Web video for beginners

Video Lighting Techniques & Equipment

Part 1 - How to Use Lighting for the Best Effect

Video lighting is an important part of shooting a video

When used correctly, professional video lighting can make a HUGE difference to the picture quality of your video.

I'm sure you've all seen videos on the Internet where the presenters face is either in shadow or has a white glare, or the interior seems to be lit by some murky orange glow.

"Camera. Lights. Action!" We've all know this famous line, but video lights are often ignored by most web video producers.

I have seen promo videos from top Internet Marketing Gurus promoting $1000+ products and I can't make out the features on their face properly because the lighting is so poor.

Using some form of lighting in your videos really will make your videos stand out in the crowd, and it doesn't have to cost a fortune.

You can buy a basic desklamp and a 30W 'Daylight' fluorescent bulb for less than $40, and it will transform your video, making it look very professional.

But before we look at camera lighting equipment, let me give you some top video lighting tips and techniques that will give your videos that 'pro' look.


Never shoot your subject in front of a window

There are 3 types of video lighting that you need to be aware of when shooting video or movies:

  • Key Light
  • Fill Light
  • Back Light

All the points below are based on these 3 lighting concepts. For instructions on how to properly use the video lighting techniques on this page, be sure to visit our video lighting techniques tutorial.

[1] Never point your camcorder at any light source that is brighter than the presenter or object you are shooting. The classic example of this is when you shoot a video of someone stood in front of a window. There is too much backlight.

Even though all that light seems like a good idea, the camcorder actually only picks up all the light coming from the window and your subject will appear dark.

[2] The brightest light source (called the "key light") must be shining on the presenter or object you are shooting, and not on another area of the room. This will avoid your subject looking 'washed out' and a little grey.

[3] If shooting outdoors, never shoot into the sun. The sun is your "key light". Make sure the sun is always behind the camera. Avoid shooting in direct sunlight if you can and use some shade from trees etc. to give a more even light.

The best times of the day to shoot outside are in the morning and late afternoon. Avoid noon if you can, as the sun is very bright and produces glare and intense shadows. If you do this you will need to provide a "fill light" to compensate for the intense "key light".

[4] Always shoot some test video first and play it back, as what you see on the camcorders LCD screen can be very different to what it actually recorded.

[5] If your camcorder has 'Manual White Balance', before shooting, always make sure you get your subject to hold up a piece of blank white paper, zoom in on the paper with your camcorder and manually set the white balance. If you've ever seen a video that is too blue or red it is because the white balance is off.

This will ensure you shoot the very best video quality according to the lighting conditions. This simple task can make a huge difference to the quality of your video.

[6] Always diffuse any lights you are using to shoot your video. 'Diffusing' the light just means to make the light soft and even, rather than bright and strong (which produces shadows and glare).

You can easily diffuse any light by placing some plain white paper or cloth in front of it (WARNING: Lights can get hot and placing anything near them is a potential fire risk, so please be very careful).

Another way to diffuse your light is to simply reflect it off the wall or ceiling, rather than shining it directly at your subject.


Get your video lighting right for professional looking results. [7] For best video lighting results, use two light sources placed at head height in front of (the "key light") and at 45 degrees either side (the "fill light") of your subject.

This ensures even lighting and reduces shadows (Which you've probably guessed by now are to be avoided). If you are shooting against a dark background you may need a "back light" to hightlight the person you are shooting. A back light can provde a nice glow around your subject, but don't overdo it!

[8] Pay attention to the back ground. I suggest using a green or black screen when shooting the video. This gives you more control of the lighting.

Part 2 - Video Lighting Equipment

So let's now move on to the video lighting equipment that will make our video look like a Hollywood blockbuster. This is the first part of building a video set. There are several video lighting options available to us, but there is only one that I am going to recommend you use.

The 30W Daylight Full Spectrum 5100K fluorescent bulb creates lovely natural light, is cheap to buy and run and doesn't get too hot.

You can buy them from most large hardware stores, or you can Google 'daylight fluorescent bulb' to find online suppliers. They cost around $10-$20 each and can be placed in normal light fittings, desk lamps and floor lamps.

Two softboxes produce excellent results. If you want the best lighting set up for producing your videos, then I recommend you buy two softboxes.

A softbox consists of a stand, a light fitting (using a daylight fluorescent bulb) and a small tent assembly over the light source to diffuse the light.


Umbrella reflector lights also give great lighting results.

Two soft boxes will produce outstanding results and very professional looking video. You can also get great results by using 'umbrella' type video lights, which use white or silver umbrellas, instead of the softbox to reflect and diffuse the light.

Both do an excellent job and you can buy a set of two lights for less than $200 on Amazon. Check out some of my personal recommendations below.










If you have any video lighting related questions, please click HERE to ask Mr Video!

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