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Getting the Perfect Lighting for Your Video

By: Olivia Slade-Silovic | January 30th, 2013

Setting up a video studio in your office can be intimidating – especially when you’re on a tight budget. Luckily, you can enhance the quality of your videos with one simple trick: lighting.

Oftentimes, many people mistakenly believe that shooting with a better camera will give them better footage. What they don’t realize is that shooting with a super high definition camera will actually do more to enhance the imperfections in your shot rather than improve them.

The biggest difference in taking shots from so-so to fantastic footage isn’t what you’re shooting with, it’s the lighting.

Bad lighting is the reason your videos look crappy

Whether you are recording on a webcam or the best camera on the market, it’s a fact that all cameras produce better-looking videos when there is a good light source.

Ideally, you want to position yourself in front of soft lighting. By seating yourself in front of indirect light, the shadows in your video will be barely visible.

A good example of this is an overcast day.

If you’re just starting out, lighting your video can be a bit tricky.

We’ll walk you through the most important factors to consider when it comes to making lighting decisions.

Different types of lighting

Natural Light

The sun is the best source of natural light for outdoor videos. However, it does come with challenges.

Try to avoid making videos when the sun is directly overhead as it will create harsh shadows across your subject’s face. The best time of day for outdoor videos is mid-morning or mid-afternoon, when the sun isn’t as bright. Cloudy or hazy days will provide a softer, more even light source than the sun but often require additional lighting to keep the subject from appearing too flat against the background.

Artificial Light

There are four commonly used bulb types:

  • Incandescent
  • Halogen
  • LED
  • Fluorescent

Each bulbs has advantages and disadvantages, so use the ones that best fit your situation and budget.

Three Point Lighting

One of the best ways to light a subject is the “three point” lighting method. This involves placing 3 lights at specific locations around your subject with varying degrees of intensity to create a well-lit and natural look.

Common lighting setups

Sometimes, some of the most engaging videos use a simple lighting setup. Many of them just use natural light.

Leave the fancy stuff to the pros.

We’re giving you the recipe for the most classic, and reliable, “three point” lighting setup. Here’s what you’ll need:

Key Light

This is your main light source and is usually placed off to one side of the camera. From this position, it should light about 2/3 of your subject’s face.

The reason this light is not placed directly in front of the subject, is to create some definition to the edges of the subject’s face and shoulders.

Lighting placed straight on to the subject will flatten out their features. This gives the video an overexposed look.

Fill Light

Once in place, the key light will create dark shadows on the portion of the face not fully lit. The fill light “fills” in the shadows. However, it doesn’t completely erase them, giving the subject a more natural appearance.

You can accomplish this by placing the light source at a similar 45-degree angle on the opposite side of the camera. This will diminish the intensity of the light. It is best to use a lower wattage bulb or to move the light farther away from the subject. A neutral density gel can be placed in front of the bulb as another way to soften light intensity.

Backlight

Key and fill lights give an overall even light to your subject, but fail to differentiate them from the background.

This results in a smooth and uninteresting look.

To make your subject pop a bit, you’ll want to add a backlight. Place your light behind the subject. Raise it and tilt it to a slight angle so that the light flows over the subject but not into the camera lens. The object is to create a soft glow around the head and shoulders as well as a bit of dimension on one side of the face. Try using a lower intensity light here to avoid a harsh look.

Simple lighting techniques

Let your lighting set the mood.

A few easy tools can help you set the scene:

Shine light through a light diffusion sheet to soften the look of your subject.
Use a bounce card to help you achieve a highlighted glow and even out the quality of the light.
Intensify your background light to create warm radiance around your subject.

The bottom line

Be creative!

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to produce high quality videos from your webcam.

Lighting can be handled with items you already have around the house. Household lamps can work wonders for your lighting setup. If you want to step it up a notch, you could always pick up some cheap supplies from the hardware store.
You can achieve an awesome setup, with or without a large budget.

Don’t underestimate the power of a killer lighting setup and how it can transform your video quality!