photography lighting systems and kits
(flash photography equipment options)

looking for a few thoughts on photography lighting systems?

Umbrella and Flash Gun Lighting SystemUmbrella and Flash Gun
Lighting System

There are so many photography lighting systems and kits available that it's hard to choose what direction to go.  

This article only applies to flash photography lighting equipment and is for beginners.  

If you are an advanced or pro photographer, stop reading any further. You can't learn anything here. (Just kidding)

It's helpful to realistically determine your needs and wants for lighting equipment first before looking at specific photography lighting systems.

There are pros and cons to all lighting systems and the lighting technique you use depends on the light sources you have available.

Here are a few systems and the advantages and disadvantages of each:

built-in camera flash

Built-in camera flashes are not really considered a good photography lighting system

Most would not classify this as a system at all, but these flashes do integrate seamlessly with the camera.

My least favorite by far, this is the small flash that is already built into your camera.

The biggest pluses are that is is always there, very easy to use, and ready to use at all times.

advantages of built-in camera flash

  • Convenient
  • Automatic
  • Small and Lightweight
  • Comes with the camera

disadvantages of built-in camera flash

  • Not much covering power
  • Creates distinct shadows
  • Not at all versatile
  • Often creates Red Eye
  • Can be blocked by your finger position

pop-up camera flash

Usually on higher quality cameras.

It may have more power and a bit of flexibility.

You can add a diffuser on top (see the photo).

This may soften the light quality a little.

Photo of Pop-up Flash on top of camera.

Diffusing it like this will reduces it's coverage significantly.


  • Easy to open or close for use
  • Automatic
  • Light is above camera lens
  • Can be modified with diffuser
Pop-up flash with diffuzer attached


  • Average covering power
  • Creates distinct shadows
  • Only slightly versatile
  • Can't bounce the light

speedlite or shoe-mounted 

Canon 580 Speedlite - more advanced equipment for lighting system

Lots of power settings, versatility and options for added accessories.

You can add attach the speedlite to the top of your camera or use it off-camera by using a transmitter on top.

Can also be bounced in many directions and you can attach high capacity batteries to shoot photos all day.

Truly can be used as a lighting system when combined with several other units or other light sources.

System Accessories for shoe-mounted lighting


  • Still small and easy to carry
  • Very powerful and versatile
  • Light aim in many directions
  • Can be modified many ways
  • Adjustable power settings


  • Purchase separately
  • Needs it's own batteries
  • Makes your camera a little heavier to carry
  • Sized to use on DSLR cameras only

professional studio lighting equipment

The next group of photography lights is professional studio equipment that needs electricity.

There are lights that feature a separate power pack with individual lights that plug in and also individual studio lights that are powered independently from each other, called monolights.

I recently came across some very positive reviews on a piece of lighting equipment that I wanted to pass on to you.

Some photographer likes to put their own photography lighting systems together by combining equipment that they already own and adding to it.

Cowboy 400 Monolight - part of a professional lighting system

Monolights are versatile lights that pack plenty of power to handle almost all photography lighting situations.

They come with a modeling light that closely mimics the lighting effect that you will get when the powerful electronic part of these flash units fire.

Monolights are often used with umbrellas or soft-boxes and the Cowboy Monolight gets good reviews on Amazon. You can get Cowboy Monolights by them selves or as part of a kit.

Lighting systems have several characteristics that need to be considered before buying one. Here are some more thoughts on Photography Lighting Equipment.

Have a blast improving your photography and please share these digital photography tips with someone you care about!

Happy Shooting!

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