Portable 1 - you shoot indoors, but not in one steady location
Portable 2 - you shoot where ever, not always having access to AC power
Portable 3 - thinking of using hot shoe mountable flashes for size and power issues
Assuming you are thinking of strobes rather then hot lights . . .
What is your $$$$ range?
Personally, I started with an Alien Bee on craigs list, picked up a softbox on ebay, and started learning. I can't knock it.
I also picked up a set of the "chinese lights" you see on ebay for around $300 bucks for the set of 3 lights, backdrops, etc.
I've also rented from Penn Camera for a "Battery powered shoot"
So, what are you looking to do?
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