Lighting Tips for More Professional Looking Videos

Lighting Yourself on Camera

Here’s the thing about lighting, it doesn’t just affect picture quality. It also sets the mood and tone for any video you’re creating. So, if you’re looking for tips on how to use camera lighting to your advantage, this episode of The Visual Lounge is a good place to start.

Matt Pierce, TechSmith’s Learning and Video Ambassador, delves into everything you need to know, from using natural and artificial lighting to how to get good lighting on a budget.

It’s an episode packed with useful information that’ll bring you one step closer to mastering video lighting.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

Why is video lighting so important?

Matt kicks things off by saying that the right lighting goes a long way to make your video quality better, even if you’re working with a low-quality camera. If that doesn’t highlight the importance of camera lighting right off the bat, then nothing will.

But there’s more to good lighting than just improving overall picture quality. It also has a huge effect on the overall mood and tone of a video.

The most important thing to remember? Your camera loves light.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a DSLR camera or a budget webcam. Cameras are built to take in light to help make the camera’s vision clearer and crisper.

Can you have too much light?

Short answer, yes. Using lighting in videos is all about finding that sweet spot that’ll highlight the subject in the most flattering way possible.

Having too much light does the opposite of that. While some parts of the picture may look fine, the subject may lose some of its crispness or even go out of focus.

Matt’s solution:

Experiment and tweak things a little until you hit that sweet spot.

What to do when you have no lights?

Before backlights and fill lights, people relied on good old mother nature for their on-screen lighting. Luckily, that method still works today, but it comes with one big downside – unpredictability.

Sadly, we can’t change the weather.

One rule of thumb Matt has when using natural lighting is that you have to think carefully about positioning. Let’s say the light is streaming in through your window, you should be facing the window as opposed to having your back to it.

Why? Well, when you’re facing the window, you could find your shot has too much light and your image becomes distorted.

But positioning isn’t the only thing to consider when dealing with natural light. Weather conditions play a huge role too.

You might think you’d get better image quality on a sunny day than you would in gloomy weather.

But as Matt tells us, gloomy weather wins this round.

Remember, natural lighting is highly unpredictable. With the sun ducking behind clouds every now and then, you’ll have a hard time controlling the intensity of the light.

It’s the exact opposite on gloomy days. The lighting is pretty much one tone. So, while you may not appreciate the dullness, you can rest assured that you’ll get the same level of brightness for your videos. That’s ideal when you’re making multiple takes for a video.

Lighting on a budget

The great thing about video creation is that there’s always a solution, regardless of your budget. Sure, the image quality may differ from someone using a full studio to another using a smartphone camera, but you can still get a solid video either way.

If you’re on a budget, go for options like metal cans with LED light bulbs in them or curly light bulbs. Whatever you end up settling for, remember to match color temperatures while you’re at it.

Avoid mixing blue bulbs with orange bulbs or picking bulbs that don’t match your background.

Here’s a handy tip, let’s say the general lighting in your background is fluorescent, it pays to figure out what temperature the bulb is. That information is usually printed on the packaging or the bulb itself, and you can use that to match any additional lighting you want to use.

Ring light, yay or nay?

First and foremost, Matt encourages everyone to make the best of the lighting they have. So, while you shouldn’t throw out that ring light just yet, it’s a good idea to really figure out how to use it to its full potential.

But here’s the thing about ring lights. Since your camera sits in the middle of the light source, some of the angles aren’t evened out. You may get an even glare from above, but without the sharp angles that three-point lighting offers, it ends up creating shadows below the eyes.

The only exception to this is if the subject is positioned quite close to the ring light. But with the light so close, you may end up getting a bit more light in your shot than you bargained for.

One thing to keep in mind is that ring lights are better than no lights at all. So, experiment with it as much as you can to find what works.

There are lots of moving parts that work together when it comes to video lighting. In Matt’s words:

There are a million more things you can learn about lighting.

So this is a little something to give you a nudge in the right direction.

If you want to dig deeper for more knowledge on lighting, there are multiple resources available on TechSmith Academy.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

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