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Some YouTubers take their lighting a step further and use professional lighting equipment, including light stands and large light fixtures.
Here is a closer look at the best lighting for producing professional-looking YouTube videos with any budget.
Why Do YouTubers Need Extra Light?
Cameras rely on light to capture video and photos. The amount of light received by the lens impacts the clarity of the image.
In a low-light setting, the image is more likely to show the camera’s limitations as a lot of noise is introduced into the image.
The typical lighting inside a house is not ideal for recording videos. Most rooms lack adequate natural light, and the average light bulb produces an unappealing color rendering–especially modern household LED bulbs.
Normal household LEDs are also not flicker-free. The LEDs used in dedicated video lights mean your video will end up with horrible flickering at certain frame rates and shutter speeds.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to turn off your household lights, and your video lighting does the job.
Without the right amount of light, objects and people become difficult to see. You cannot make out the details in a poorly lit scene.
Fx if you’re shooting yourself with a window behind you, you need a video light to balance the light from that window, or else your face will be completely in the shadows.
YouTube viewers tend to tune out when watching a low-quality video. Using the right lighting can help any YouTuber produce more professional-looking videos and keep viewers engaged.
Understanding the Types of Lighting for Making Videos
There are many types of lights available for any situation or budget. The most common choices include:
- Ring lights
- Light panels
- Open-faced light fixtures
- Fresnel light fixtures
Ring lights are among the most popular types of lighting for YouTube videos, as they are easy to use. A ring light is simply a ring with many LED bulbs.
Depending on the size, the ring light may sit on top of a small table tripod or table stand. The tripods for ring lights also often have smartphone holders, ensuring that the light and the camera lens align.
Light panels are another portable option. Instead of a ring of LEDs, a light panel has a grid of LED bulbs. They are often a little more powerful than ring lights, but some options may require AC power to achieve full illumination.
Open-face light fixtures and Fresnel lens light fixtures use individual bulbs and typically plug into an electrical outlet. They offer more light than portable ring lights or LED light panels, which are useful when illuminating an entire room or large space.
You can also find some great open-face and fresnel articles in this article Best Video Light for Wedding Videography that would work great for YouTube videos and vlogs.
How Many Lights Do YouTubers Use?
Some YouTubers use a single light while others use multiple lights to properly light each scene. Professional filmmakers use lighting to set the atmosphere and highlight people or objects. They achieve this by positioning lights in various positions.
The traditional lighting setup includes three main sources of light:
- Key lights
- Fill lights
The key light is the primary source of light for the scene. It often comes from one or more powerful bulbs with a broad range, as the key light typically needs to cover a larger area.
The fill light is dimmer compared to the key light. It is used to cancel out the shadows created by the harsher key light.
The backlight is typically placed higher than the subject. It separates the subject from the background to create more depth.
Using the three-point lighting setup can provide optimal lighting. However, not everyone has the budget or space for three or more light fixtures.
A single light may be all that you need to enhance the quality of your footage. A bright ring light, light panel, or video light can act as the key light, helping to illuminate your subject.
Natural light from a window can help eliminate the shadows cast by the strong camera light.
You can learn more about how to setup your lights in Video Lighting Guide Part 3: Basic Lighting Setups.
How Do YouTubers Choose the Right Lighting?
To find the right lights, content creators may consider the following details:
- Lighting arrangement
- Color temperature
- Color accuracy
- Color output
- Power requirements
The lighting arrangement is the most important detail. If you only use one light, it should offer adequate output and a higher color temperature to produce better video.
If you plan on using multiple lights, each light may require a different color temperature, output, and range. For example, the key light is often brighter compared to the dimmer fill light.
The color temperature helps determine the colors that you see on the video. A low color temperature produces a warmer light that gives objects an orange or red glow. Candle flames are a common example. The flame has a color temperature of about 1,850 Kelvin (K).
Incandescent lamps and household LED bulbs produce color temperatures between 2,700K and 3,300K. These light sources also produce warmer colors that may limit the clarity of your videos.
The best lighting comes from natural daylight, which has a color temperature of 5,000K to 6,000K. A high color temperature brings out the natural colors in objects and the environment. Professional lighting equipment can also produce 5,000K or higher color temperatures.
You can learn more about color temperature in What Color Temperature Should I Use for Video Lighting?
What Is A Good Color Accuracy For Video Lighting?
When you purchase a video light, look for a Color Rendering Index (CRI) and Television Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI) of a least 90.
CRI and TLCI are the most common ways to describe the color accuracy of a video light.
Anything lower than 90, and you risk getting an ugly – often green – tint on your skin, which is not recommended.
Keep in mind also that if you buy the cheapest light on the market, the color accuracy might not be precisely measured by the manufacturer (let’s say they’re often too “generous” with the values).
So go with trusted brands like Aputure, Westcott, Aladdin, NanLite, LitePanels, Viltrox, Fotodiox, Came-TV, and similar if you want to be safe.
Output and Power Source Options For YouTube Video Lights
The output and power requirements also matter when choosing a light for making YouTube videos. A small battery-powered LED light may only illuminate the area up to a few feet in front of the camera. However, this may be sufficient for close-up headshots.
If you need to capture more of the background, you may need one or more lights to illuminate objects up to several meters away.
Some video lights and LED panels can also output adequate light for larger spaces. However, to produce more light they often need AC power, which makes them less portable.
You can learn more about lux, lumens, and watts in How Many Watts Do I Need for Video Lighting?
Which Types of Lights Should You Use for YouTube Videos?
The variety of lighting options can be overwhelming for new vloggers and YouTubers. If using extra lighting is new to you, start small. Use a single ring light or LED light panel to enhance the lighting for your YouTube videos.
A small, portable light can help highlight objects close to the camera. Filming yourself sitting at a desk or applying makeup may not require you to light up the entire room.
But if you’re doing makeup tutorials you still need a bright light, with great color accuracy, and you need to set the right white balance in your camera, so the colors of your skin and makeup don’t have a weird tint.
You can learn how to set the right white balance in this article Guide: Look, LOG, LUT, White Balance, Picture Profile & RAW.
Smaller lights are also easier to use. You simply point the light at the subject or object that you want to illuminate, such as yourself. You do not need any professional lighting experience.
If you plan on filming scenes that require you to illuminate more of the background, you may need to invest in additional lighting.
Using a single bright light as the key light and a second adjustable light as the fill light can dramatically enhance your videos’ quality.
In the end, the lighting that you choose depends on your specific needs. Not everyone needs a complex lighting setup with multiple lights.
Some of the most popular YouTubers work without a crew, requiring them to handle everything from filming to editing. Using a ring light or LED light panel allows them to quickly light the scene and start shooting.
No matter what option you choose, experiment with the position and brightness of the light. Test different lighting layouts to improve the clarity of your YouTube videos.
About the author:
Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He’s the owner of filmdaft.com and of the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.