B&H has been having daily deals for several months now, and awhile back they had the Impact Soft’n Natural Kit on sale for $250. I’ve got a lot of lights already, but flashes can’t do all the same things that continuous lighting can. Today I’ll talk about my opinion of this kit and what it could do for video, but I’m mainly going to describe my opinion on continuous lighting for photography.
When I bought this kit, my main goal was to have some continuous lights for videos. It would be a good setup for interviews or tutorials or even some smaller films. The kit comes with everything needed for this. It has three lights, three light stands, 2 octaboxes, one softbox, and lightbulbs for the lights. This would be perfect for the general 3 lighting setup a lot of people use (main light, fill light, and back light).
I haven’t used them a ton, but I have assembled them a few times to get a general opinion about the quality of it all. The light stands aren’t anything amazing. They are very light and thin, and don’t go too high. Besides these lights, I would trust them to hold up anything important. The quality of the lights isn’t great (made of plastic), but for the price, I think they’ll hold up well enough. One thing I do like about them is that on two of the lights, there are switches on the back. You can turn on half the lights or all of them. That doesn’t give a ton of control, but it at least gives me some options and I can have a 2:1 ratio with the two lights. The sofboxes aren’t big, but the material seems sturdy. It took me a bit to figure out how to put them together, but once I read the instructions, it wasn’t complicated. Inserting all the rods takes some time, but it’s not difficult to do. One issue I did have was that several of my lightbulbs were broken we I received them. B&H is awesome, though, and immediately sent me replacements.
Continuous Lighting for Photography vs. Flash
There’s good and bad to every system. With flashes, it’s usually pretty quick to setup, you don’t need an external power source, and the camera can automatically control the exposure. This is my go to, but after shooting with continuous lighting today, and I saw some of the benefits. As far as setup time, I doubt the time was much different than if I had put flashes in a softbox. I did have to plug the lights into the wall, and the cords were a bit annoying, but it wasn’t anything that kept me from getting the shot. You wouldn’t be able to take these things out in the field probably, but they’d work fine indoors or close to a power source. The one thing I really did like was there was no recycle time for the light; it was always on. One issue I have with flash is waiting for the flash to recycle and get ready to go again. Sometimes that wait time can cost me the shot. I was also pretty happy with the power and quality of the light. The lights were about 4 feet from my subject and my camera was set at ISO 1600, F4, and 1/200th shutter speed. I’m guessing I could put more powerful bulbs into the sockets, but I don’t know how long the light would last that way. My wife made a comment that the lights looked artificial, but once I took the photo, it looked just like any other photo I would take.
Overall, I’m happy I bought the Impact set. For $250, I got a ton of stuff. If I was buying a flash, $250 would only get me a decent flash. Then, I’d have to buy the stands and all the other gear. In the end, that would be like $700 probably. Now, I don’t plan on using continuous lighting for photography all the time. There will be certain situations that these lights will really be helpful. As I said before, I will use them for video, but for photography, I’ll use them occasionally for studio like shots, where I have time to set things up. My main thought right now is using them for a photo booth. My photo booths are an open design model, so one light probably isn’t enough. The continuous light would also allow the photo booth to go unmanned. I could set up the booth and the lights, and then they would always be on. People could take photos with their phones without needing a photographer. That’s something I’m looking in to.
If you’re just getting into photography and on a budget, this continuous lighting setup would be an easy way to get into the lighting game and practice without spending the big bucks. Then, later, you might go for something bigger.