If you really want to take your photography to the next level, you'll probably want to consider investing in a studio lighting kit. Studio lights come in many forms, but entry-level kits either use continuous or flash lighting.
The advantage of studio lights is that you can control the light far more easily, as the lights can be moved around. In addition, the light is far less harsh than with an on-camera flashgun, as it can be softened with various accessories.
However, studio lighting isn't cheap! Listed below are the most cost effective options for the best studio lighting kits for beginners.
Interfit is a respected name in continuous lighting. This kit uses tungsten lightbulbs which are either "on" or "off," so, be warned, this type of lighting runs very hot. The kit comes with two lights, stands, and white umbrellas to soften and control the light. Each light provides 500 watts of power.
This is an extremely cheap kit in lighting terms, but it provides surprisingly good results. The only real disadvantage is that it doesn't come with a bag in which to carry the kit, and the umbrellas feel a little on the flimsy side.
Another continuous lighting kit, this Photoflex kit is slightly more expensive than the Interfit one. However, it is slightly more sturdy and comes with reflectors, as well as black and silver umbrellas. This allows for setting up a wider range of shots. Each light provides 250 watts of power.
This kit generally receives excellent feedback, although it can be a little tricky to assemble the first time!
Monolights are flash lights, and this means that they only come on when the shot is fired. Most kits, including this one, come with modeling lights. These are just normal tungsten lights which give the photographer an indication of how bright the lighting will be and what areas it will cover. Care must be taken not to touch the flash tube itself, as this could cause it to blow.
This kit comes with two lights, stands, bag, sync cord, and softboxes. Softboxes provide a lovely soft, even light, and they are particularly good for portraiture. This is a great little kit, and if you can afford the extra money, I'd recommend you buy monolights as you can control how much light they emit. This kit isn't massively powerful, however.
These are a big step up from the other kits, which is reflected in the price. But Elinchrom is one of the most respected studio lighting kit manufacturers, and these lights really are brilliant. The kit consists of two lights, stands, bag, stand bag, reflectors, softboxes, a DVD guide, and a built-in wireless receiver, which allows for wireless triggering.
The lights can be adjusted in 1/10 stops, are 200 watts each, and have a cooling fan, which prevents them from getting too hot. This is a serious piece of kit for photographers who want to make some money from their photography.