Lighting 102: The Two-Light Kit

If you are working with one light, you already know that a single light can create many possibilities but also can force compromises. Do you place the light for the best modeling on someone's face? Or do you cheat it a bit to minimize those deep shadows you just created?

I don't need a second body or a second lens to photograph people. They are nice to have, but they are essentially backups. But that second light is critical to me, because it allows me to light two different planes. Or light from two different directions. Or establish an enviroment with one light source and then augment it with the second. And many more things.

Seen above is my current core gear for photographing people. Give me a camera, a kit lens and a two-speedlight bag, and I can earn a living. In fact, most of the editorial work I have done over my 25+ year career could have been done with this gear.

This is a solid, professional two-light portable studio. And you can literally buy all of this (two full speedlight/stand/umbrella setups, remotes, and sling bag, but not the camera and lens) for less than the cost of a single Nikon or Canon's flagship speedlight alone. That's insane.

Pro tip: margins on DSLRs are razor thin. But on their flagship flashes? They are minting coin.

(Sorry, I'm prone to rant on the ridiculousness of OEM speedlight prices.)

Adding a Second Light is Cheaper Still

If you are already using a single light kit and want to more fully explore the posibilities of off-camera lighting, my advice is this: forego that next lens or shiny new camera for a little while. Instead, spend way less money and add a second light kit.

The cost to add a second light to your kit (this one based on a LumoPro LP180) is under $200. That includes the light, a stand, a swivel and an umbrella.

Your second light is cheaper than your first light because you already presumably have a trigger and a lighting bag. So you can just optically slave the second light to the first. Which is why you always, always make sure your lights have a built-in slave. Which many overpriced OEM speedlights do not include. (Sorry, encore mini rant...)

With one light, you can enhance the reality of your environment. With two lights, you can create entirely new environments from scratch. And as you'll soon see, you can do it with control and nuance.

NEXT: Shape and Detail


New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
Grab your passport: Strobist Destination Workshops