Packing a Compact Lighting Kit on a Budget

Not all of us have access to a full studio with celing mounted lights and a closet full of modifiers on a daily basis. Even for those of us who do don’t always need or want to have to operate this way. A great example is on location shoots. For these moments having a versatile and portable kit is actually the best plan.

Filmmaker Brady Bessette has his own set of compact lights that pack away brilliantly into a backpack. A plus is that these are all relatively affordable options. Even if you don’t need a whole kit, checking out what is in Brady’s bag might help you tune up your own.

Starting with the lights you have some fairly popular and well-reviewed options. Aputure is making a name for itself with its compact lights and the Amaran F7 is a pocketable LED that runs on batteries and has a respectable amount of output for the size. It’s bi-color as well for matching with any lighting setup and it runs on standard NP-F batteries.

If you want to maximize power you can get an arm with two 1/4”-20 threads and mount two F7s to each other to function as a single light. Adding some diffusion in front of an F7 is recommended as they do output a fairly directional light. This can serve as your key.

Aputure MC LED

Images by Aputure

Even smaller is the Aputure MC, which adds full RGB control. It even has a magnet on the back to pop it up on a ton of different surfaces. Having a few of these around to throw up as a fill or hair light is a nice plan. They are tiny and affordable enough that everyone should have at least one.

The Aputure MCs can work in interesting ways due to the size. One example is using them in place of practicals since you can just stick them places, like in a lamp shade.

Since they are smaller lights they may often be running at full power and burning through power. If you have an opportunity to plug the F7s in you should carry around and extension cable to ensure you don’t run out of juice. You will also want to might the lighting conditions since they might not cut it in a super bright room.

Image Credit: Raya

Supplementing these lights is, in my opinion, the first modifier everyone should buy: a reflector. A 5-in-1 collapsible reflector is cheap and can work wonders with a minimal kit. This version gets really small when folded up and comes with diffusion, gold, silver, black, and white. Covers everything.

Make sure you pick up some compact light stands for the lights – you don’t need anything fancy. For smaller lights having some tiny ball heads to screw onto the top of the stands will make controlling them a lot easier. Another useful item for your pack is gaff tape and sticky strips for mounting the lights to non-metal surfaces. And having a few good clamps will help finish up your kit, and with a clamp mounted to the stand you can hold up a reflector.

Brady’s kit fits easily in a photo backpack alongside his camera and those accessories. Many people already have a bag they prefer and since the size of all this equipment isn’t a lot they shouldn’t have an issue making it work. Having side pockets for stands is a nice touch, though.

For the money, this is a solid set of options to get started with. You’d have to start spending a lot more to get much more performance out of a portable lighting kit.

[source: Brady Bessette]

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