How to light your videos properly

In this post, I wanted to share what I’ve learnt about lighting for videos (and also, photos). Hopefully it will help you if you’re creating video content for any purpose. The main thing I’ve learnt is that lighting matters the most.

Light it right

First up, the way you light your shot can make a big difference to begin with. I’ll be comparing an early video, with a couple of recent ones. They’re still not perfect but they’re getting better (or at least I think they are).

Iteration 1:-

When I started I was just using the ceiling lights and a green screen background. It was OK but a bit too bright. This was also filmed on the Logitech webcam, without any colour grading in editing software.

Iteration 2.

In the next image, I had light it differently using a key light, a hair light as well as a lamp in the background, and a blue accent light on the wall.

I was shooting this from the selfie camera on my Pixel 6 which when looking at the video image in my editing software – you could tell there were some limits from the actual camera that I was shooting with (I think I was also accidentally set on a zoom that wasn’t 100% either).

It’s still a little dark (I filmed it at 11pm) and the selfie camera isn’t amazing on the Pixel 6 – but I’ve been struggling with getting the video composition correct when trying to use either my Camera, or my Phone back camera (where I can’t see the monitor).

Iteration 3:-

This is, again using just ceiling lights to capture the image, but I’m using the phones back camera (not the selfie one). Notice how the skin tones seem more natural and it looks just more realistic than the selfie camera (or logitech webcam one above).

What can you notice here?

  • Skin tones are looking more realistic than iteration 2
  • There’s not a great deal of separation between the background and me
  • I’ve got Panda Eyes (🐼) caused by shadows from the ceiling lights

Enter the 3 point lighting setup

Now, I’m currently only using a 2 point light setup (using these LED lights) so my key light will be casting some shadows (like in the iteration 2 above). The fill light will simply lift the shadows up that you’re seeing on my right cheek in iteration 2).

3 point lighting setup

The idea of the three point setup is:-

  • You’re giving enough light to the subject
  • You’re not casting too many shadows
  • The subject is standing out from the background.

Lights can get expensive, but for my purpose the LED lights work well – I just wish they had their own power source (even if just batteries I can recharge) or a longer cable. I’ll be able to get by with purchasing another USB plug and an extension cable though, so it’s not the end of the world.

Adding practical lights.

Practicals are lights you’ll have around your house. Such as a desk lamp, or even having your macbook screen throwing out a bit of light. These help add some colour to the scene but it’s important to have the warmth consistent.

In iteration 2 I was mixing cold colours (blue) with the warm colour from the desk lamp on my lego shelf and I also had the keylight on a bright white – which made it really difficult to get things looking good in my editing software.

Filmic Pro and Filmic Remote

I’ve now settled on using Filmic Pro and Filmic Remote for my video setup for the time being. The camera on the Pixel 6 is great and I can set it up on a tripod to help frame the scene.

Lighting, I’m using the Neewer 2 pack, which are an inexpensive option to get started with.

Then I use Filmic Remote to use my other Android device to see the image and adjust the settings if I need to. I can also then hit record on it, rather than have to go around, hit record and come running back to sit down and possibly mess up my shot a bit in the process.

You don’t have to use another old phone for this, if you have an Android tablet you can use that too for a larger image. Alternatively you can pipe your phone through your macbook and see the image on your screen, then get up and down loads of times to sort the actual lighting).

I’m then capturing Audio directly onto the macbook using the lav mic. I found that if I tried to capture Audio and Video the Audio would sometimes crackle a bit if the lav was hooked into the phone while it was also recording the video.

Davinci Resolve

When using your smartphone, you can always adjust the colour in the editing software to make it look a bit better. Here’s a comparison of the same image before and after the colour correction.

This post won’t be a detailed guide on the colour correction techniques, but you can adjust the highs and lows and also modify the white balance a bit so it doesn’t look too flat.

Did you like the image compare above? That’s a nifty new Gutenberg block which lets you add in content like the above.

The final setup

Want to see the final setup? Well, I’ll be creating a video this week using the following:-

  • Filmic Pro
  • Filmic Remote
  • The 2 point lighting setup
  • Davinci Resolve (for editing and colour grading)

Where will you be able to find the video? Well, my YouTube of course, but I’ll also be coming back from the future to edit this post too.

I’ve wanted to improve my video, but with a purpose – so I’ve been working on some free courses (it’s still a coming soon page) for now but stay tuned for updates when my first course goes live.

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