Budget-Friendly Studio Lights! Great Results for Less than a R1,000!


Budget-Friendly Studio Lights! Great Results for Less than a R1,000!


As far as studio lights are concerned, there are many-many-many options available out there to pick from. Some expensive — some not so much.  If you’re in the “I-want-to-do-studio-but-I-can’t-afford-expensive-stuff-or-I-am-not-that-serious” bracket, then we’ve got something just for you! CameraStuff’s range of E27 LED bulbs.  However, before you jump in, there are a few things to know first.


Example of the ML-40w LED E27 Bulb


These LED bulbs are better than traditional fluorescent spiral bulbs for a number of good reasons. Longer lifespan, better light efficiency and superior build quality (plastic vs. glass). To use these bulbs you need the right holder. We recommend this fella’, the Swivel E27 Holder with Umbrella Mount.

What’s the quality of light like? Great — but not bright. Continuous lights, in general, are not as bright as flashes/strobes.  You will most likely need to use a high ISO number, big aperture or slow shutter-speed to compensate for the lack light.

You may also have to position your light quite close to your subject to get the most out of it — about 1 meter or 1.5 meters at most. This means that these lights are best used for portraits and not full-length body shots.


Photos by Nazeem Ryklief using 40 LED Bulb + Umbrella Softbox

Photos by Nazeem Ryklief using CameraStuff’s 40w E27 LED Bulb and Umbrella Softbox

“It’s important that people understand that these LEDs are nowhere near powerful enough to replace studio strobes, but it definitely has its purpose, especially when crafting lights” — Nazeem Ryklief


Another thing to keep in mind is that  LED bulbs are not as modifiable as strobes or flashes. You’re pretty much limited to using only umbrellas (when using a holder such as the  Swivel E27 Holder with Umbrella Mount ) or just the bare light. There’s no way to mount studio softboxes, beauty dishes, spot grids, barn-doors and snoots etc. unless you McGuyver some DIY solution.

So, we can say that these lights create some awesome results, but you’d need to be mindful of the limited light output and the lack of options in regards to modifiability.  However, if you can manage to work around all of that, then these LED bulbs will prove to be great additions to your studio!


Using the LED bulbs

Which of the bulbs do you need to buy? I’d always recommend the brighter one. The ML-40w LED is a full-stop brighter than the ML-20w LEDThis gives a bit of playroom in regards to your camera settings.  The ML-12w LED is hardly usable on its own — proving to be close to 3 full stops less bright than the 40w.


Which umbrella is best to use?

Shoot through? White or silver reflective? What about umbrella softbox? So many choices, so little time!   Unfortunately, there is no “best” umbrella. It all depends on how you want to craft the light. Do you want soft light or a hard light? Do you want a flat light or a contrasty light? Decisions, decisions.

Let’s put some of them to the test, shall we? I took some photos of the ever-popular (and ever-breaking) Carmen doll using a single 40w LED Bulb,  Swivel E27 Holder with Umbrella Mount and a variety of different umbrellas.


The light was position 1 meter away from the subject.


Do you have a favourite yet? Each of the umbrellas produces a different result. You can see some big changes and some incredibly faint changes between each one. Choosing which one to use depends on the “look” you want to create.

In addition to the different qualities of light, you’ll also notice that I had to change my settings quite a bit.  I lost a bit of light with the majority of umbrellas used except for the silver reflective umbrella. The silver reflective umbrella gave me an extra full-stop of light to use!