photographic studio space with white cyclorama and natural light

Self-tape Lighting Set-up for any Budget

How to find a cheap and effective lighting set-up? Where is the line between the price and quality of the products? Do I really have to spend thousands to have a proper lighting set-up? Well, not necessary, let’s compare some products.

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Okay, I know – the last article was too much theory and no recommendations. Well, let’s run through and find the right self-tape lighting set-up for you.

#1 – LED Panel DIY and BIY- up to $60

Yes, you can create a lighting set-up and fit with just $60, but you have to use a little bit of DIY and BIY. Maybe now you have a question, right? “DIY is pretty commonplace. It means Do It Yourself, but what is BIY?” It could be Built it yourself, or maybe Believe in yourself, but nope. I made it up, and it stands for Buy It Yourself. I am referring to that you will need to buy items for this setup on different spots. So if you are too lazy to do that, skip this one, but if not, let’s continue.

What we need

You will need an LED light, for example, from Walmart or Home Depot for about $20-40. This light will be used as the key light, but you have to use a reflector to bounce the light because it will be too harsh upon your complexion/subject matter. We learn a lot about lighting in the last article, so check it out if you didn’t. For a reflector, you can use a foam board (24″x36″), available in Dollarama for $1. Because the light will be too bright, you also need to use a gel filter which is a foil put in front of the light to change its color. We will choose a blue color for our matters. You can find the gel filters on Amazon from $10-30.

We have a light, gel filters, and foam board. You can also will need some clamps or/and duct tape to secure gel filters and to make sure your reflector won’t fall down. Now we will set up our lighting using the three-point technique. The three-point lighting technique was also mentioned in the last article.

How to set it up

The LED light is a key light. We attach a blue gel on it. We will set the light in the opposite direction than you or the subject will be and put foam board in front of the light. The Foam board will work as a reflector and bounce the light on the subject. And for the fill light, you can use any lamp you have at home. And the same with the backlight.

Total $48.64 + some duct tape and clamps, maybe a cheap lamp if you don’t have any, and we are at a budget of about $60. I am pretty sure you could very well find these items somewhere cheaper. Let us know if you do! We are artists here to help each other.

So this is our first setup, which is more DIY, and because it is really cheap, the result may not completely blow you away. Let’s continue for another option of self-tape lighting setup.

#2 – LED Panels or Umbrella Kit – up to $70

2-Pack LED Video Kit & Emart Photography Umbrella Lighting Kit

2-pack LED Panels

Set-up is cheap and could be used in two setups.

First, both LED panels will be directed towards us. One light with the intensity we want and the second light with 50% of the first one.

Second, we will use a reflector to bounce the light off the LED panels, so we have to buy, create, or find reflectors and spend more time building them up in the right placement to optimize our scene.

Easy-peasy, but because this setup is cheap, the quality of the product may feel lackluster. You have to consider that lights will be plastic, and not on stable stands. Since these lights operate with USB, there are two things to consider. First, we will also need a reduction to connect them to the plug, and second, USB-powered products are not as efficient as electric ones. But in practice, these are an affordable and easy setup to start with.

Emart Umbrellas lighting set-up

This set-up will be straightforward to set up, but as it is also cheap, you have to expect lower quality stands and that the light will heat a lot with prolonged use. But still, if you are starting and need something to get those first self-tapes out there, this one is an easy and cheap setup to start with.

Another thing to consider is the umbrellas have a big light spillage, so the light is not directed as you wish and lights up the whole scene.

#3 – Softboxes – up to $120

Skytex softbox

You can find many “cheap” lighting kits on Amazon. One of them is Skytex. From my research, these products are all similar, just different brands and prices. You will get two softboxes with a stand, so it’s pretty good. Because of the price, everything will be plastic, the stands not be stable, and the lights will be heating. So be prepared – you will get what you will pay for. Want to better one? Well, you have to pay more.

To find your right lighting set-up you should consider knowing more about lighting – read more in our article

#4- Ring Light – up to $149

Ring Light 18-inch LED Ring

If you are looking for a ring light, here is price reasonably one. I wouldn’t recommend any cheaper ring lights. I am the owner of one from Wish for a couple hundred bucks, and it sucks. It is a small plastic thing that does not light much. Sometimes it flashes when a USB power bank powers it. So I would recommend this one, as the reviews are very positive, or any other more expansive competitor such as Neewer.

#5 – LED Panels – up to $218

Neewer 2-Pack Dimmable Bi-Color 480 LED Video Light and Stand Lighting Kit

Affordable kit with two LED panels. And if you buy the softboxes for these panels, you will have an awesome set-up with many variety of work. From self-taping to scene shooting or filmmaking.

#6 – LED Panels – up to $219

Neewer 2-Pack 2.4GHz LED Softbox Lighting Kit with Color Filter

Two LED lights with softboxes and color filters. Another interesting kit for a cheap price coming even with a remoter. You have a wider variety in your work as you can use color filters. I think you won’t use them for a self-tape, but it could bring some interesting feelings if you are experimenting with a scene. Or planning on shooting your own movie.

#7 – “Everything kit” – up to $300

Emart 8.5 x 10 ft Backdrop Support System, Photography Video Studio Lighting Kit Umbrella Softbox Set

Another interesting kit, if you don’t have anything, this kit will cover it. It’s a meager price for what everything gets, so be prepared the products won’t be the top quality. But great kit for starting from zero.

#8 LED Panels with Softboxes- up to $354

Neewer 2 Packs 660 LED Video Light with Stand and Softbox Kit

You can get these two lights for 269$, but I would recommend this kit, including softboxes. You will get more variety in your lighting work, and if you are planning to shoot a scene, these panels are an awesome choice. The lights could also be battery charged if you buy a battery, so you can grab these lights anywhere and shot for up to 4hours. They come with Barndoor so the lights could be used in a specific direction. If you plan to do more filmmaking, these lights are the middle way, the good price, and a great product.

#9 – LED Panels – up to $289

GVM 2 Pack LED Video Lighting Kits with APP Control

A little more expensive rival of Neewer. You will get two lights with stands and a bag. A great feature is APP control so that you can control and adjust the lights on your phone. There is also an option to buy batteries, and you can use your lights anywhere. Even though the GVM is a little bit more expensive, it is still in the cheap range of lights and has many solid specifications.

#10 LED Panels – up to $532

VILTROX VL-200 3 Packs Ultra Thin Dimmable Bi-Color LED Video Light Panel Lighting Kit

You can say $350 is a lot, but if you consider this set includes 3 lights and a control remoter, it is not. If you are a creator as a filmmaker, Youtuber, or have a bigger budget and want to have better lighting for your self-tape, this lighting set-up could be your choice. The remote works up to 65 feet. You can also buy batteries that are not included in the set and take your lights anywhere.

What is the right self-tape lighting set-up for you?

We went through some lighting set-ups. It is tough to say what is right for you because it depends on what you want to do with the lights and how big your budget is. Usually, the better stuff is the more expensive one. It is just up to you what you decide. I hope you learn something or even find your set-up here in our article. If you need to know more about lighting, check out our article. What are your experiences with products and with set-ups? Let us know.

My dedication to achieving artistic excellence extends from the stage to the realm of film. Currently represented by agent Jill Kabush at Dorothy S. Management, I am actively pursuing opportunities to establish my presence in the industry. While my creative interests span a variety of fields, including DJing and illustrating, my primary passion lies in acting. In the Czech Republic, I gained experience as both an amateur and professional actor in theaters such as Moravian Theater Olomouc, Theater DiGoknu, and Mlada Scena II. I also ran my own production company, creating short films. Upon relocating to Canada, I underwent intensive training at the Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts. Since then, I have signed with an agent, showcased my talent in esteemed theaters like Theater Around The Corner, and participated in independent film projects. Through unwavering dedication and hard work, I continue to refine my craft, striving for new heights in the pursuit of artistic excellence.


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