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How to Light Your Videos Like a Pro – Tips and Tricks

green chroma key screen and lights

If you’ve only started making a video, understanding how lighting works can be tricky. Some people even think that getting proper lighting for your shoot is expensive, too. But the reality is that you don’t need to work with super-advanced equipment to make it work.

There’s no need for fancy pieces of lighting equipment to make a video. All you need to have is to learn a few techniques and a couple of essential equipment, and you’re good to go!

So, to help learn how to achieve a simple and minimalistic approach to lighting, here are a few fun facts that you might want to consider.

Proper lighting techniques

Finding out the right lighting for your video depends on what you need in each scene. That’s why it’s a must to have a keen eye on details to know which areas could use additional lighting. It can be tedious at first. But with a little bit of practice, you’ll soon become much adept in determining which lighting should go in each clip.

Ambient lighting

Finding out the right spot to set up your light stand is crucial in making it work. So, you need to select the right location to film the shots before you even open the light stand. To make things easier for you, you can ask someone to stand in the middle as you walk around with a camera. In that way, not only will you find the perfect shot, but you can also figure out the ambient light that comes with it.

When shooting your subject, it’s best to avoid doing it under overhead lighting. Doing so can cause “raccoon eye” shadowing, which creates visible shadows around the subject’s eyes. To prevent that from happening, you can ask your subject to move a foot away from the light source to avoid the overhead lights from casting the shadows.

Although most people would say that natural light is the perfect light for any shoot, it can sometimes be a problem. For one, you can’t control the amount of light that falls on the scene. So, you need to use various methods to help prevent the light from coming in. One way to do it is by using a seamless paper background to block all the natural light with the roller shades. In that way, you can easily control the light passing through where you need it.

Flat lighting

Another method that you might want to learn is flat lighting. It’s a practical way to eliminate the shadows that appear on the subject’s face. It also appears lighter by effectively taking away the drama from the harsh shadows. Doing so makes the viewers feel that the subject’s sincerity when talking to the screen.

Understanding the basics of light placement

Now that we’ve discussed proper lighting methods, it’s now time to get an in-depth view of light placement. When you’re filming someone, you need to make sure that everyone looks good on screen. That’s why some would even say that good lighting is even more important than the camera setup.

Knowing where to place the lights properly can effectively set the overall mood and tone for each scene. Even more, it can also create a flattering shot, which ensures that your viewers can see what the scene is trying to convey.

Here are the primary video lighting setups that you can consider to help you understand how it works.

Video Lighting Setups

Two or three-point lighting

A three-point lighting setup is the primary lighting framework for most basic filming. As the name implies, you can accomplish it using three different lights:

Key Light: It’s the strongest among the three, which provides most of the light in each scene. It is the light that you usually place in front of the subject for a more cinematic shot. It would be best if you set it around 45-degrees above and 45-degrees to the left or right.

Fill Light: It’s a softer light compared to key light, which only fills the shadows on the subject’s face. So that you can use it to your advantage, you need to put it to the side, which is on the opposite side of the key light. The fill light’s intensity should only be half of what the key light has.

Back Light: The backlight, otherwise known as a rim light, creates an illusion of debt to your subject. It also adds a soft glow in the background, giving it a more refined look on screen. To achieve this, you need to place the light above and behind the subject for a softer glow.

The basics of diffusing light

When a light source becomes too powerful, it tends to make the output look washed out and that the halo effects become a mistake instead of a beautifier. At times like this, having a large round diffuser is a great way to soften the light and make it more natural.

Using a sphere or a bounce card is an excellent way to bounce the light, especially if you don’t have a complete light kit handy. Aside from softening the intense light, you can also put it next to the subject so it can fill any shadows with light. This way, you only need to use two lights to help illuminate the subject.

Light Source

Perhaps one of the easiest topics to understand when it comes to proper lighting is the light source. To simply put it, the larger the light source that you use, the softer the light will be on screen. So, when the light is softer, the result will become more flattering.

One way to achieve a softer light is by using a diffusion material and place it in front of your light. You can also use a reflector or a piece of white poster board to bounce a smaller light source. Another way to tinker your light source is by using fluorescent bulbs. These light bulbs typically emit a softer light compared to the LED bulbs you often see in the store.

Color Temperature

If you found the light source discussion to be easy, then understanding color temperature might be the exact opposite. You see, understanding color temperature can be a tad bit complicated because of the different light sources that we have available nowadays. So, to make things easier, here are a few commonly used light sources and their color temperature:

  •         Incandescent bulbs: 2700K: Warm
  •         Office fluorescents: 4200K: Cool
  •         Daylight: 5600K: Cool

When using your camera for filming or taking photos, it’s essential not to use the auto white balance when taking shots. Doing so will only wash out some images, making it look more amateurish. It would also be best to make sure that the scene’s color temperature matches the lighting you’re using to appear more natural.

Best lighting equipment

There are several factors that you need to consider when choosing the right lighting equipment. Traditionally, video lights can be incredibly bright and hot at the same time. People who aren’t used to it can often feel intimidated, too!

Fortunately, there are several options these days that are less powerful and don’t produce as much heat. When combined, you can even use it to make your DSLR cameras perform well even in low-lighting conditions!

Primary types of light

Fluorescent Soft Lights: otherwise known as cool lights, these fluorescent lights are the primary standard for soft fluorescent lighting– except that it’s significantly cheaper. It’s excellent for flooding light, especially on a group of people. You can even dim it down when focusing on a single subject, too.

LED Ice Lights: LED Ice light is a daylight-balanced light that runs on battery and even doubles as a cool lightsaber! What’s impressive about it is that you can bring it anywhere you need since it runs on battery.

Ring Lights: Ring lights are probably one of the most common gadgets that you can find online. But aside from helping you take beautiful selfies; ring lights can also be a great tool when taking videos. That’s because it produces a soft light that can flatter anyone’s face. However, you need to be wary when wearing glasses because the reflection and glare can be distracting.

Skylux: Another lighting that you can consider is the Skylux. It’s nearly identical to a 1000W incandescent light but has dimmable and daylight-balanced features. Although it can be very harsh if you’re not using any diffusion, it can be ideal for those who don’t mind any shadows behind their subject.

Reflector/Bounce: Meanwhile, if you want something that you can use to maximize your already-existing artificial light, getting a reflector is a practical choice. You can even use it to its full advantage when paired with a bright light and held close to the subject.

Clamp lights: Another lighting option suitable for both beginners and professionals is clamp lights. Not only are they versatile, but they’re easy on the pockets too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a dimming control function, so there are times when the lighting can be harsh.

Studio lighting kits: For those who have a bit of a budget for their lights, a $100- $500 studio lights can do the trick. They often use large fluorescent lights to illuminate the subject while reducing the shadows in the scene. It even comes with a diffusion material to fully utilize the light.

Video lighting kit options: Although video lighting kit options are the most expensive ones on the list, single light can be as effective as a whole mid-range kit because of its features. That’s because most video lighting kit options have functions that you can only find in these fancy devices. It can include wireless control, better diffusion, and even access to full range dimmers.

Lighting on the Fly: Lastly, if you don’t want to spend much on lights, you can always use whatever’s available. The ring light is the perfect example of Lighting on the Fly since it’s the most adaptable light on the list. You can use it any way that you want whenever you need to do a shoot. You see, when you look at a light source differently, you instantly open up to various ways of using the light that you already have.

Incredible ways to use video lighting

Now that we’ve discussed the primary types of light available, it’s now time to move on to the next task to utilize your lighting equipment to its full advantage. So, here are a few practical ways to help you get good lighting in your content.

Tip #1: Use your night lamp

If you’re planning to shoot indoors at night, one of the best light sources to use is a lamp. You don’t need an expensive one to make it work. All you need to have is an inexpensive lamp to give you the perfect lighting that you need. Ensure that you use a material to diffuse the light and reduce the harsh shadows.

Tip #2: Look for a shady area

The sun’s rays can be harsh, especially during midday. So, when you’re doing shoots outside, it’s best to steer away from direct sunlight. Doing so will cause overwhelming shadows during the shoot. Even more, shooting in direct sunlight could cost you to squint, leading to losing a couple of shots while filming.

Tip #3: Avoid using mixed video lighting

The mixing of video lighting can be overwhelming as it can affect the color temperatures in your shot. So, you need to make sure that the lights that you’re using have the same color temperature to prevent any competing colors from destroying the color balance.

Tip #4: Use a streetlamp

Shooting outdoors, especially at night can be a challenge. You need to utilize everything that you have around you to ensure that you get the best lighting possible when doing a shoot. And what better way to do it than with a streetlamp. It’s a great source of light, especially when you’re doing a couple of shoots outdoors. However, when you do this, don’t go too far underneath the lamp as this can cast long shadows on your face.