If you’re like me when I started reading about video and lighting, you probably have no clue how this is going to help improve your videos. Even more, you might feel like it’s going to be too complicated for you.
Don’t worry, it’s all extremely simple and easy. I’m here to help you understand why you need lighting, what you want to do with it, and how to do it. I’ll also recommend the best lighting kits for Youtube.
This is the ultimate guide to achieving the best lighting for Youtube videos this year.
In a Hurry?
If you’re in a hurry, here are the best lighting sets summarized:
Best Video Light
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Best Ring Lights
Best Lighting Kits
If you are not sure which one you need and want to learn how to get better results with them, keep reading.
Table of Contents
Why Lighting is the Key to Beautiful Videos
As the human being you are (I hope so), you know you can’t see well in the dark. And that’s even though our eyes are much more sensitive to light than a camera sensor.
A camera is pretty much a machine that saves the light it receives at an exact moment, and to do so it needs to be bright enough for the sensor to capture it.
When the camera doesn’t receive enough light, it increases its sensibility to light to capture the moment, affecting the resulting image.
Besides this, using lighting will give your face more depth and contrast. You will just look better in good light. Simple!
Option 1: Natural Light
A lot of YouTubers have wide windows at home that they use for their lighting, so they don’t have to bother about setting up lighting.
But for this, you need the right place, and you will have to record during the day. You’ll also have to pray that the day you are planning to record is not rainy or darker than usual.
The other problem with this is that all videos will look slightly different because it will all depend on the intensity of the light of the day you choose for recording.
Natural light is the most beautiful kind of light for YouTube, but it is really random and hard to achieve a good result if you’re working alone.
You can instead try to imitate natural lighting by using artificial methods.
Option 2: LED Lights
The best look you can get for your YouTube videos is achieved by using a nice LED light with a diffuser.
The idea is that your key light has to be the main source of lighting, so it should be powerful. Combine it with a big diffuser and you get a gorgeous soft shadow that looks natural like the pic above.
The bad news is that a powerful LED light is not cheap. You can skip this if you don’t have the budget. It’s not a big deal if you don’t get one.
But honestly, the best kind of look you can achieve is through a good LED key light.
I can only recommend one specific light. Some others are extremely expensive, and I don’t know why—they do almost the same thing. I haven’t found a reason to recommend other than the one that I use, the Godox SL60W. It’s affordable and has great reviews everywhere for a good reason::
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You need to also get a hexadecagon or octagon diffuse softbox and a strong stand to use them. Don’t forget to check the ones that are often bought together on Amazon.
Option 3: Ring Lights
The second best option, and probably the best for getting started is using a simple ring light.
They can light up a basement or garage like it’s nothing.
They are so powerful that you might want to bounce them to a wall because they can be intolerable if they directly point at you.
It consists of a light bulb that comes in a ring shape. It creates an even light all around your face without having to use more light sources. So it’s practical and can clean your face of any shadow.
They make your face look really bright, so they are perfect for makeup work, but they might look more unnatural than using a typical LED light.
They are pretty ergonomic because you set your camera in the middle of the ring, so it also serves as a stand for your camera. They’re also the easiest setup to carry around.
Finally, it creates a circular spotlight on your eyes, which is something that a lot of people like about it.
Here are some of my favorite ring lights, you can read more about them here if you’re not sure which one to get. There are many sizes, but for most YouTubers, I’d recommend a size between 16 and 19 inches.
Option 4: Lighting Kits
The last alternative is using a lighting kit. This can give you more control over your lighting, but you also need to kinda know what you’re doing to achieve a better result than just using a LED or ring light.
You will have to deal with multiple lighting sources at the same time, different types of diffusers and know how to work with each of them:
- Umbrella: When you use them, light spreads around more naturally than using a softbox, so you require less control and knowledge to get a nice natural-looking light. It’s basically the plug-and-play for lighting.
- Softbox: It requires a bit more control than umbrellas. Because of this, it’s more versatile and you can achieve the specific look that you want, but you need the knowledge to play a lot with it.
If you want to know, my favorite combination is the Godox SL60W key light + the softbox kit below.
How to Use Your Lighting Kit
I’m sure you noticed that most lighting kits come with 2-3 lighting bulbs and their respective stands and modifiers.
But how do you use these lights? A basic lighting setup is normally made of 3 parts:
The key light should be your stronger light and the main one that will point to your subject’s face. You should put it closer to your face than the other ones, or make it stronger by increasing the output. You should also put it slightly above the level of your subject’s face.
The fill light will fill the shadows generated by your key light so it softens them up and makes them look more natural. Use it to avoid hard shadows and create a more diffused shadow.
The back or background light can be used in two ways:
- Point it to your background so it’s also bright and you don’t look like you’re in a spotlight.
- Point it to your subject from behind to create a highlight that helps to separate the subject from the background. This is mostly used for portrait photography.
Each kind of light doesn’t need to come from an artificial source. That means that your key light can be the sun, the fill light a bouncer, the background light a window, etc.
The advantage of using a lighting kit is that you are in control of the light so you can achieve a pretty consistent result and replicate it over and over.
These will give a light that isn’t as intense as your key light and that will help you light up the shadows that remain on your face and background.
Finally: Be Conscious of Shadows
Using lighting will make your videos better, but you also need to know what you want to aim for.
First, using lighting will naturally create some shadows. Learning how to deal with them is what you need to do.
There are no good or bad shadows, there’s just appropriate lighting for what you want to communicate with your image. As a Youtuber or video blogger, you don’t want to look like a movie villain:
You will probably want something simple that looks good and it’s just natural:
You should know that the kind of shadows you get will depend on many factors:
- Distance from the umbrella and the bulb
- Distance from you and the umbrella
- The angle and size of the softbox
- Natural light sources available
- Much more…
The best ending results will come after a lot of trial and error.
If you just want to record a nice-looking YouTube video, just make sure you are not creating hard shadows around your nose.
You need to look at your final result and make sure that the image is bright enough and that shadows look diffused and natural.
Once you find the right setup, make sure you achieve the look that you want, and try to memorize how you achieved it so you can replicate it for all your videos.
It will take some practice and many videos for you to finally choose the best one. You might want to take a picture of all your setup once you achieve a look that you love, so you can replicate it later.
1. Try different setups for your lighting. Use different angles, combinations, and amounts of lighting sources. Try it out and experiment until you achieve something you like. It’s the only way to learn.
2. Use an umbrella for a nice natural light look without too many complications.
3. Use a softbox for better aesthetics and a more artistic look with shadows.
4. Use a ring light to make your face really bright and erase all shadows from it, which is great for makeup work.
5. Think about your environment. You can also use light for the background so it doesn’t look a lot darker than you or your subject.
Will has been a full-time content creator since 2014. He’s an audio, video, and tech hobbyist dedicated to reviewing products and giving you the best tips he knows to grow your audience.