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So, you’ve set up your YouTube channel. You saw other YouTubers with more professional videos and wondered how you can match up? The key factor they may have is lighting. In this guide, we’ll show you the best vlog lighting for YouTube videos. And it can be done on a budget, too.
Lighting is everything...
When you start to learn photography and videography, you will learn “lighting is everything!” Lighting influences many variables of the shot including; mood, tone, color, clarity, brightness (or purposeful lack thereof,) and professional feel.
There are many types of lights…
One of the best sources of light, as you know, is natural sunlight. It’s plentiful and free. However, depending on the climate conditions it can be unpredictable for your shot. You are also limited to filming during certain times of the day of course. Therefore, an investment in artificial lighting is a must for YouTube vloggers.
There are three main reasons why you need video lighting equipment for your YouTube videos. They are for controlling lighting conditions, image quality, and producing professional looks- which will lead to more views. Let’s delve a bit more into these points:
You want to dictate your YouTube lighting setup to produce a consistent look your viewers will become familiar with. You also want to control the visual style with your video lighting setup. For example, you can use various colors or color temperatures with your lights to cast a uniquely different look.
Have you ever filmed in natural lighting and noticed the sun’s intensity fluctuate throughout the shot? In some frames it’s bright and in the next, it’s dim. This is especially considerable if your camera is set to auto-exposure. More on how to correct that in future tutorials.
Good lighting can directly affect your image quality. This is not to say dark lighting is bad quality. You have to know what you’re doing to pull off a darker- moodier set. We’ll introduce advanced lighting techniques in future blog posts. So more on that later…
In general, brighter lighting helps cameras focus on subjects better. So less blurry videos. And more importantly, it introduces less noise in videos.
ColorDirector helps eliminate video noise.
Let’s get technical now. Noise (or grain) in video is the pixelated congestion you see dancing around in dimly lit videos (see the reference in the image above.) This is the compensation effect of most cameras. It is a negative limitation of most cameras as their sensors emit this as a byproduct in displaying the image. If your videos are grainy or blurry, don’t fret. We have a software tool to help eliminate video noise.
Simply illuminating your scene with a room lamp or defaulting to your overhead lights alone won’t gain you pro-quality looks. For this, you would need to adhere to the 3-point lighting system. (Note: it can be pulled off with at least 2 lights.)
On the basis of this methodology, you have a key light generally in front of your subject but at an angle. This angle is your subject’s main angle with the brightest light. On the opposite angle will be your fill light. This light is not as bright as the key light and is meant to brighten up the opposite side of your subject’s face to even up the light and eliminate dark shadows. Lastly, you have the back light at the rear angle of the subject. This light adds separation of the subject from the background. Pro tip: add a blue gel or filter on this light to give a Hollywood style look to your videos!
The reason for learning these techniques is to produce more professional videos. Which in turn will net you more views. And more views for a YouTuber equals more revenue from your uploads.
Now you may be asking, what’s the best kind of lighting for YouTube videos? First, we have to learn about the different types of lights.
LED lights are one of the best YouTube lighting choices right now. They are:
LED light, in our humble opinion, offers the best of all worlds when it comes to video lighting.
When you come from an era of studio lighting with hot, heavy equipment, you learn to appreciate the benefits of LED lights for video so much more. You don’t know how convenient it is to pack up a smaller light kit bag versus several bags or even heavy Pelican cases to protect expensive, fragile lighting equipment.
Ring lights are all the rave among vloggers- and for good reason. They typically are LED lights, just in a ring shape. They check all of the same boxes as above with the feature to mount a camera or phone within the center of the ring. When close-up to the subject, they cast that signature orb in the irises. They also emit soft light onto the subject. These lights are great for beauty vloggers. They enunciate punchy colors and soften skin.
We’re very proud of the progression of these lights. Back in the day, in order to DIY a ring light you would literally need an electrician. Or you would need to possess a fair knowledge of electrical ballasts to build one cheaply.
Today, you can snag one as low as $19 online.
Softboxes are great vlog lighting choices. A softbox is preferred as the main or key light and LEDs to fill and backlight. As alluded to earlier, they emit a soft diffused light on subjects which is not easily simulated with LED lights. Yes, LEDs have a diffuser shield (or you can use things like a sheet of paper, cloth, or even a napkin) to soften the light. But you have to compensate for brightness in doing so. To alleviate, you must increase the LEDs brightness and this causes more harsh shadows.
Softboxes typically come in rectangular, boxed, or round shapes. The inner portion is a metallic reflective material. You screw light bulbs inside the ballast. While you can use regular bulbs, it is best if you use color temperature balanced bulbs as they give off different looks.
If you’ve ever walked into the lighting section of a big box hardware store then you’ve seen this demonstration. Lighting temperatures typically range from warmer to cooler temps- or orange to blue colors. These color temps are measured in Kelvin (K):
We recommend 6500K daylight white balanced bulbs for softboxes. Think of it as pure bright white. There is no color tent in these bulbs.
Umbrella lights are just how they sound. There is an umbrella before the light. Now, there are two popular types of umbrella lights; see-through and reflective.
See-through umbrella lights act as a softbox as the light diffuses through the umbrella material. Reflective umbrellas mirror the light back at the subject. In essence, you will be pointing the light away from your subject and bounce it back at them.
Both options are lightweight and easy to move around a set once constructed. Our only caution with softboxes and umbrella lights are that you must be careful with the bulbs when storing and transporting as they are fragile. With the right casing, however, this should be a non-issue.
Here’s what you want in your YouTube lighting kit:
The olden days of flicking a light switch on and off are concluded. With modern lights for video shooting, you want dimmable features to adjust the brightness.
Most of the vlog lighting options we’ve mentioned will come with a diffuser or reflector- depending on the lighting option chosen. LEDs come with frosted plastic panels you can diffuse light with. Some LEDs also come with color temperature diffusers. So you can simulate warm, white, and cooler light color tones. Softboxes and umbrellas tend to come with reflectors.
Color temp diffusers were just touched on. However, some LEDs and ring lights have the ability to adjust light color themselves. So, no need to carry and install an extra component. Simply adjust the color temperature on the light directly.
In general, you will want a light kit with the widest light spread as possible. This is so you can illuminate your entire set. And if you require less light spread, most LED lights come with barn doors to control the spread. Alternatively, advanced users can use a “snoot”, which is a kind of cone-shaped blocker that funnels light, for even more precise control.
Portability is one of the more important features often overlooked in my opinion. If your setup is stationary in a studio, then it may not be as important. However, if you travel with your gear, you need it as lightweight and portable as possible.
Here are our top picks for lighting equipment for YouTube videos:
We included this LED option as it is mountable directly to the top of a DSLR camera’s hot shoe mount. It’s bright for a small light, totally portable, and battery operated. It includes:
If you’re looking for some cheaper options, that are even smaller and more portable. Try this desk mountable option. It features:
This is currently a top pick at Amazon. For about $150 it features a sleek and portable vlog lighting kit for amateurs and pros alike. It comes with:
This light kit is the upgrade of the above-recommended kit. It features a wireless remote which can control both lights in various ways; either separately or simultaneously. It also comes with a pair of the following:
This light kit is not only for photographers but videographers as well. For around $200 it’s a full lighting kit in a bag. This kit is great for setting up a home studio. It comes with a pair of everything you need including:
If you’re looking for quick and cheap vlog lighting, then this ring light is it! It can be desk or dresser mounted. It features a swivel-mounted ring light, phone mount, it’s dimmable, plus includes a Bluetooth remote for smartphones:
This ring light is a middle of the road option. It features a 10″ ring light and tripod stand. Also in the kit are:
We recommend a larger ring light, especially for DSLR cameras since they provide a large hole to shoot inside. The large lights also provide for more light spread than the smaller ones. This kit includes almost everything you’ll need in your setup:
This vlog lighting kit comes with daylight color balanced 800W incandescent bulbs. It also features dual:
This kit opts for interchangeable LED bulbs, which are dimmable in a range of color temps. It also comes with a pair of:
This light package features an LED system, making it ultra-lightweight and portable. There’s no need to worry about being too fragile with bulbs or replacing them. This kit includes a duo of:
This vlog lighting package comes with a trio of sockets, stands, and 45W CFL bulbs. However, it only comes with 2 see-through umbrellas. It does come with a carrying case and smaller equipment bag.
This setup features a total of 4 umbrellas. Including two see-through and two reflective umbrellas. It, too, has three 45W CFL bulbs, sockets, and stands.
The LimoStudio vlog lighting kit is virtually identical to the Emart kit above. They include some velcro ties to keep your setup tidy.
While shooting with the right light is ideal, some imperfect lighting is bound to happen. A crucial tool for any video creator is a good Color Grading software to fix and stylize your color and light after you’ve shot. Software like ColorDirector not only gives you complete control over your video coloring, it allows you to create light sources that didn’t exist when you shot. With ColorDirector you can match colors, render lighting effects, and correct exposure and contrast with ease all after you’ve shot. Even if you shot it perfectly, a good color grading will take any video footage to the next level. Try it out free and see how much you can improve your lighting with just a few clicks.
We know this was a lot of information to take in. Yet we hope our vlog lighting tips and recommendations will help increase the quality of your YouTube videos and ultimately increase views. Once you get your setup to your liking, try experimenting with the position of lights, color filters, and intensity of the lighting for some unique and creative looks. Stay tuned for more advanced lighting tutorials we’ll offer soon.