When it comes to creating video content, never underestimate the importance of lighting. Lighting provides a powerful tool to enhance, highlight, or even hide certain content while filming.
If you want the best video lighting, you’ll need to learn about types of lighting and how to work with your environment.
This article will cover how to choose the best lighting for your videos, so you’ll learn how to get things set up. Plus, you’ll get some pro tips to achieve professional video lighting quality for your content, even on a budget.
Why Video Lighting Matters
Office fluorescence, dark lighting, underexposure, overexposure—These scenarios scream amateur (and are painful to watch, literally). Viewers will certainly close any YouTube or social media video that strains the eyes, no matter how creative, funny, or informative the content.
The best video lighting looks natural while accentuating the positive features of your subject. You can achieve this by using natural sunlight (more on that later) or by using the right video lighting equipment in a controlled environment.
Like anything, it takes practice to get your lighting technique perfect. When you understand key lighting concepts, know-how different types of lights function in a video shoot and have a clear idea of how you should position your lights in relation to the camera and your subject, you can create professional video lighting your viewers will appreciate.
How To Choose the Best Lighting for Videos
New to video lighting? We’ll walk you through the different aspects that impact lighting. Eventually, you’ll find it easy to experiment and figure out the best video lighting for your recording.
Video Lighting Concepts You Need to Know
Up until now, your experience with lighting may only go as far as flipping a switch up or down when you enter or leave a room. There's so much more to how lighting works and how you can use it to produce quality content!
These four lighting concepts are key to getting the best video lighting. You should learn more about them before even considering a lighting kit:
1. The Importance of Color Temperature
You've experienced color temperatures already, even if you didn't realize it. Think about the last time you visited a hospital or office building. You can probably imagine the blinding, fluorescent lighting used in these settings, an example of a "cool" type of bulb. Now, compare that to a bedside table lamp or candlelight. This cozier type of "warm" lighting has more yellow than the white lighting used in offices and hospitals.
Lighting temperature is measured in kelvins on a scale of 1000K to 10,000K. The lower end of the scale is warm light, with candlelight representing the warmest light on the spectrum. On the other end, a clear blue sky stands out as the coldest type of light during the day.
You can choose either warm or cool lighting for your video. To get the best video lighting, make sure that all the lights share the same color temperature. Mixing color temperatures by having different types of bulbs in different lights will result in poor lighting quality.
2. Understand Your Light Source
Your light source determines a lot about how you film and when you film. With natural lighting from the sun, you'll have to plan accordingly and understand how the sun's movement will affect your video shoot. Artificial lighting works great for YouTube video lighting as it gives you a lot of control over your video shoot. You’ll also have more flexibility when it comes to where and when you can record.
3. The Size of Your Video Lighting Matters
The size of your light source and physical specifications of your video lighting equipment (like light stands) affect how your camera picks up light. For example, the width of the beam from your light source will determine whether you record video using soft lighting or hard lighting. You’ll want to look for video lighting kits that allow you to adjust to either soft or hard lighting.
You should also consider the size and features of the lighting kit equipment. If you plan to move your lighting pieces around a lot, pay attention to their size and mobility. You don't want to have your video production held up for an extended period because of adjusting the lighting setup. If you plan on recording in a studio or at a computer, make sure that your light will physically fit your recording space.
4. Hard Light vs. Soft Light
Hard light or soft light? That is the question. Choosing between the two will affect the angle and harshness of the light in your video recording. Here’s how it works (and when to use each):
What is soft light?
Soft light is created by using a large light source and placing the light source close to the subject while filming. This type of lighting produces soft edges that wrap around the filming subject. You can increase your light's softness by steepening the angle between your subject and your light source.
Soft lighting does not cast shadows, so it can supplement other lights without creating additional shadows in your shot. It also reduces the shadows cast by other sources in your video lighting setup. Generally, you'll want to use soft lighting as much as you can, especially because it provides a more flattering light source when filming people.
What is hard light?
A smaller light source used farther away from your subject will create hard light, which has more clearly defined shadows. Generally, you won't want to use hard light on its own, but rather work it into your lighting setup so that it can complement other lighting. You can experiment with combining soft light and hard light to get natural-looking lighting that doesn't have visible shadows created by artificial lighting.
What Are the Different Types of Video Lighting?
Key light, fill light, backlight—Let’s talk about the different types of lights and how to make the most of each to get the best video lighting for your shoots.
The key light gives the brightest of all of the light sources in your setup. For the best results, set up the key light in front of your subject at an angle.
Your fill light provides a softer light, about half the intensity of your key light. Your fill light eliminates shadows created by your key light. You can play around with the intensity of your fill light, but avoid positioning it too close to the intensity of your key light, as this will result in a flat-looking shot.
A backlight creates depth in your shot by separating your subject from the background. Your backlight should be around the same intensity as your fill light or a little less intense. Place the backlight either behind or above the subject.
How Do You Set Up Video Lighting?
How you arrange your lighting will depend on two things: whether you use natural or artificial light (or a combination of the two) and how many lights you have available.
Using Indoor Lighting vs. Outdoor Lighting When Filming Videos
Filming indoors versus outdoors will have a huge impact on your lighting setup, so make sure you have a clear idea of where you plan to film before you begin.
Filming Using Natural Light
You’ll want to adapt your techniques when using natural light, whether filming outside or indoors with a lot of windows. We suggest scoping out the setting in advance so you can plan ahead. Natural lighting isn’t easy to control or predict. Observe the lighting at that time of day to see how the sun moves over the space and how this affects the lighting.
While filming with natural light, use the following techniques to harness the power of the sun:
- Use a neutral density filter on your camera lens to reduce brightness while maintaining your exposure.
- Find a natural way to diffuse and soften sunlight. Film under a tree or a shaded area.
- Use a reflector to redirect sunlight. A reflector will allow you to soften the sunlight and direct it where you want it in your shot.
Filming Using Artificial Light
When using artificial light, the number of cameras will determine your video lighting setup. Imagine the face of a clock: put your subject at the center of the clock and your camera at the 6. Then you can play around with the following artificial lighting setups:
YouTubers and video streamers favor this traditional lighting scheme because it's easy to adjust and works great when one person speaks into the camera. To set up three-point lighting, place your key light at the four on a clock's face. Place your fill light at eight. Then place your background light somewhere around one or two. Adjust your backlight as necessary between these two points to figure out what works best for your shot.
You can create professional video lighting with only two lights. You'll just have to sacrifice having a backlight. In this scenario, place your lights at four and eight of the clock face. This positioning will give you even lighting, and you won't get any shadows in your shot, although you may sacrifice some depth.
Video Lighting With One Light
If your budget only allows for one light, we recommend investing in a quality ring light and placing it directly behind your camera while recording. Many online influencers and content creators get great lighting for their videos using this method.
The Best Video Lighting Kit For Every Budget
Video Lighting on a Budget
If you don’t have any money to spend on lighting, natural light is your best friend! It may take a little time and practice to get used to. But you can still achieve quality video without spending money on artificial light.
That said, if you have a little money to spend, we recommend Limostudio’s Continuous Lighting Kit. It comes with three lights that create a three-point setup and includes accessories like adjustable light stands, a reflector, and a carrying case—a great option for beginners just learning lighting basics.
Mid-Range Video Lighting
The Interfit F5 Three-Head Fluorescent Lighting Kit is an excellent choice if you have a bit more money in your budget to spend on your video lighting equipment. This light kit comes with three lights, including one with a boom arm that you can use as an overhead light for your backlight. All of the lights and light stands are easily adjustable, which simplifies finding the best lighting angles.
High-End Video Lighting
With the GVM RGB LED Studio 3-Light Video Light Panel Kit, you get three lights and an array of accessories you can use to perfect your lighting technique. Along with light stands, you also get light filters, a-frame diffusers, three sets of barn doors, and a carrying case.