable up to 80M away and high speed sync up to 1/80000 seconds, including first curtain sync and second curtain sync.

The battery operated lights come with a battery, flashtube, lampshade, charger adapter, power cable, Bowens mount reflector and a custom carrying case. These lights are an excellent place to start when building out a full portrait lighting kit. 

Best studio portrait lighting: Profoto B10 Plus 500/500 AirTTL Duo Monolight Kit

Profoto B10 Plus 500/500 AirTTL Duo Monolight Kit Profoto

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Why It Made The Cut: Profoto’s B10 Plus Monolights offer powerful 500 watt output in a compact 4.2 lbs monolight, and are compatible with other Profoto lights and accessories. 

Specs:

  • Lightweight, only 4.2 lbs 
  • TTL and HSS capabilities
  • 200 full power flashes and recycle time of 0.05-2.5 second when fully charged

Pros:

  • Comes in convenient Profoto backpack for travel 
  • Compact size, about the length of a 70-200mm lens
  • Integrated continuous light in addition to strobe option
  • Adjustable color temperature 

Cons: 

  • Expensive
  • Must buy light stands separately 

Profoto products are one of the most highly regarded lighting products in the industry and these compact 500 watt lights made a big splash when they hit the market. The Profoto B10 Plus are about the size of a 70-200mm lens, making them some of the smallest monolights currently available. 

This kit comes with two B10 Plus lights that pack up into a Profoto branded backpack. With the addition of two light stands and some modifiers you will be ready to shoot portraits in the studio or on location. 

The lights offer 200 full power flashes with a recycle time of 0.05-2.5 seconds when fully charged. The B10 Plus also features an integrated continuous light with adjustable color temperature, making these a great tool for video shooters as well. 

The lights are compatible with any of the light shaping tools from the Profoto lineup and have an intuitive interface to get you started shooting fast. If money is no issue, you can’t go wrong with the Profoto B10 Plus, the best studio portrait kit.

Best Budget portrait lighting kit: Neewer 700W Socket Light Lighting Kit

Neewer 700W Socket Light Lighting Kit Neewer

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Why It Made The Cut: A great choice for beginners, Neewer’s 700W all-in-one lighting kit allows you to explore portrait lighting techniques without breaking the bank. 

Specs:

  • All-in-One Kit
  • Continuous Lighting
  • Includes 24×24 softboxes

Pros:

  • Inexpensive kit, great for beginning photographers
  • Includes bulbs, softboxes, lighting stands and carrying case
  • E27 socket makes it compatible with all types of bulbs for versatile lighting

Cons: 

  • No wireless option, must be plugged in

Using lights while shooting portraits can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Neewer’s 700W socket light kit is simple to use, has a non-threatening price tag and is a great starter kit to learn the way that light can change the mood of a portrait. 

The 700W socket light kit comes with two 85W 5500K low-operating temperature light bulbs, although the E27 socket means you can screw in any color temperature or color of bulb you desire. 

This kit comes with softboxes, lighting stands, and a carrying case as well. They require an outlet to operate—so these aren’t going to be ideal for working on location and photographers looking to stretch their creativity will likely soon grow tired of the simplicity of this kit, but if it’s a low cost basic lighting setup you are looking for this is the best budget portrait lighting kit for you.   

Best LED lights for photography: Neewer 2 Packs Dimmable Bi-Color 480 LED Lights

Neewer 2 Packs Dimmable Bi-Color 480 LED Lights Neewer

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Why It Made The Cut: These dimmable, bi-color LED lights offer professional quality continuous light, for a fraction of the price, making them an excellent choice for new photographers or videographers. 

Specs:

  • Variable color temperature from 3200~5600K
  • Dimmable Bi-color light 
  • Powered by AC adapter or NP-F550 NP-F970 Sony batteries 

Pros:

  • Diffusers, stands and carrying case included
  • Affordable price point 
  • Dimmable bi-color lights with variable color temperature from 3200-5600K
  • Can be used wirelessly 

Cons: 

  • Can’t dial in exact color temperatures when shooting 
  • Short power cords 

LED lights are well-loved by continuous light photographers and videographers and this set from Neewer is the best LED lights for photography. They’re also a great option for experienced shooters on a budget or amateurs looking to explore their options. 

This Neewer kit includes diffusers, stands and carrying cases so you will be ready to start shooting as soon as you unbox. The lights have 240 white and 240 yellow LED bulbs that create a variable color temperature between 3200-5600K. Because this is a budget LED light, you can’t dial in exact color temperatures while using them, but downloading a free light-meter app will help you approximate. 

The lights can be powered by an AC adapter or two Sony batteries (must be purchased separately)—making them a versatile option when it comes to shooting location. 

Color temperature and brightness of the light are controlled by two separate knobs on the back of the panel. A U mount bracket on the bottom of each lighting panel allows you to adjust the angle. These are decent-quality LED lights for such a low price. 

Best portable LED lights: Lume CubePanel Pro LED Light

Lume CubePanel Pro LED Light LUME CUBE

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Why It Made The Cut: Lume Cube’s pocket sized LED lights are extremely portable, making them a great choice for the portrait shooter who wants to travel light. 

Specs:

  • Pocket sized LED light
  • Variable color temperature from 3000K to 5700K, with 360 RGB color options 
  • Mountable to camera or on light stands

Pros: 

  • Extremely compact light source
  • Compatible with all types of camera brands
  • Dimmable bi-color lights with variable color temperature from 3000-5700K, with 360 RGB color options
  • Versatile, great for portraits, video shoots or vlogging 

Cons: 

  • Build your own kit 

LED technology has come a long way in recent years, and Lumecube’s line of powerful pocket-sized LED lights prove it. The Lume Cube Panel Pro LED light is a super portable USB powered light that can be mounted to the top of your camera or on a lightstand. 

This LED light has a variable color temperature from 3000-5700K and 360 RGB options that can be precisely dialed in using the controls on the back of the light or the Lumbecube app. Brightness can be adjusted between 1 percent power to 100 percent in 5 percent increments. 

A compact diffuser is included with the light and through the app you can control the brightness and color temperature of multiple Lume Cube lights. If you are looking for a pocket-sized tool that has the option to introduce creative color to your portrait shoots, look no further than the Lume Cube Panel Pro LED light. Although the lights are sold individually rather than as a kit, if you are looking to build something that’s ideal for travel this pick for the best portable LED lights is a great place to start. 

How we picked the best portrait lighting kits

When selecting our picks for best lights and lighting kits we considered price, brand recognition, size and style of lighting tool. 

The monolights listed in this story are more expensive options and often require photographers to build their own kit by buying modifiers and light stands, but ultimately we believe these lights are more reliable when shooting portraits in the studio or on location. When shopping for lights paying more up-front often means getting a product that will serve your needs for much longer. 

The continuous lights in this story were more often sold as package deals. Both of the Neewer selects are low-cost options that are great for either beginners or photographers who are looking for something inexpensive. Ultimately these lights offer less flexibility than the monolights, give photographers less control and won’t last as long as higher priced alternatives. The Lumecube LED light demonstrates just how far LED technology has come in recent years. This pocket-sized LED panel won’t be ideal for shooting full body portraits, but can be a great way to pop some creative color on a tighter portrait sitter.

Things to Consider Before Buying Portrait Lights

Shooting style

Ultimately your budget should be the number one thing to consider when purchasing portrait lights. If you are just starting out and trying to figure out how quality of light can enhance your images a set of continuous lights will serve you well. The continuous lights in this guide are all moderately priced, most of them come with included stands and diffusers and because they are always on you can see how subtle changes in light will create changes in your portraits.

Head type

If you’ve been shooting for a while and are looking to invest in more traditional studio strobes for creating portraits, you can’t go wrong with the monolights in this guide. Although these lights don’t come bundled with modifiers or light stands, that actually gives you the option to build out a customized kit that makes sense for your photography. The Flashpoint monolights are an excellent option for a shooter on a budget, but if money isn’t a barrier and your budget is sky-high we’d recommend going for the Profoto lights.

FAQs

Q: What should I look for in a lighting kit?

If you are opting to buy an all-in-one kit look for lights that come with lighting stands and some kind of lighting diffuser (a softbox or a shoot through umbrella are both great options for beginners). Keep in mind that the all-in-one lighting kits that you can buy online are usually packaged with lower-quality lights.

Q: Are LED lights good for photography?

LED lights are a versatile tool for both photography and videography. LEDs are a continuous light source, meaning you can see how small changes to the light like intensity and color temperature will change the feeling of your portrait in real time.

Q: What lighting is best for portrait photography?

Ultimately the “best” lighting for portrait photography depends a lot on what you are trying to accomplish with your portrait. A dark and moody portrait will use very different lighting techniques than a standard head shot or family portrait. Large diffuse lighting sources will make for the most flattering portraits, while more direct light sources will give you portraits that are moodier with more shadows.

Final thoughts on the best portrait lighting kit

Investing in the best portrait lighting kit is important when it comes to portrait photography. Learning to use artificial light sources will give you more control when shooting. Although there are plenty of all-in-one lighting kits that come with stands and modifiers, if you are serious about portrait photography it’s not a bad idea to build out your own kit with quality monolights and light stands.

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