6 Great Lighting Upgrades for the Budget Minded Photographer

Lighting is such a major part of photography; whether artificial or natural, knowing how to use it, harness it, and bend it to your will is a key milestone in improving and growing as a photographer.You could easily spend $1,000+ on the most advanced ultra professional lighting setups that come with all the bells as whistles, but the reality is that even with a much more frugal budget you can create incredible images.

Today we are going to take a look at some great lighting options for photographers looking to  make the most of their budgets while improving their lighting ability. As always, these are items that we have reviewed ourselves so we can recommend them to you in full confidence. So lets just get started.

Flashpoint Xplor600 Monolight

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Adorama Flashpoint Xplor600 monolight product images (1 of 8)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 2.8

 

In our in-progress review we had the following to say about the Flashpoint Xplor600 Monolight:

“At this point in the game, if you’ve been trying to figure out which TTL monolight to purchase, then the Adorama Flashpoint Xplor600 monolight isn’t exactly going to make life any easier. In a photography world with options from Profoto, Interfit, and Phottix you’re already quite confused about what to go with. But now you’ve got a very affordable option. “Read Our Full Review Here

Monolights are honestly pretty overkill for a lot of you out there, but for those looking to get into these advanced TTL capable Monolights you will not find a more capable – yet budget friendly (considering the pricing of comparable units) option on the market right now.

Grab an Flashpoint Xplor600 Monolight over on Amazon now for $549.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Adorama Flashpoint Xplor600 monolight sample extras (7 of 12)ISO 1001-2000 sec at f - 2.0

 

Godox Thinklite TT685S Speedlight

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Godox Thinklite TT685S TTL product photos (4 of 13)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 2.0

In our in-progress review we had the following to say about the Godox Thinklite TT685S Speedlight:

“Let me state this: there isn’t a single reason why this flash shouldn’t receive the Editor’s choice award. The Godox Thinklite TT686S TTL flash is reliable, compact, and simply works. Not only that but it gives the user a whole load of options. You can do slow sync with Sony, second curtain flash, first curtain, it doesn’t matter. You’ll get it and more importantly you’ll get it at a damned affordable price point.”Read Our Full Review Here

Unless you absolutely need to incredible power output of a Monolight, for most of you a speedlight is likely much more within your budget and easier to learn all around. The Godox Thinklite TT685s is certainly more expensive than the popular Yongnuo brand speedlights, but as far as everything goes, this is one of your best options out there for lighting on the go. We reviewed the Sony version, but it does also come in TTL versions for Canon and Nikon.

Grab an Godox Thinklite TT685S Speedlight on Amazon now for ~$120.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Godox Thinklite TT685S TTL flash sample images (2 of 3)ISO 2001-320 sec at f - 4.0

 

Shanny SN600EX-RF Speedlight

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Shanny SNEX600-EF product images (6 of 12)ISO 4001-320 sec at f - 2.0

 

In our in-progress review we had the following to say about the Shanny SN600EX-RF Speedlight:

“Does Shanny have some advantages over the Phottix, Canon and Yongnuo systems? It sure as heck does and it mostly has to do with the simplicity and the integration into Canon’s system on top of the automatic HSS. It’s quite good and the radio transmission is more reliable than Phottix and Yongnuo. That’s not to say that the others are bad at all; they’re not. But I consistently never had a problem with the Shanny products.”Read Our Full Review Here

Shanny isn’t as well known as Phottix or Yongnuo, and this unit isn’t nearly as good of a deal as the Godox mentioned above, but for those with a bit more room in the budget the Shanny SN600EX-RF is an absolutely excellent speedlight unit with a built in wireless 2.4Ghz transceiver.

Grab an Shanny SN600EX-RF Speedlight on Amazon now for ~$200.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Shanny EX600 EF flash samples (4 of 5)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 1.8

 

Aperlite YH-700C Speedlight

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Aperlite YH-700C flash review images (3 of 10)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 1.8

In our in-progress review we had the following to say about the Aperlite YH-700C Speedlight:

“The Aperlite YH-700C is a decent flash for the photographer not reaching for higher fruit. But if you’re the type of person who will beat your flash up and constantly need to replace it or a weekend warrior that just wants to shoot for fun, then this is the flash for you. But if you’re anything more than that, then look elsewhere.”Read Our Full Review Here

On the extremely affordable end of the spectrum, there are speedlight units like this Aperlite YH-700C, they work, provide you the valuable lighting you need to improve your imagery, but aren’t incredibly reliable for extended/extreme use, and aren’t going to win any awards for durability. However, as noted in our review, if you only use flash occasionally, or just need an inexpensive unit that won’t be expensive to replace, this is a great option for you.

Grab an Aperlite YH-700C Speedlight on Amazon now for ~$99.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Aperlite YH-700C flash review images (1 of 10)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.5

 

Magmod’s Magsphere

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Magmod flash modifier review images magsphere product photos (1 of 8)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 4.0

 

In our in-progress review we had the following to say about the Magmod’ Magsphere:

“The Magmod Magsphere is a very fun and very useful flash modifier that we think may change the way that manufacturers create their products. It’s a great item for photographers using small flashes and that can’t carry around a large softbox. But it surely isn’t a replacement either. However, it wouldn’t hurt for most strobists to have one in their camera bag.”Read Our Full Review Here

Moving into the lighting modifier arena, for those who maybe already have some actual lighting that they are happy with. Magmod’s system is honestly one of the best investments you can make as a speedlight shooter and their Magsphere is no exception. It won’t replace a full size softbox but in a pinch or location where a softbox is not possible, it makes for a great alternative.

Grab an Magmod Magsphere Speedlight on Amazon now for ~$125.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Magmod flash modifier review images magsphere other images from fuji (5 of 5)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.8

 

ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Expoimaging Rogue FlashBender Extra Large Soft Silver product images (6 of 9)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.8

 

In our in-progress review we had the following to say about the ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro:

“Photographers have loved the Flash Benders for a very long time due to how they bend light. They’re a staple for wedding and event photographers, but when the Extra Large came, out, they started to break more into the off-camera flash realm.”Read Our Full Review Here

This is another great option for speedlight shooters looking to improve the quality and look of their light when shooting on the go – both on camera or off camera (though we almost always recommend off if you can help it).

Grab an ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro on Amazon now for ~$60.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Expoimaging Rogue Flashbender soft silver portraits of Anna (9 of 12)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 3.5

What are your thoughts on these budget (relative) friendly lighting upgrades? What would you add to this list?

Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.