My birthday is coming up. I have about $150 to spend on some lighting equipment for home studio. I currently have a Nikon D90 and a decent Manfrotto tripod.

For my budget, what are my choices? I'm looking for at least 2 light sources, and preferably a 1.5' cubic feet light box too.

The purpose is to set up my basement as a home studio to take portrait shots, or photos of smaller objects (lightbox).


4 Answers 4


This might be a little unconventional, but my preference for fairly low cost lighting is to get a few of each of these:

I have a few of these and have been really pleased.

They work well in groups, the clamping makes them easy to line up wherever you need them, the CFL's use less power and generate less heat which is nice, and the daylight bulbs are very close to my on-board flash.

Also, there is a good tutorial for making a DIY Light Tent at digital-photography-school.com, which you could easily modify for whatever size you would like.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 For the budget in question, this kind of setup is hard to beat. \$\endgroup\$
    – ex-ms
    Aug 3, 2010 at 18:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think all of us old-schoolers started with clamp lights, mine were incandesent, because CFLs weren't common yet! \$\endgroup\$
    – BillN
    Aug 3, 2010 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ This setup works well with a lightbox. flic.kr/p/8n37gH It doesn't provide very much light for portraits, though. Sufficient continuous lighting gets hot. I think a cheap 3rd party flash on a lightstand with a sync cable would be better for portraits. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 4, 2010 at 15:14

Strobe, Stand, Umbrella, Reflector

I believe that for your budget you should be able to pick up:

The strobe will be your key light, and you can position the reflector to act as fill.

You might prefer a "real" light rather than a reflector - I'm just sharing what I've been using.

I have linked to Amazon.co.uk, which is where I bought most of the kit that I use, so the prices are in GBP. Perhaps someone else can find the Amazon.com links?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think amazon associate tags are frowned upon here... \$\endgroup\$
    – Roddy
    Oct 29, 2010 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I asked, and from the discussion (here: meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/424/…) I think "deemed pointless" is more accurate than "frowned upon"! (who knew?) \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Finch
    Nov 3, 2010 at 15:15

In addition to the great suggestion from chills42, you can also look at Halogen work lamps. Many of the are available either clamped or on stands that can be adjusted to various heights. Most big box hardware stores, such as Home Depot, will have them even if they can be a pain to find on their site. The price tag runs around $40 (Canadian) for 500 watt twin head lamps or $60 for a 1000 watts twin head on adjustable stands.

There are even flourescent ones available which, to be honest, is nicer because it's a lot less heat than halogen!

  • \$\begingroup\$ What color temp are Halogen work lights? I have a set, but it never occurred to me to use them for photography \$\endgroup\$
    – BillN
    Aug 3, 2010 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ According to Sylvania, standard halogen is between 2800 and 3400 K. I have the Lastolite XpoBalance which I use with the various lights I have to fine tune the choice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Aug 3, 2010 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the heat. I tried these and always had to guard against burning myself. Very troublesome; go with CFL if you can. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2011 at 16:15

I have a couple suggestions

I've had a lot of fun playing with a wireless trigger. I have a PT-04 from ebay. There are some compatibility issues with some cameras. I wasn't able to get it to work with my sister's D60, but I believe the D90 has a sync plug. That's how I connect it to my Canon 20D.

I have a umbrella and stand from ebay which has been fun as well.

Last, get a longer usb extension cable so you can upload to the computer as you shoot. You can then setup a monitor in the background that your subject can see. This way, they can see what looks good and what doesn't. Help get everyone to loosen up a bit. I suppose a cable release fits in the same category.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would prefer newer RF-602 triggers, much less issues. \$\endgroup\$
    – Petteri H
    Aug 4, 2010 at 10:27

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