If you’re like me when I started reading about video and lighting, you probably have no clue of how this is going to help improve your videos. Even more, you might feel like it’s going to be too complicated for you.
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.
Table of Contents
Why Lighting is the Main Reason Your Videos Look Crappy
The main reason your camera might seem like it’s not recording high-quality video even though you set it to 1080p is the lack of lighting.
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.
Camera sensors have different levels of sensibility to light. The higher the sensibility—also called ISO—, the worse the image will look.
When the camera doesn’t receive enough light, it increases its sensibility to light to be able to capture the moment, and that affects the resulting image.
That’s why you want to have enough light so your camera can use the lowest sensibility possible, so the image looks as faithful to reality as it’s possible.
While things might look bright enough for you, bear in mind that the camera needs a lot more light than you do to “see” well.
Recording indoors without enough windows—even if it’s during a clear and sunny day—is not enough to capture the highest image quality your camera is capable of.
That’s why, as long as it’s possible for you, you should increase the number of lighting sources either by using lots of windows or by the easier and more reliable solution of owning a lighting kit.
Types of Lighting for YouTube
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 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.
Artificial light is usually achieved with a bulb, a stand, and a light modifier. The objective of using it is to achieve a natural light look in a controlled setup.
This way you can always achieve the look that you want and you don’t have to rely on the duration of the day and the quality of the available light.
With artificial light, you can record a video at midnight and nobody will notice.
However, turning on a bulb, aiming it at your face, and hoping it will look good is like hunting a lion with a BB gun and hoping you won’t get killed.
You need a modifier to make the artificial light look natural and some basic knowledge of what looks good and what doesn’t.
Types of Artificial Light
LED Light for Your Key Light
The best look you can get for your YouTube videos is achieved by using a nice LED light as your main light (also called key light).
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.
There is a really popular light between YouTubers and it’s called the Aputure 120D:
- 🌿 |Accurate Color Rendition|: CRI 96+ TLCI 97+ offers Natural, Pristine Color for Broadcast...
- 🌿 |Supports DMX Lighting Function|: The C120D II's DMX system is also pre-programmed with special...
- 🌿 |Combined Controller-Power Unit|: The C120D II is now powered by a single, all-in-one power...
However, I’ve found that it is way too expensive to use just for YouTube, and there’s a better option on the market that is much more affordable. You can BARELY tell the difference and it’s the one I personally use… the Godox SL60W:
- |High Quality 60W LED Bead|: Powerful 60W LED bead offers high light brightness and stable...
- |Brightness Adjustment &Grouping|: You can manually adjust the brightness£¬433MHz grouping...
- |Durable & Strong|: Powerful 60W LED bead offers high light brightness and stable illumination,...
You need to also get an 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.
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.
Umbrellas are easier to carry around than other modifiers. They are also the most simple and easy to use.
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.
How to use an umbrella
If you know how to use an umbrella, you got the knowledge to use one for lighting. There are two kinds of umbrellas: bounce umbrellas (black and silver) and shoot-through umbrellas (white and translucent). You will be using the latter for YouTube videos.
The way of using it is simple: set the inner part of the umbrella in front of the bulb and aim the bulb at you or your subject. That’s it.
Softboxes are translucent boxes that come in different figures. The most common one is rectangular, which imitates the light that comes from a window.
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 and to play a lot with it.
How to use a softbox
To use the softbox itself is not complicated. You just have to set the bulb inside the box itself and point the white part to your subject.
However, there are probably hundreds of ways of using a softbox.
You have to try different angles and distances with a softbox to play with the different shadows you get on your subject.
A good starting point is following the typical three-point lighting method I will explain later on.
They simply require a bit more testing and experimenting, but you can give your Youtube videos a unique look with them.
Alternative: One Light Setup
If you don’t want to use multiple lights for your studio, you could simply go for a ring light.
Most YouTubers simply use one of these because they can light up everything pretty evenly and it’s just one light that is easy to set up.
Of course, using a strong key light + softer fill lights will give a more professional and beautiful look, but you can use a ring light if you’re just starting and if you’re too confused about lighting.
Just a ring light should be your choice if you’re tight on budget.
Ring lights are another kind of artificial light that looks a lot different than the traditional lighting setup.
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’re directly pointing at you.
It basically 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 lighting setup.
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.
How to use a ring light
If you are showing some type of work on someone’s face—like makeup—, you don’t want shadows. That’s when using a ring light is best.
And to achieve a shadowless look with them, you should always put the ring light in front of your subject. If you don’t, the ring light will create some hard shadows on their face that won’t make things look clean.
Umbrella vs Softbox vs Ring Light: Which One is Right for Your YouTube Videos?
- Simplest to use and require basic knowledge to make them work.
- Can help you achieve a more unique and professional look, but you will need a bit more trial and error.
- Ring lights are easier to carry around because you only need the ring light and one stand, but they don’t look as natural and are also more expensive. It should be your choice if you’re a makeup Youtuber.
Best Ring Lights for YouTube
These are our favorite ring lights.
Best Lighting Kits for YouTube
Combine any of these with a key light from the section above and you’ll have the perfect lighting kit for YouTube.
If you want to know, my favorite combination is the Godox SL60W key light + the softbox kit below.
- 45W Photo CFL Bulb: 3 * 45W(equals to 200W Incandescent Light) 5500K full spectrum energy saving CFL...
- White/Sliver Umbrella Reflector: White umbrella reflector works well to diffuse the light from any...
- Adjustable Light Stand Kits: 2 * 83 inch+1 * 33 inch photography light stands, professional...
- The kit included: (2)30"X30"/76x76cm Softbox; (2)85W 5500K CFL Light Bulb; (2)75"/190cm Light...
- 2 Softbox: The hexagonal softbox has smooth light and a wide range of illumination, which can...
- Energy Efficient Bulbs: 2 x 85W 110V-50Hz 5400K daylight CFL lighting bulbs. The total output is...
- (2) x UMBRELLA-STYLE SOFTBOX REFLECTOR 24 X 24 inch softbox with white square diffuser for...
- (2) x PHOTOGRAPHY WHITE PREMIUM PHOTO SOFT UMBRELLA 33 inch premium quality nylon cloth diffuse...
- (4) x PRETTY SMOOTH SHAPE LAMP HOLDER photographic light head has better shape for holding when...
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:
- Key light
- Fill light
- Back or background light light
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.
Be Conscious of Shadows
So you bought one of the lighting kits above. Now what? You probably have no clue how everything falls into place.
Don’t worry, it really isn’t that hard.
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
- 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 shadows look diffused and natural.
Once you find the right setup, make sure you achieve a 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 amount 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.