The setup I use for my action figure photography (and which would be great for those who live stream or spend time on Zoom, Teams, etc.) is simple, affordable, and works extremely well.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get good results.
I am using the Impact Large Magnet Grip Mount with 50mm Stud and 6″ Baby Pin Adapter Kit ($39.95) – one Impact Telescoping Tabletop Light Stands $34.95 – Raya Bi-Color Round LED Panel 2-Light Kit (comes with two diffusers that can be removed – two AC adapters for wall power and two LED lights) for $159.00. (The LED lights also run off two NPF batteries which are not included.)
I have lots of lights. But they all have different use cases. Despite the fact that I have some VERY expensive, professional quality studio LEDs that cost thousands of dollars each, sometimes it’s easier just to break out something small and less fussy to work with.
My professional lights are no doubt more robust (better for traveling to gigs) and maybe slightly more color accurate (slightly) but based on what they cost v. what the Raya kit costs, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy the Raya kit if all I wanted to do was work in my studio.
I’ll describe all this gear in some detail so you can understand how I use it.
Let’s start with the lights. There are two of them in the kit and you can use them in a number of creative ways. One could be a backlight and the other a key. One could be a fill and the other a key. You could recreate sunlight at Noon by bouncing one or both off a ceiling down onto your table top. The possibilities are limited by your own creativity.
I used two of these lights for the Batman action figure photos depicted in this article. Here are the specs on the lights:
The round form factor is ideal for interviews and portraits as compared to square LED lights, and the light reflects natural-looking catchlights in your subject’s eyes. When using square or cube lights, the light won’t seem as natural and it’s very important if you want to use these for Zoom calls. You want a round catchlight in the eyes, not a square or rectangular one.
The light falls off naturally – more like the sun.
B&H includes a diffuser. It softens the bright LEDs providing a single-shadow, with wraparound light quality. Of course the closer you get the light to your subject, the softer that will be.
There are 400 LEDs in each light that output an impressive 1200 Lux at 3′ which is great for discreet lighting in interviews or webcasts or for close-in product, still-life or general table-top photography. Color reproduction was remarkably accurate and according to the manufacturer the light has a TLCI of 99 and a CRI of 96.8. I didn’t bother to test this claim with any special equipment but to my naked eye, I believe the claim.
There are numerous ways to mount these lights. There is a removable 5/8″ receiver that is compatible with all industry-standard light stands. The 90° tilt and 360° swivel make for optimal positioning. The receiver has an integrated umbrella mount for modifiers. It has a quarter/20 mount on one side and 5/8 mount on the other.
You can run these lights off batteries, but the batteries are not included. The 100 to 240V fixture is ready for worldwide use via its included AC adapter is included.
What I like about the AC power option is the cords are VERY long and there’s no need for extension cords which is both safer and more convenient.
There is an optional, wireless, remote control. I tested it and it works but for my personal use case, it’s not necessary since I am working close to the table-top and can easily adjust the light’s color and power output. But if you mount this on a wall behind your computer for Zoom calls, the remote would be handy.
The light quality and quantity is beyond what I expected at this price point. These lights are made of plastic so I don’t think I’d travel with them but I have no doubt they will last a long time as long as I leave them mounted in my studio.
You can adjust the color temperature with one knob, the light intensity (or brightness) with another and a simple on/off switch. I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying these. I’ll probably buy a pair for my Zoom setup too.
I used two stands – one of them quite unusual. It’s metal with a giant magnet and it was strong enough for me to mount the Raya light to my C-stand just by using the magnet.
The Large Magnet Grip Mount with 50mm Stud and 6″ Baby Pin Adapter Kit combines the Impact Large Magnet Grip Mount base with a pair of standard mounting adapters that will allow a wide variety of lighting units and other accessories to be quickly and securely mounted.
I am not sure how much weight the magnet will hold, but it held the Raya light for me. B&H has this disclaimer on their website – TWICE – so I suspect it’s important that you read it…
“The MGM-100s weight capacity varies depending on the type of mounting surface. Always test the mount’s ability to securely hold your equipment before use.”
B&H says the stand is fixed with powerful rare-earth magnets that have a pull resistance of up to 100 pounds, so grip gear, camera mounts, and other gear will be secure and won’t slip out of place. (Don’t confused weight capacity with pull resistance. Those are two different things. This will not hold 100 pounds.)
The 5.3″ diameter base features a rubber coating that adds traction and resists scratching or damaging the surface it’s mounted on so I also just used it as a light stand that mounted flat on the table. The advantage of using it that way is that it’s small and short and easy to move around to get just the effect you are looking for.
This kit also comes with one 50mm-long Female Threaded 3/8″ to Male 5/8″ Stud Adapter from Impact. This adapter will give you additional mounting options resulting in faster set-ups. The bottom of the adapter features a 3/8″ threaded opening for attaching to the 3/8″ screw on a light stand or other item. With the adapter attached to a stand, you can mount a light or other gear with a 5/8″ receiver. For strength and durability, the adapter is made of chrome-plated steel. And at only 3.2 oz, it is easy to pack one for each light or stand.
They also throw in a 6″ Baby Pin with Collar 1/4 and 3/8″ Tap is a 6″ baby pin with a collar and a tap on each end. The collar prevents the baby pin from slipping through a grip clamp and the 1/4 and 3/8″ threaded sockets provide extra attachment points for lighting accessories. The 6″ Baby Pin with Collar is constructed out of steel to be reliable and sturdy.
The other stand I used is also quite unusual – it’s their tabletop Light Stand from Impact. You mount it to a desk and it goes from 12.6 to 22″ high in three sections that securely hold up to 22lbs.
A receiver at the top of the stand holds a 5/8″ stud for mounting gear in the traditional way, but one side of the stud has 1/4″-20 male threads and the other has 3/8″-16 male threads to offer the provision of attaching a microphone, an extension arm, or a mini ball head. Finally, the receiver allows you to mount the stud vertically as is commonly done, or horizontally through holes tapped in the receiver to give extra tilt to your light fixture.
The stand has many features like the two-way stud that can be mounted vertically in the traditional way or at 90 degrees through holes tapped in the receiver to give your light fixture added tilt capability. The stud also has 1/4″-20 male threads at one end and 3/8″-16 male threads at the other for a microphone or ball head.
I tested this setup for more than an hour doing table-top photography of action figures and it worked like a champ. The magnet held for the entire session. The light stayed strong and steady and the color didn’t drift. Overall, for the money, I gotta say I am super impressed.
In case you’re curious, I got the background set from https://extreme-sets.com – Note the cool shadow I got from the LED light. I made the sample Batman images with my iPhone 13 Pro – mounted in a Platypod Platyball – Small Rig Global cage, Platypod Disc to secure it to the ballhead, and I used the FiLMiC Pro Firstlight Camera App to set the shot. Oh and mounted to an Oben CFT-6394 Skysill 4-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod. Great tools make this so much fun!
So many photographers wait to have fun when they don’t need to. These tools are more than up to the job and waiting until you can afford the super “pro” stuff that costs thousands of dollars more won’t make you a better photographer.
Heck I have 30 or more lights available in my studio but for table-top work, this set is just too easy so why mess with anything else?
Don’t let small budgets hold you back. Give this a try. Tell me how it works for you and if nothing else, it will help you look really good on your next Zoom call!