Top tips for the best lighting for YouTube videos

Finding the perfect lighting for YouTube videos during the day can be difficult – especially when it comes to projects that involve coordinating larger amounts of people (particularly when the best natural lighting is both weather and time dependent). As most of us may have realized – natural lighting is not always the most consistent, and we find that our video quality can be heavily limited by the lighting itself when picked up by built-in camera sensors.

 

Inevitably, it becomes crucial to invest in studio lighting in order to achieve consistently high quality and attractive videos whilst maintaining the freedom to film at any hours of the day. Needless to mention, artificial lighting also gives you more control of your own filmmaking, allowing you to adjust the softness, temperature and intensity to your own personal preference so you can achieve that professional and cinematic finish you’re after without the need to break the bank.

 

Whether you’re filming a product review, a cooking show, an interview, a vlog or a makeup tutorial, having good lighting in your YouTube videos is the ultimate key to success and definitely something that shouldn’t be overlooked or compromised. Below we’ve included some video lighting techniques as well as factors to consider when it comes to setting the best lighting for the perfect YouTube video in 2021:

 

Fig1 - Top tips for the best lighting for YouTube videos

 

1) The number of light sources you’ll need:

 

The number of light sources you’ll need will come down to what it is you’re filming as well as your budget – but in terms of a standard approach for the majority of filmmaking, usually 3 main sources are used via umbrella, softbox or LED lighting to achieve this (known as 3 point lighting).

 

However if the highlight of your video is just the subject itself e.g. a makeup tutorial, then 2 point lighting (one as the main source and the other to fill in the shadows created) is more than enough to achieve a video with good lighting – or even just a single source of light like a ring light will work just fine for close-up shots where there isn’t so much of a need to focus on the background as much. In this instance, a handheld LED light wand can work great for shooting advertisements or marketing videos for tech products where you want some light movement in a close-up shot.

 

2) Positioning of your light:

 

3 point lighting is commonly referred to as the standard set-up for lighting and involves a key light, fill light and a back light strategically placed in a triangular-like shape to best illuminate the subject whilst creating natural shadows to add dimension and interest to both the subject and surrounding environment or background.

 

The key light acts as the primary source of light, facing the subject from a higher angle from a 4 o’ clock direction. The fill light faces the subject also from above, but at an 8 o’ clock direction to remote any unwarranted shadows created by the key light. It is important to note that raising the light too high can create unflattering racoon-like shadows under the eyes, so having your set-up be positioned at the right height is key. The back light is then positioned to illuminate the subject from behind to add a soft glow. It is also important to consider the distance of the light source from the subject, with shorter distances creating more intense and harsher lighting and larger distances creating more soft and natural lighting. This leads us onto our third point…

 

Fig2 - Top tips for the best lighting for YouTube videos

3) Intensity of your lighting

 

As a general rule of thumb, larger and softer lighting creates the most natural and flattering looking lighting, minimizing the formation of any unwarranted shadows and is easy on the eyes for both the viewer and the subject. To obtain a softer look to your videos, using a large fluorescent light bulb will also naturally soften the light since the rays will be scattered to a larger degree before reaching the subject. Additionally, you could also place the light source further away from the subject (at around 1 meter’s length to achieve the best results) – though using a diffuser or a reflector will both equally do the trick. Diffusers can help soften the intensity and harshness of the light by scattering the rays, whilst reflectors redirect light to reduce harsh lights and glare. If your subject is still experiencing strong glare from your light source, it may be worth using glasses with anti-glare coating as a temporary quick fix.

 

4) Temperature of your lighting

 

You should also consider the temperature of the light you’re filming with, with warmer and cooler lights having opposite effects on the result of the video. Silver reflectors give the light a more cool tone, whereas gold reflectors have a warmer yellow-like tone. Keeping tones consistent throughout can be easily achieved by using the white balance setting on your camera which works to counteract the temperature of the light you’re filming in, which can be especially useful if you find yourself moving between studio light and natural light often.

 

Fig3 - Top tips for the best lighting for YouTube videos

3) Intensity of your lighting

 

As a general rule of thumb, larger and softer lighting creates the most natural and flattering looking lighting, minimizing the formation of any unwarranted shadows and is easy on the eyes for both the viewer and the subject. To obtain a softer look to your videos, using a large fluorescent light bulb will also naturally soften the light since the rays will be scattered to a larger degree before reaching the subject. Additionally, you could also place the light source further away from the subject (at around 1 meter’s length to achieve the best results) – though using a diffuser or a reflector will both equally do the trick.

Diffusers can help soften the intensity and harshness of the light by scattering the rays, whilst reflectors redirect light to reduce harsh lights and glare. If your subject is still experiencing strong glare from your light source, it may be worth using glasses with anti-glare coating as a temporary quick fix.

 

4) Temperature of your lighting

 

You should also consider the temperature of the light you’re filming with, with warmer and cooler lights having opposite effects on the result of the video. Silver reflectors give the light a more cool tone, whereas gold reflectors have a warmer yellow-like tone. Keeping tones consistent throughout can be easily achieved by using the white balance setting on your camera which works to counteract the temperature of the light you’re filming in, which can be especially useful if you find yourself moving between studio light and natural light often.

 

Fig4 - Top tips for the best lighting for YouTube videos

Temperature lighting is usually measured in Kelvin (K), with higher temperatures indicating cooler blue light and lower temperatures indicating warmer yellow light.

 

• 2800 – 4000 K is warmer in colour with yellow undertones

• 5000 – 6000 K is close to daylight and more neutral in colour

• 6500 – 12000 K is cool in colour with blue undertones

 

Overall, filming with lighting of similar brightness and temperature can help prevent any contrasting issues picked up by your camera sensor in order to maximise the quality of your video.

 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, you might be wondering what the best lights are for filming YouTube videos at home. Below we cover the key few light sources that have proved popular amongst the majority of fellow YouTubers and are ones we recommend that will cover the majority of niches.

 

1) Soft box Lights

 

Soft box lights are one of the more professionally used studio lights for creating similar effects to that of natural window light as a result of their box shape, allowing for more controlled, focused lighting yet having a softer, more flattering look to videos due to their diffusion panels. This makes them great for filming YouTube videos indoors and are commonly used to film product reviews, interviews and cooking shows.

 

Soft box lights usually come in the form of a square, rectangle or octagonal shape and are extremely simple to set up. However, they do tend to be on the heavier side which makes them less portable so remain best for filming content indoors where you’re not required to move around a lot.

 

Fig4 - Top tips for the best lighting for YouTube videos

2) Umbrella Lights

 

On the other hand we have umbrella lights which are known to provide wide coverage, scattering light more vastly and resembles closer to that of outdoor lighting. Unlike soft box light bulbs which are screwed into the stand, the lights for umbrellas are positioned facing into the inside of the umbrella for different effects: a bounce umbrella has a silver inside for reflecting light back out to the subject whereas a shoot-through umbrella is white and translucent in colour to diffuse away some of the light for a gentler, softer appearance. come in different sizes, are easily portable and generally tend to be cheaper than soft boxes.

 

Fig5 - Top tips for the best lighting for YouTube videos

3) Ring Lights

 

Ring lights are one of the more commonly used lights in the beauty industry and are known for creating the halo-like effect in the eyes. They’re made up of LED lights in the shape of a ring, with the hole in the center giving way for more natural shadows to add some dimension in the face, as well as creating a space for you to position your phone or camera to ensure that lighting remains even throughout. Ring lights are especially popular for filming make-up and beauty videos due to their accessibility and portability, making it easy to set up for those who are after a more upfront and close-up shot.

 

However, ring lights can sometimes look less natural since the light is facing you straight on from just one direction – but these are a great all-rounder option for more simple videos.

 

Fig6 - Top tips for the best lighting for YouTube videos

4) LED Light Panel

 

LED light panels are the perfect lights for filming outdoors. They’re battery operated, don’t overheat easily and are portable so you get consistent light quality no matter what time of the day. They’re usually rectangular in shape but come in multiple different sizes and can be adjusted to different colour temperatures and intensity. They’re simple to set up, height adjustable and are energy efficient so last a long time and don’t need replacing often. On the flip side, you will need to buy your own diffusor or reflector for LED lights unlike umbrella and soft box lights (unless you’re after face on strong lighting).

 

Fig7 - Top tips for the best lighting for YouTube videos

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