We’re all shooting more video, but not all of it looks very good. Whether you want to look great for your next Zoom call, YouTube video, or even a Vimeo Record video message, we’ve got some video lighting tips and tricks (plus some helpful gear shoutouts!) to improve the lighting of your next video.

Lighting tips and tricks for shooting video at home

Accomplishing good video lighting doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. Here’s how to light your next video like a pro, regardless of cash flow.

1. Use natural light

When it comes to video lighting, the easiest option is to use the most powerful and cost-effective light source in the world. The sun! When getting ready to shoot anything on camera, let that sun shine directly on that face. This will provide a beautiful, even light that helps hide blemishes and brings out the colors in your eyes.

If the sunlight looks a little harsh on your face, you can use a very sheer white curtain or even a translucent white shower curtain to help soften that light. (It’ll also help keep nosey neighbors out of your business.)

2. DIY a three-point light for low-light rooms

If you want to mimic a more traditional video lighting setup, you can also just keep the window to one side of your face, a set up known as key lighting. The other half of your face needs some light as well, so you’ll need what’s called fill lighting. You can just pop a lamp with a daylight-colored bulb right on the other side of your face to even that out.

If you’re still seeing those unsightly shadows, you should use a bounce to direct light back onto your face. While you can cop a small bounce for just around $10, you can also use a piece of white card stock (Or a pizza box! Even aluminum foil!) to bounce the light from the window back onto your face.

Pro-tip: use silver reflective surfaces — like that foil— to accomplish strong fill light, and use white surfaces for a softer, more natural fill.

3. Try a pair of lamps for night-time shooting

…But what if it’s dark? The solution is actually fairly simple. All you need is two lamps, one on your left and one on your right. If you can, arrange them 45 degrees to either side of your face and raise them to just above your eye line. These two lamps should help minimize the amount of shadows on your face, and should do a good job in evenly lighting you for your next webcam address.

If you make a habit of recording video on your phone, investing in a small ring light attachment makes a huge difference when it comes to looking nice on camera. (And everyone wants that, right?) Here’s a quick rundown of how to set one up:

How to set up a ring light 

  • Set your camera just in front of the light. Generally, ring lights include a mount that let you place your camera just in front of (or in line with) your lighting set-up. But if not, find a ledge or small tripod to stabilize your phone close to the light source.
  • Adjust the light (and camera) so they’re in line with your face. Most ring lights you purchase come with an adjustable stand, which is great. Just make sure you’re the focal point!
  • Place the light just two feet away from your face. This is more of a suggestion rather than a hard and fast rule. The video should look brightest and clearest from this distance, but you might want to play with it a bit to get the effect you’re looking for.

4. Be careful with your backlight 

If you’re gearing up for your next Zoom call, remember that most webcams are equipped with autoexposure, which means that if you’ve got a bright lamp, TV, computer screen, or a window in the background of your video, your camera will focus in on that. That’ll leave you in the shadows, which isn’t ideal unless you’re in the witness protection program.

Take the time to get that light in front of you, instead of behind you! (If you need to do a little furniture arranging to make this happen, we promise, it’s worth it.)

5. Try not to mix your video lighting 

When DIYing your video lighting setup, you might have the urge to combine all the light sources laying around your house. Fight that instinct. Using competing color temperatures (think: warm light from a lamp combined with cool sunlight) can make shots look different as your camera tries to adjust to the new white balances. Daylight color bulbs (5,000-6,000K) are available at most stores but when in doubt, stick with natural lighting.

What’s the best lighting for filming?

While we love a three-point lighting kit, it’s hard to beat the natural lighting the sun gives us. Simply orient yourself so you’re facing the light, then set your camera in front of you (without blocking that precious light!) for a gorgeously lit shot.

The best video lighting tools for every budget

Regardless of how much you have to spend, we’ve got gear recs to take your home filming game up a notch.

Tips for video lighting on zero budget

As we discussed up top, one of the best (and cheapest!) forms of video lighting available to you is sunlight. Gathering a few household items — a gauze-y curtain and a large white poster board — will help you make your footage look even more polished, and should only cost a couple of dollars, max.

Position your desk and chair with the sun right in your face, taking care to make sure your computer or camera doesn’t block your light! Sit on a chair or another flat surface that will put you in line with the rest of the items in your home to make your background look as nice as it can.

Tips for video lighting on a mid-range budget

If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, consider picking up a bounce at your local photography supply store to level up your light fill. We think that the Neewer Photo Studio Lighting Reflector and Stand Kit gets the job done nicely.

As mentioned above, if you’re primarily shooting on your phone, opting for a super flattering ring light is also a good idea. We love the level of control of the Yesker Ring Light, which allows you to adjust color temperature and brightness.

Tips for video lighting on a higher-range budget

If you want to go all out, we suggest investing in a three-point light kit. A three-point light kit consists of a key light, a fill light, and a backlight, and is your best bet for getting high-quality lighting in your own home. We think the GVM RGB LED Video Lighting Kit is an excellent sub-$500 option. You can also pick up lighting gels and diffusers to soften your video lighting and add a splash of color!

Conclusion 

We love a classic three-point lighting setup, but don’t let any equipment limitation keep you from capturing more video. Even if you’ve only got your webcam or phone camera, you can use these tips to keep your videos looking crispy. Happy filming!

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