What you need to know about lighting when shooting video

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If you are a beginner videoblogger, videographer or streamer, good lighting is the first thing you should pay attention to. Without it, the picture will be dull, with harsh shadows and unnatural hue. To avoid such mistakes, we have prepared a detailed guide with all the important information for you: what you need light for, what kinds of lighting are required and how to place the lighting equipment during the shooting.

Why light is the first step to “cinematic” videos

Shooting quality video at home is a feasible task if you choose and install lighting responsibly. Even in a sunny apartment you can’t do without additional lamps and softboxes, and even more so if the room is dark.

Artificial lighting will highlight your subject exactly the way you want it to be, focusing the viewer’s attention on it. It will also hide the cluttered background. You can set the mood of your video yourself with the help of coloured lights and spotlights.  

Don’t forget that the quality of the final video doesn’t depend on the decorations, the model’s makeup or the cost of the camera. Without good light, the chances of getting a great video are greatly reduced.

It’s also easier to edit videos that you’ve shot in good light. You don’t have to spend hours in a video editor and do color correction – light does half the work for you. 

Professional softboxes and lamps are expensive, but don’t despair: beginners can use improvised means – the result will be no worse than that of experienced youtubers. 

Types of lighting most commonly used in videos

To start with, it is important to understand what kind of light can be: soft, hard, colored, and mixed. Each type of lighting has its function, which you need to consider when arranging it on the set (read – apartment ? ). 

Soft light

This is one of the main types of lighting used in creating not only movies but when recording videos in home studios. Soft light does not add harsh shadows to the picture, but on the contrary – as if it scatters them.

This kind of light creates a warm and inviting atmosphere, and the closer you bring the light source close to your subject, the softer the effect will be.  

When to use. Videographers use soft light when they want to reduce the number of the shadows behind the subject. This makes the frame look more attractive: just think of bloggers’ videos on Youtube – the image is always bright and pleasing to the eye. 

Soft light by itself produces harsh shadows: neither on the background, nor on the subject, nor anywhere else. That’s why sometimes a single soft-light lamp is enough to record a quality video.

Soft lighting is also suitable for portrait videos and interviews: it hides fine lines, visually evens out the skin, and conceals minor imperfections.

Soft light is also used to eliminate unwanted shadows created by other light sources.

How to create. There are several ways to achieve soft light with a regular lamp: aim the light at the ceiling or a special reflector rather than directly at your subject. Or cover the lamp with a translucent material – ordinary baking paper or a white sheet would work. Better yet, order an inexpensive softbox – it will last you a long time and you won’t have to bother with complicated constructions every time.

Hard light

Hard light in the video is intense and bright lighting that casts a sharp and distinct shadow on the subject. The most real-life example is the afternoon sun. Think of your perfectly flat shadow on the pavement – this is the result of harsh lighting.

When to use. Hard light is ideal for creating dramatic, gloomy, and even depressing scenes. Think of any horror movie – the atmosphere of fear is created with direct lighting.

It is also suitable for subject matter photography when the shape of the subject is to be emphasized. 

How to create. The source of direct light can be a table lamp, a pocket flashlight, or a spotlight. The main thing is to point it directly at the scene. 

Moving the luminaire or spotlight closer to the object also increases the “hardness” of the light.

Color lighting

This is an additional light that corrects the hues in the video (when the color goes too “cool” or “warm”) or gives a certain mood or atmosphere to the video.

With colored lights and lenses, it’s possible to create a New Year’s mood even on a hot July day. Or, on the contrary, add dark shades for a video compilation of the scariest movies released last year.

When to use. You can’t do without colored lenses and panels when you want to create a certain mood. With colored spotlights, it’s easy to convey the atmosphere of a fiery disco or a cozy evening by the fireplace.

If the main light tends to yellow, the additional white light will give the picture a more natural hue – this effect is called “white balance”.

How to create. In the online store, you can order colored gel filters that are placed either on the light source or the camera lens.  

Also, look out for lamps that already have multi-color modes built in. They’re compact: they’re easy to place even if you’re shooting in a small studio.

A source of colored light can be Christmas lights and colored LED bulbs, which are sold in almost any hypermarket. You’ve probably seen purple lights in your windows – they’re LED plant lights, but they’re also used as backlighting.

Lifehack. Take an ordinary light bulb and paint it the desired color. All you have to do is screw it into the light fixture, turn on the camera and start recording.

Video light placement and types of lighting

It is not enough to understand the types of lighting, it is important to arrange all light sources so that the picture turned out as a millionaire YouTuber. 

What do you need to know? Four basic types of lighting are used in layout schemes:

  • Main (key, drawing) light
  • Filling (leveling) light
  • Backlight (backlight)
  • Background light

Main light

Drawing light is the main and most powerful light source in the frame. It is usually placed in front of the subject, about 45 degrees above or 45 degrees to the right or left.

Key light does not refer to a specific type of lighting equipment. It can be anything from a camera flash and table lamp (not a chandelier!) to a fireplace in a room.

Filling light

Leveling light fills in the areas that are not illuminated by the main light source – shadows disappear and the subject is illuminated. It is most often used when recording a video with a person present.

The source of the fill light can be:

  • professional lamps and spotlights
  • Reflectors that redirect the main light back to the object (this includes special gadgets, walls, ceilings, and fabrics)
  • Flash or strobe light, a device that simulates the flash of a camera

It should be placed to the side, opposite the key light. The intensity of the fill light is usually about half that of the key light. 

Control light

Backlighting significantly improves the quality of your video. It illuminates your subject from behind. You can place the backlight in several ways: put it as close as possible directly behind your subject, or hang it over them.

The main task of backlighting is to separate an object in the frame from the background, to make it more volumetric and textured. But it also has a more creative task. The control light can emphasize haze, fog, raindrops, or cobwebs on the background – it will look magical and unusual. It’s also suitable for silhouette and landscape photography.

For portraits, the backlight highlights the model, illuminating her silhouette. If a person has long hair, the backlight will make it shine in the frame.

The backlight can be an LED panel, fluorescent bulb, car headlights, bedside lamp, or even a candle.

Background light

Background lights illuminate the background and visually separate your subject from the background. It is also possible to create a specific mood in your video and illuminate the background itself if you want to accentuate it.

You can hang garland, a glowing decorative sign, or a small light fixture in the background.

Lighting schemes for shooting videos at home

There are several ways to place lighting for a video shoot – especially with multiple lights. Three-point lighting is popular, but you can also use two or four light sources as well as ring lighting.

Three-point light

This scheme uses three main light sources – key light, fill light, and backlight. Three-point light is the most common among video bloggers – it is ideal for one person speaking into the camera. 

Two-point light

This lighting scheme is also common in videography, especially for quick interviews. It consists of key light and a fill light.

If you do not have two lamps, use a reflector. It will direct the light from the sun or the main light onto the subject and create an equalizing light.

Four-point lighting

Add backlighting to the three-point scheme, and you’ve got practically a professional studio. The background light is at about waist level, right behind the subject – brightening the wall and eliminating unnecessary shadows.

Ring lighting

A ring lamp is something that will help a novice YouTuber, streamer or videographer create high-quality videos. It is easy to set up and does not require any additional light sources. The lamp illuminates everything in front of it evenly. 

The ring lighting is perfect for selfies, Tik Tok videos, and makeup lessons.

That’s it, we’ve told you everything we know about setting up lighting for video recording. Remember that lighting is the foundation of your future video and it determines 90% of your success. If you are just starting your way as a video blogger or video maker – one good source of light will be enough. Practice, experiment, and the result will be soon. We wish you great videos and millions of views.

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