Lighting equipment can be expensive, confusing, and cumbersome, but it doesn’t have to be. Some of the most interesting and enjoyable lights to use are much cheaper than studio strobes and can unlock real creativity.
The first light I ever bought was a Chinese brand flash gun. I was impressed with everything it could do and I soon bought some modifiers for it. However, I eventually found some limitations. A few years later I bought some cheap studio lights and the same story happened. Eventually, once I was a professional full time, I spent far more on some well-known studio lights and have used them extensively ever since. That said, these lights were typically key lights, and other than attaching unusual modifiers, I didn’t really love using them; they just did a job and they did it well.
My favorite lights over the years haven’t been these one-size-fits-all, easily modified strobes, but niche lights that I don’t get to use for every shoot. I have only used tube lights a few times and have loved each and every use, but they aren’t alone in unconventional lighting. I would also recommend small RGB lights which can dramatically change a scene and dictate the mood.