Recommended Flash Photography Kits

Most photographers are interested in learning flash photography, but often shy away when they see how much a name-brand speedlight flash costs. Up to $500 for just one flash is a lot! Fortunately, I’ve been on a mission for the last year to find the best quality flash photography gear for photographers on a budget. I have extensively used the gear for over a year now, and I’m confident that these are the very best products for the very cheapest price.

I have spent several THOUSANDS of dollars purchasing and testing different flash photography products to come up with this list, so I hope it saves you from buying junk.

I promise that if you are just willing to TRY flash photography, it will dramatically improve the quality of your photos. I’ve always said that knowing how to work with light is what makes you a photographer–anyone can use a camera.

Have questions about flash photography in general? Check out Jim’s super handy guide to flash photography.

 

$136

This is a simple kit to get started. Extemely affordable and we continually use this basic flash gear because it just works. If you are looking for a bit more serious flash gear, but still affordable, look at our Hobbiest Flash Kit. NOTE:If you shoot Sony, buy the Nikon tranceiver that we linked to as well as the Sony adapter.


Yongnuo YN-560 II
$68
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
The YN-560 flash is a long-time favorite of mine. I have owned MANY of them and they have been durable and DEAD SIMPLE to use. It is an all-manual flash (not ettl/ittl), which is my preferred way of working with flash. Works on both Canon and Nikon cameras.


Yongnuo RF-603
$36 – Set of 2
CANON | NIKON | SONY

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
These radio triggers are awesome and very reliable. The YN-560 III can communicate with these so you don’t need as many transceivers. Radio frequency will allow for greater range and obstacles when shooting off-camera flash. They are a must have!


Cowboy Studio Flash Kit
$32
BUY NOW

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Improve’s Review:
This swivel Bracket Kit with 1 Mounting Bracket, 1 Umbrella, and 1 Stand Stand is great! Not the greatest on being sturdy, but such a great way to get started in flash without spending a lot. All you have to do is place your flash on the bracket and you’re ready to shoot!

 

$438

This kit suggests sturdier flash gear. The more you are on location, the more you are going to want something that does not blow over when your model breathes heavy. Or in the wind. You don’t have to buy the suggested quanity, but with experience most photographers like to have more than one flash on hand.NOTE:The flash and trigger work on both Canon and Nikon cameras.


Yongnuo YN-560 III
$170 ($85 x2)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
The YN-560 flash is a long-time favorite of mine. This 3rd installment of the YN-560 has a built-in transceiver that works with their RF-603 transceivers. The same company also produces eTTL/iTTL flashes as well. This flash compares very well to the Nikon and Canon brand speedlights.


Yongnuo RF-603
$36 – Set of 2
CANON | NIKON | SONY

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
These radio triggers are awesome and very reliable. The YN-560 III can communicate with these so you don’t need as many transceivers. Radio frequency will allow for greater range and obstacles when shooting off-camera flash. They are a must have!


Impact Light Stand
$98 ($49 x2)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
These stands are much more stable than the ones in the beginner kit. I use these with some HUGE 5 foot tall (1.5 meter) lighting modifiers and it can withstand any flash. This is very comparable to the Westcott brand, but cheaper.


Flash Bracket
$14 ($7 x2)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
These are decent flash brackets with umbrella holders. Since this kit doesn’t have any real heavy lighting modifiers, they will work fine for this set up. However – compared to even the flash bracket the Beginner Kit, this might seem like a dream the more you use it.


43″ Universal Umbrella
$60 ($30 x2)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
This is a versatile umbrella that has a black cover that comes off so you can use it as a black umbrella, or a white shoot through. Very handy when trying to travel light with gear. And it’s affordable!


Sandbag
$15 ($7.50 x2)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
Put the sandbag on the leg of your lightstand so that it won’t blow over in the wind. It’s a pain to carry heavy sandbags, but I guarantee if you skip out on the sandbag, you’ll be buying a new flash and umbrella. These are great for heavy and unbalanced modifiers too.


32″ – 5-in-1 Reflector
$45
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
I personally own and often use this very reflector. It has served me well for several years. Understanding all that you can do with this will make this a must have piece of photography gear.

 

$849

How much, and of what, do you need to have a home studio setup? Everything in this kit will get you going for every creative lighting setup you can image… well almost. Building upon the popular Hobbiest Flash Kit, we give you the Home Studio Kit that is portable just as much as it is functional.


Yongnuo YN-560 III
$255 ($85 x3)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
The YN-560 flash is a long-time favorite of mine. This 3rd installment of the YN-560 has a built-in transceiver that works with their RF-603 transceivers. The same company also produces eTTL/iTTL flashes as well. This flash compares very well to the Nikon and Canon brand speedlights.


Yongnuo RF-603
$36 – Set of 2
CANON | NIKON | SONY

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
These radio triggers are awesome and very reliable. The YN-560 III can communicate with these so you don’t need as many transceivers. Radio frequency will allow for greater range and obstacles when shooting off-camera flash. They are a must have!


Impact Light Stand
$147 ($49 x3)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
These stands are much more stable than the ones in the beginner kit. I use these with some HUGE 5 foot tall (1.5 meter) lighting modifiers and it can withstand any flash. This is very comparable to the Westcott brand, but cheaper.


Flash Bracket
$21 ($7 x3)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
These are decent flash brackets with umbrella holders. Since this kit doesn’t have any real heavy lighting modifiers, they will work fine for this set up. However – compared to even the flash bracket the Beginner Kit, this might seem like a dream the more you use it.


43″ Universal Umbrella
$60 ($30 x2)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
This is a versatile umbrella that has a black cover that comes off so you can use it as a black umbrella, or a white shoot through. Very handy when trying to travel light with gear. And it’s affordable!


24″ Speedlight Softbox
$84 ($42 x2)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
I LOVE this softbox! works very well and it is a good manageable size. The best part is that your speedlight can attach to this. You will get great quality light compared to many top name-brand softboxes.


32″ – 5-in-1 Reflector
$45
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
I personally own and often use this very reflector. It has served me well for several years. Understanding all that you can do with this will make this a must have piece of photography gear.


Rosco Flash Gels
$15
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
Slip these little gels on the head of your flash and you can change the color of the light. Very handy for creative lighting. I use them all the time.


Sandbag
$30 ($7.50 x4)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
Put the sandbag on the leg of your lightstand so that it won’t blow over in the wind. It’s a pain to carry heavy sandbags, but I guarantee if you skip out on the sandbag, you’ll be buying a new flash and umbrella. These are great for heavy and unbalanced modifiers too.


Muslin Backdrop
$156
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
Very nice to have a sturdy backdrop stand and some backgrounds that you can use to set up a studio anywhere. This one is rock solid and cheap (well, it’s cheap in comparison to the next kit down on this list).

 

$3,999

Okay, fine. I’m not a money launderer, but since photography is my full-time career… I like to have the best possible tools to work with. I still use YN-560 flashes and simple speedlight setups for MANY shoots, but if you’re working as a full-time pro and do a ton of complex lighting setups, then there are some nice advantages to working with studio strobes.

There are other brands of lights that offer affiliate programs to bloggers so I’d get a portion of the sale if you buy them, but the brand I recommend here doesn’t have a program like that. I recommend the Paul C. Buff gear anyway because it is better quality and a better price than comparable brands like the Elinchrom 500 BXRI.


Einstein e640
$1,996 ($499 x4)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
The main competitor is the Elinchrom BXRI 500, which is another good option. However, the Einsteins are less expensive, more durable, have a faster flash duration, and allow you to use MUCH less expensive softboxes. The Einstein lights come from Paul C. Buff, the maker of famous Alien Bees flash gear.


Cyber Commander
$180
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
this is what is put on top of your hot shoe to trigger the flashes. It allows you to control the power of each individual flash from it, so you don’t have to walk over to each light every time you want to adjust the power. Pocket Wizard also has a product that can be used with Einsteins.


Impact Light Stand
$120 ($30 x4)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
Plug it into the Einstein and you have your flash receiver that works with the Cyber Commander. Simple.


Vagabond Battery Pack
$720 ($240 x3)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
TThese battery packs allow you to take your Einstein studio strobes on location. Since these lights need to be plugged in, you’ll need these to shoot in locations where you don’t have access to power. It’s basically a mini car battery that you can carry around with you and plug your lights into.


Foldable Softboxes
$240 ($120 x2)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
These softboxes come in a nice size for location flash photography. Very portable and still provides a very soft light. I use this size softbox more than any other.


60″ Octabox
$110
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
The octabox has become one of the most popular lighting modifiers around today. It is a HUGE light source for creating seamless soft lighting, and it leaves a cool-shaped catch-light in the model’s eyes.


22″ Beauty Dish
$80
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
The beauty dish creates an edgy-yet-soft light quality that is very popular in photography right now. The sock slips over the beauty dish to soften the light a bit more.


Avenger Boom Stand
$376
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
I said this list was for money launderers, right? This stand is insanely expensive, but it’s important that your boom stand is rock solid since it will carry a lot of weight at a strange angle, and you don’t want it tipping over and falling on the model! This one is a bit of a splurge.


Impact Light Stand
$147 ($49 x3)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
These stands are much more stable than the ones in the beginner kit. I use these with some HUGE 5 foot tall (1.5 meter) lighting modifiers and it can withstand any flash. This is very comparable to the Westcott brand, but cheaper.


Sandbag
$30 ($7.50 x4)
BUY HERE

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ – Improve’s Review:
Put the sandbag on the leg of your lightstand so that it won’t blow over in the wind. It’s a pain to carry heavy sandbags, but I guarantee if you skip out on the sandbag, you’ll be buying a new flash and umbrella. These are great for heavy and unbalanced modifiers too.

My (Free!) Flash Tutorial

Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. Emily says

    Hi, can you sync 2 off camera flashes if you have 2 sets of Yongnuo RF-603 (4 controls) but only use 3 on the same channel? Thanks, Em

  2. Wayne Lang says

    Hi guys,
    I was looking for a cheap flash set up and found your video “Understand Flash Photography in 10 Minutes or Less” on YouTube. I was wondering if this same gear would work on my Olympus EM-5, as I noticed most of the products you’ve listed here say recommended for Canon, Nikon or Sony. I’m relatively new at flash photography and on a pretty tight budget, so I really can’t afford to buy gear that isn’t going to work. I also live in a very small town, so finding a place where I can try this stuff out is next to impossible. Hope you can help. Thanks in advance of a reply. Cheers. Wayne.

    • Zane says

      They will work I’m using two of the EM5’s with Phoyttix Transmitters and receivers.
      I am a big believer in Yungnuo Products s never had an issue and I’ve dropped them a handful of times.

  3. Marc Konchinsky says

    It’s time to revisit these recommended Flash Kits and add in the Yongnuo YN-560-TX transmitter. What an incredible new piece of equipment!

  4. Traci Parcell says

    Marc, would I still purchase the recommended transceivers as well? I checked out the transmitter you suggested and its seems like is something I would want/need (I don’t want to have to manually change each flash setting during the reception). Thanks!

  5. Tom Gonzalez says

    Hi Jim,

    What is your opinion of the portable battery powered strobes by Flashpoint (Adorama)? The 320 w/sec light seems powerful enough. I’m just concerned that smaller platform might not have light modifier option like larger softboxes/octoboxes.

    Specifically, I’m looking at the Flashpoint Streaklight Creative Collection.

    Thanks, Tom

  6. Lisandra Perez says

    hello, i want to buy the trigger/transceiver with the stand/umbrella for my nikon SB700 but I’m not sure if the beginner kit works for that flash or if you recommend other one, i work for nikon 610 but just now I’m using flash and is very harsh when the flash is on the camera. thanks for your feedback.
    Lissy

  7. Philip says

    For the recommended flashes, what do you think of the YONGNUO TTL Speedlite YN-565EX? It seems to work with the Nikon iTTL or the Canon eTTL. TIA.

    • Ian says

      I don’t know what he recommends, but I have used Sanyo Eneloop batteries for a few years and have never been let down. They hold their charge better than any battery I’ve ever used. You can shoot wicked fast with them too.

  8. Kalvin says

    Hi, in your off camera flash tutorial you use a yn560II with RF-603 radio transceivers. I bought this configuration and can’t get the flash to fire. I’ve double checked your recommended gear which states transceivers are compatible with YN560III.. so will it work with YN560II as well? Its hard to find a tutorial for YN560II and transceiver.
    Thanks, great podcast and site!
    K

  9. di says

    At the risk of sounding really stupid…I need help. I have a Nikon D5100 camera and a YN560-III flash. I had no idea that my camera is non TTL and does not have a sync terminal. I am totally lost on what I need to use my flash with this camera. I found a lot of listings for Nikon AS-15 adapter, however everything I read says it is not for high voltage flash. Can you guide me in the right direction so I can use my flash? I need to know what adapters, cables etc. I need?
    thanks for any help you can give me. i am totally new to flash photography.
    di

  10. Anthony says

    Hi, Just discovered these podcasts and website and very impressed. I have stopped listening to the one hour plus long advertisements that some of the others have tended to turn into and find I.P. extremely informative, so hopefully I can get some help with this question.

    With pocketwizards you can shoot in high speed sync mode or hypersync mode (with compatible flash). My understanding is with hypersync you don’t lose flash power like you do with HSS so I’m trying to work out how much power you typically lose to determine if its more economical to buy compatible brand name flash(es) to shoot hypersync or buy a higher number of cheaper flashes to make up for the power loss of HSS? Or am I wrong in how this works? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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