Essential Guide to Video Lighting for Course Creators

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Do you know the most essential aspect of recording a video? It’s lighting. Lighting can make or break your video. If you want to make sure that your video looks good, you will need good lighting. It is even more important than your equipment and camera setup.

Fortunately, getting excellent lighting isn’t difficult or expensive to do.

By following some basic rules about lighting, you can make excellent videos on a very low budget. In this guide, we have outlined the best lighting for video making and how you can achieve it on a budget.

Video Setups

Setting up lighting entails following a few basic rules:

  • Make sure you have sufficient lighting for your video. If you don’t, you should add some.
  • Make sure that your face is well-lit and does not have uneven shadows. If some part of your face is in the gloom, you can adjust the position of the light source to get an evenly lit face.
  • If you are on a budget, natural lighting is the best lighting for video. You can get excellent lighting with the camera in front of the window and the light bouncing off on your face. If not, there are plenty of ring lights and LED lights available for you.

Three-Point Lighting

For most video content creation, like online courses, vlogging, corporate meetings, and webinars, three-point lighting is the best option. There are other types of lighting for video recording available like one-point light, two-point light, four-point light, tabletop studio light setup, lantern light setup, and more, but the three-point lighting setup offers you a more professional, clean, and clear filmmaking.

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The three-point lighting consists of three light sources: the key light, fill light, and the backlight or hair light.

Key Light:

The key light is the strongest light source in the shot. It is typically placed in front and above the person, at a 45 degrees angle to the left or right.

Fill Light:

The fill light has about half the intensity of your key light and is used to remove the shadows on the person’s face. This light is positioned opposite to the key light and is used to prevent flat-looking shots.

Back Light:

The backlight, also known as the hair light or the rim light, is used to create depth and produce a soft glow behind the person. The backlight is positioned above and behind the person, in between the key and fill lights.

When setting up your video lighting, make sure you check the view through the camera’s lens. This way you can be sure your viewers will see the lighting effect the same way you do. This will give you a perspective that your real eyes won’t.

Three-point lighting is a great option to use when making YouTube videos, online courses, webinars, promotional content, and more.

Natural Lighting

Natural lighting is the best and most affordable choice for creating an online video. If you are filming outdoors or in a room with large windows, using the sunlight to illuminate your video set is a great idea. Filmmakers and photographers are especially fond of the “golden hour” in the early morning and late evening when the sunlight turns soft golden and flattering.

However, natural lighting comes with its own set of drawbacks. The sun can be too bright, casting harsh shadows on the featured speaker. The sunlight may also not be consistent as clouds pass overhead. All of these things can impact the output of your video.

However, with some careful planning, you can use natural sunlight to your advantage. You can use natural lighting to create a sort of three-point lighting setup, with the sun acting as the key light and reflectors providing fill and backlights.

Here are some ways you can film with natural lighting.

Middle of the Day:

Filming a video in the middle of the day is very tricky. The bright sunlight results in harsh shadows and highlights on your face. If the sun is in front of you, use a reflector to diffuse most of the light. Place the reflector between yourself and direct sunlight to make the light softer and even.

Sunlight from Behind:

If the sun is positioned behind you, you can bounce back the light by using the white side of a reflector. This will prevent overexposure and will make your face look evenly lit, well-balanced, and flattering.

If you require more light, use the silver or gold sides of your reflector.

High Noon:

During this time, the shadows can be very harsh. It is important that you diffuse the harsh light by putting a reflector without cover right over your head. If you do not have a reflector, placing yourself between any shade, like a tree, can also help to diffuse light. Ideally, the sunlight should bounce back at you from nearby buildings, lighting up your face.

Golden Hour:

The golden hour is the hour after sunrise or before sunset and is considered the best time to shoot since there are fewer shadows at this time. The light during these times is soft and warm and leads to beautiful lighting. Hence, it allows you to expose both sides of your face during the golden hour. However, as its name indicates, the golden hour, both in the morning and the evening, lasts for approximately one hour and you only have that time to get the perfect shot. Hence, it is not practical for longer content.

Overcast or Cloudy Day:

Clouds are an effective source of light diffusion and can eliminate harsh shadows in your video. However, cloudy days may also result in inconsistent lighting since the cloud cover can change in an instant, leading to sudden brightness or extreme dimness. However, if the sky is completely covered with a big cloud, then the lighting will be consistent and perfect.

Sunlight as Backlight:

No matter what time of the day it is, you should try to use the sun as a backlight, with the sun lighting the back of your head and giving you a nice, well-lit image. It will also result in creating a soft glowing halo around you and make your image appear separate from the background. Using a reflector is a must, though, since you also need to light up your face.

LED Lights for Video

LED lights are energy-efficient and have the added advantage of being lightweight and long-lasting. Like CFLs, these lights also provide soft and cool lighting. If you want an excellent look for your online video tutorial, nice LED lights as your key light will do the trick. The key light is the brightest and strongest light in your shot and is the main source of your lighting. If you combine it with a big diffuser, you will get soft-looking shadows that give a very natural look to your video.

LED lights work great for video recording and live streaming. However, this type of video lighting is often pricey. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot have great lighting for your video within budget. A good alternative is fluorescent lamps. A ring light is also a great option.

LED Ring Light

Ring lights are another artificial source of lighting that looks a bit different from your multi-lighting setup. These lights are incredibly powerful and can light up the nook and crannies in a room. Since the light from the ring light is so powerful, you might consider reflecting it from a wall rather than pointing the light directly at your face.

LED ring lights are consist of a light bulb in a shape of a ring. They are usually about 20 inches in diameter and can be supported by a tripod with your camera placed within the circle of the light.

This ring shape makes your face light up evenly without you having to use multiple light sources. So it is quite practical and convenient. LED ring lights eliminate harsh shadows and make your face look really bright, so they are often used during makeup tutorials.

One of the major advantages of LED ring lights is that they are easy to set up and can be easily carried from one place to another.

LED Panel Light

If you want to maintain control of your light, getting an LED panel light is a great option. If you want still photography, then getting a more consistent light source than a flash or strobe lights can fine-tune the quality of your lighting. LED light panels are different from flashguns and strobes since they offer constant illumination. This means you can easily adjust your lighting in real-time to get the optimal effect. There are several different types of LED light panels available.

Hotshoe LED Panels:

Hotshoe LED panels are the simplest and smallest type of such panels. They can easily mount on your camera’s hotshoe the same way a flashgun does. This provides you with a simple and convenient mobile setup. They can also be used off-camera, giving you a good amount of versatility. Hotshoe LED panels are an ideal choice if you are working with a DSLR or a mirrorless video setup.

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Smartphone LED Panels:

Aside from hotshoe LED panels, there are also several types of LED panels that are specifically designed to be used with smartphones. Many content creators depend on their smartphones to create quality videos and many of them rely on LED panels to improve the illumination and give them a better output.

However, for people who are looking to make more ambitious videos, only a full-sized LED panel with high power will get the job done the way they want. The size and price of these light panels vary so you need to compare them and figure out how much you can afford to spend.

Light Stands

To make the most of your lighting, you also need to have the right light support. Here are some of the most common types of light stands that are used in video production.

C-stand:

The most commonly used stand is the C-stand that has three legs of varying heights. The variation in the height of the legs allows you to crowd multiple C-stands very close to each while ensuring stability. These stands are quite heavy and stable, which makes them a great choice for supporting lighting equipment.

Lightweight Light Stands:

Lightweight light stands are more affordable than C-stand. Their lighter weight lends them more portability. These light stands are excellent for content creators that are a one-man show or small crews. However, they cannot carry very heavy equipment.

Some other types of light stands include short stands, boom stands, and uni stands. These light stands are useful not just for holding lighting sources but also for audio equipment and other filmmaking tools.

Video Lighting on a Budget

If you are operating under a tight budget, then maximizing the use of natural light is the best and cheapest option. However, if you do not have good access to natural light or find natural light inconsistent for the purpose of video creation, they are plenty of other cheaper options you can choose from.

Low-Budget Lighting

Here are some of the most affordable options for low-budget lighting:

Clamp Lights:

Clamp lights are an affordable option for good artificial light. These lights cost around $10 and can be mounted in several ways. However, their major drawback is that they do not have light-regulating, dimming, and diffusion controls, which can lead to harsh brightness, given your video a slightly unnatural look. If you can only afford clamp lights, you should use light bulbs of the same intensity and temperature in your lamps to ensure consistency. You can also create diffusion by buying diffusion paper and pasting it on your lights. In addition, you can also improvise a frosted shower curtain to diffuse your light.

Incandescent Bulbs:

These bulbs have a warm glow but are not very efficient or durable. You should use incandescent bulbs when you want to place focus on a particular shade or want a cosier effect. A 60 to 100 watt led light bulb should do the trick.

Halogen Bulbs:

Halogen bulbs provide 25 to 30 percent more light than regular incandescent bulbs while using the same amount of electricity. They are better options for kitchens and offices and exude warm-colored light.

CFL Bulbs:

CFLs are the most efficient light bulbs since they last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs and use a lesser amount of electricity. These bulbs emit a cool shade of light so they are good options for canceling shadows.

Medium-Budget Lighting

If you can afford to go higher with your budget, we propose that you invest in studio lights that can range anywhere between $50 and $500. Studio lights consist of fluorescent lights and come with diffusion material and light stands. These lights also allow you to control how many bulbs you want to light and may come with LED panel options, depending on how much the kit costs. These panels are dimmable and are also equipped with adjustable color temperature, depending on your need.

The main drawback of studio lights is that they are large and bulky, though compact options are also available. No matter what light you choose, you should consider getting one which also has a light stand.

High-Budget Lighting

If you have the money for it, you should get a high-end video lighting kit. Be warned though that a single light source from a kit may cost as much as a mid-range studio light kit. However, these lighting kits can also take your video-making game to the next level by offering you all kinds of fancy features including a full range of dimmers, wireless control, color temperature adjustments, better diffusion, and improved output.

Before you jump the gun and decide to purchase these expensive lights, it is a good idea to rent them out and use them for a trial period to figure out whether they fulfill your needs. If you plan to make high-end videos on a regular basis, these higher-budget lighting kits may be worth the cost. But do make sure you have specific requirements for the fancy features which cannot be bought with cheaper versions.

Bottom Line

No matter the type of video content you are shooting, good video lights are essential. Although lighting up your video shoot may be tricky, understanding the basics of lighting and acquiring a set of video lights that meets the needs of your specific content can be the difference between a video that looks amateurish and one that looks like it has been made by a professional.

Setting up the right lighting can help viewers focus on the subject and set the mood — and as an online course creator, making an impact is a big deal.

An online course creator needs to make the speaker look natural in a video setting. Use the above guiding principles to make your videos appear polished, natural, and beautifully lit.

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