I’ve worked with a variety of cameras over my video career and people tend to ask me the infamous internet question: “what camera should I buy?”. I don’t think a day goes by without me seeing that question asked in a YouTube comment section or a filmmaker Facebook group.
This question is always difficult because there are so many cameras to choose from and all of them serve a different purpose. Choosing a camera can be overwhelming to anyone who is new to creating videos, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to buy the fanciest camera to get a great looking image.
With good lighting, you can make any camera, or even your iPhone, produce a great quality image that would compete with higher end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. The best part is that it’s not difficult to start upping your lighting game, here are some methods to get good lighting for YouTube videos.
3 Point Lighting
Three Point Lighting is the most standard method of lighting across any medium. No matter what light source you are using, you should always try and replicate this lighting method. It will give you the best and most reliable results.
Your key light will always be your biggest and brightest light source. Your fill light is usually a less bright light source that’s placed on the opposite side of the key light to help fill in any shadows.
Your hair light, also known as Back Light or Rim Light, is placed behind you on the opposite side of your Key Light. Hair Lights create a nice halo of light around the back of your head and shoulders to help create a nice separation between you and your background.
Use Natural Lighting
One of the simplest ways to get good lighting for YouTube videos is to use the best free light you have available to you all the time, the sun!
Using your window as your Key Light, set up your vlogging camera close to the biggest window you have in your home and right away you should notice a difference. Windows create beautiful soft light that wraps around the face and makes everything look good, especially if they’re frosted glass.
To utilize even more light from your window, you can use what’s called a Bounce Card or Reflector. These will be used as your Fill Light. A Bounce Card is basically a white bristol board, much like what you can buy at your local dollar store. A Reflector is a commonly used piece of photography gear that is also not expensive. In fact, you can get one with a stand for as low as $30 on Amazon.
Once you’ve got your Reflector, you’re going to set it up on the opposite side of your window (Key Light). The white surface of your reflector is going to “bounce” all of the sunlight coming in through the window and will brighten up your shadows on that side of the frame.
I personally love natural light. It is definitely the style I strive for in my work. When it’s done well, it creates a really compelling image. The only downside to this window setup is you may hear noise from outside that you’ll catch on your recording. This is when you might want to invest in some lights.
Since the dawn of YouTube, there have been countless DIY lighting setup tutorials. The ones that you’re going to read about here are methods I’ve personally used and have had success with.
For these methods, you’ll need to purchase light bulbs. I recommend getting LED bulbs, as they can produce more light with less wattage and don’t get hot after extended periods of use.
These are lights that you can get for about $15+ on Amazon or at your local hardware store. They have a thin metal dome with a light socket in the middle and a clamp that allows you to attach this light to anything. When I use these lights, I like to clamp them to the top of a chair as a DIY light stand. You can also clamp it to your desk, table, or any other flat surface.
I also recommend getting some little clamps, such as the kind you purchase for binders or chip bags, and a roll of parchment paper. These can be purchased at your local dollar store, or you can borrow some from your mom’s kitchen.
Once you’ve inserted your light bulb into the clamp light, take a piece of parchment paper and attach it to the metal dome so it covers the light bulb. Repeat this step for all three clamp lights and you’ll have nice soft light sources for your Three Point Lighting setup.
There are 2 particular DIY lighting set ups that I’ve seen frequently on various YouTube lighting tutorials. They are the infamous Ikea floor lamps and the DIY china ball light. The easier of the 2 methods is the floor lamp, which goes for about $20+ per lamp on Amazon.
These are the tall cylinder shaped lamps that are already wrapped in a thin white shade that feels like parchment paper. This light is already soft and has a stand to support itself. You can purchase brighter bulbs to put inside the lamp and place them around your room to replicate a 3 point lighting setup.
Then there’s the DIY China Ball Light, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You’ll need to purchase some Chinese paper lanterns and a socket extension. The bigger the lantern, the softer the light will be.
Socket cords can be purchased for about $15 and a pack of 20 Chinese lanterns cost about $30. With your socket cord attached, put your light bulb in the paper lantern and find a safe spot to hang the light from.
Usually you would only use one China ball light as your key light and use a reflector or bounce card as your fill light. To get a more detailed explanation on how to build one of these just google “DIY China Ball Light” and you’ll find endless tutorials on how to create one.
When purchasing your light bulbs, make sure that the wattage on the bulb does not exceed the recommended wattage on the light sockets you’ll be using. Also, make sure you purchase the same color temperature bulbs.
Color temperature is such a dense subject that it could be an article on it’s own, but let’s just assume you’ll be filming in Auto White Balance for the time being. When you buy your light bulbs, try and buy in packs of three or more. This way you know for sure all your bulbs will have matching color temperatures.
Lighting kits have come a long way these days. If I had access to the same lighting kits when I was starting out, I probably wouldn’t have even learned any DIY lighting methods. I included all the info above, because some people like doing it themselves and making their own things.
Also, I think DIY methods are an important step in having you figure out creative solutions to creative problems, which is something you’ll have to do all the time when creating YouTube videos.
If you’re not much of a DIY-er, then you can buy one of the many lighting kits available on Amazon. In fact, for as low as $45, you can get a Two-Piece Umbrella lighting kit from Cowboy Studio; that’s amazing! The online community seems to be very polarized when it comes to purchasing these types of lights, but I love them.
I’ve been using the Canadian Studio Softbox Lighting Kit for over three years now and still have yet to replace the lightbulbs that it came with. Each light creates a nice soft light with a 500 watt output, which should be more than enough to create a fantastic Three Point Lighting setup.
There are only 2 downsides to these cheap lights. The first is the hassle of setting them up; it takes a few minutes per light and softboxes can be a pain sometimes. The second is that the lights feel a little cheap and therefore don’t travel well, so it’s best to set them up and leave them in one spot.
I’ve seen these things break easily when they’re constantly traveling to various locations. On the upside, if they break, they were cheap and are easily replaceable.
Using Ring Lights For Your YouTube Videos
The other light I see used most frequently, especially with makeup vloggers, is the Ring Light. The Ring Light is a bright light that’s placed right in front of you and creates a nice soft light across the whole face. It’s shaped like a ring, so you can place your camera’s lens in the middle of it and shoot through it.
The ring light also creates that really cool looking circular reflection in your eyes to help make them pop. Back in my DIY days, if you wanted a ring light you’d spend big money getting one or you had to go to Home Depot and get wood and light sockets to build your own.
Like I said, it’s crazy how far reliable lighting kits have come these days, thanks to valuable resources like Amazon.
Bonus Lighting Tip: Adding various household lamps in the background of your frame will create the illusion of depth on camera and give that extra spark to make your videos look high quality.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you get good lighting when filming your YouTube vlogs! No matter what camera you’re using, good lighting will help you create a better looking video and will add to your overall production value.
VLOG NATION CONTRIBUTOR
Chris Monteiro is a Canadian videographer and drone pilot, who is passionate about creating dynamic digital content. An avid traveller, Chris loves to explore new places with his Sony A7Sii in hand and aims to tell engaging stories about what he captures through his lens.
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