Best Lighting for Youtube Videos 2018: Ultimate Guide

​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. STOP! 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 in 2018.

best lighting for youtube 2018

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.

high iso image noise

​High ISO creates little dots called noise. It looks a lot worse ​when it's a video.

​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

​Natural Light

natural light example

​Photo credit: Josh from expertphotography.com

​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

youtuber using artificial light

​Youtuber Jasmine Rose using a ring light


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 quality of light available.

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.

There are two main options you can use if you record your own videos.

​Modifiers for Artificial Light

​Umbrellas

​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

​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 of testing and experimenting, but you can give your Youtube videos an unique look with them.

​Ring Light

​Ring lights are another kind of artificial light that looks a lot different than the traditional lighting setup.

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 lots of trial and error.
  • ​Ring lights are ​easie​r 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

  • ​Adjustable mount for ​cameras and mobile phones
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    Color filters to experiment different light temperatures (orange, white), Bluetooth Self-timer
  • ​Size: 18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K
  • ​Weight: 11.6 pounds

$9.99$99.99
Buy on Amazon

  • ​Adjustable mount for ​cameras and mobile phones
  • check
    Color filters to experiment different light temperatures (​orange, ​white), Bluetooth Self-timer
  • ​Size: 14" Outer/12" on center 55W 5500K
  • ​Weight: 5.06 pounds
  • ​Adjustable mount for ​cameras and mobile phones. This one comes with a lever that makes adjusting the camera easier
  • check
    Color filters to experiment different light temperatures (​orange, ​pink, ​blue), Bluetooth Self-timer
  • ​Size: 18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K
  • ​Weight: 11.2 pounds
  • ​Adjustable mount for ​cameras and mobile phones.
  • check
    Color filters to experiment different light temperatures (​orange, ​​white), ​Bluetooth Self-timer
  • ​Size: 18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K
  • ​Weight: ​7.35 pounds
  • ​Really small, portable and made to use on a table
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    ​Comes with a small mirror​ and a mini tripod
  • ​Size: 8 inches
  • ​Weight: ​2.85 pounds

​Best Lighting Kits for YouTube

  • Three 45W 5500K Bulbs with holding sockets and stands
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    One ​bulb carry case bag and one ​heavy duty ​carry ​case to store the entire kit 
  • ​​Two 33 inch Black/Silver Reflector Umbrella
  • ​Two 33 inch Translucent White Soft Umbrella
  • ​Two 85W 5500K Bulbs with holding sockets and stands. This makes it the brightest lighting kit on the list
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    ​One ​​carrying ​case to store the entire kit 
  • ​Two 20"​*28" Softboxes
  • ​Four 45W ​Bulbs with holding sockets and stands
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    6 x 9 ft green, white and black backdrops with stand support system
  • ​Six clamps for the backdrop
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    ​Two ​white ​translucent umbrellas and two softboxes
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    ​Two carrying bags: one for the backdrop support system and one for the rest of the kit
  • ​Four 23W ​Bulbs with holding sockets and stands. This makes this lighting kit ​half as bright ​as the ​one above.
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    Green, white and black backdrops with stand support system
  • ​You'll need to buy better clamps for the backdrop
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    ​Two ​white ​translucent umbrellas and two softboxes
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    ​One ​carrying bag for the entire kit

​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.

How do you use these lights?

A basic lighting setup is normally made of 3 parts:

  1. Key light
  2. Fill light
  3. Back or background light light
lighting setup for youtube videos

​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:

  1. Point it to your background so it’s also bright and you don’t look like you’re in a spotlight.
  2. 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:

hard shadow portrait

​Photo credit: Cole from Cole's Classroom

​You will probably want something simple that looks good and it's just natural:

diffused light

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 your 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.

​Wrap-up

​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.

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    Will A.

    A photography enthusiast and camera junkie. Will has been researching, testing and comparing vlogging cameras for more than 2.5 years and does this as his full-time job.

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