When clients initially contact me to coach them with their video presentations, I ask them to send me examples of any previous footage they may have of them presenting on video.
One of the most common mistakes I see is that most people do not appreciate how important it is to light themselves properly.
Lighting is a powerful tool. It can be used to create a positive or negative first impression on your viewers.
Filmmakers will use different lighting setups to manipulate viewers to feel a certain way about the characters
Light. A Powerful Manipulation Tool
You can create a positive or a negative first impression on your viewers with the way that you light yourself onscreen. Film directors and cinematographers know this. They will often use different lighting styles and setups to manipulate viewers to feel a certain way about the characters – the “good guys” are lit differently from the “bad guys” for example.
- Lighting can convey certain types of moods onscreen, unconsciously influencing the viewer, i.e. happy moments look and feel different from sad moments or experiences onscreen
- Various lighting styles can direct the focus and attention of the viewer. It can be used to hide things in the shadows, it can make the viewer feel excited, dreadful, positive, anxious, or even sickly.
Good lighting can even make you look better than how you appear to the naked eye.
Correct studio lighting can lessen the appearance of deep lines and dark undereye circles by filling in the shadows. Its often used to light “older” actors, news presenters, talk show hosts, etc making them appear more healthy, alert, and youthful.
Yes! Lighting is a powerful tool and good film / TV makers use it to full effect.
Move Away From the Window
The generic advice out there is to film yourself in front of a window. I encourage my clients to avoid this.
Unless you are skilled in color-correction (in post-production), avoid filming yourself in natural light. It can produce inferior results, in terms of professionalism, look, and feel. Including overexposed, blown-out facial features, and lighting quality issues. The weather will move and change over the course of your film day, as a result, your light source becomes highly variable (you can not control cloud cover), and (problematic) your footage, its look and feel won’t match.
Not only that wherever the window is situated, now becomes the backdrop, the visual space, the atmosphere that you’re inviting your audience in. Unless it is a desired, dedicated room or film space you may end up undermining your video’s message and your video production efforts.
Avoid natural light, it can produce inferior results and be highly variable to work with
Your Basic Studio Lighting Setup
For the best results, you need to control the lighting. This means you will need to invest in some form of lighting for your studio set up.
I’ve already mentioned the importance of facing toward the light, but it’s a little more complicated than just turning a light on in front of you while you face the video camera. You don’t want to be staring straight into a light bulb. Using full-frontal light can blow-out your facial features.
There is a science behind professional studio lighting, but in this context lets keep it simple. You’ll need two light sources.
- The key light is the one that provides most of the illumination on your face
- Place this light at a 45-degree angle to your left or right
- Place the key light on a stand so that it is higher than your face and aim it straight at your face.
- The purpose of the fill light is to illuminate the other side of your face to prevent shadows on your face
- The fill light is not as bright as the key light (you’ll often see photographers use a reflector screen rather than an actual light)
- Place the fill light on the opposite side of the camera from the key light, and set it slightly lower, so that it is about the same height as the camera.
- Back Light – used to separate you from your background setting. It can create a subtle halo effect around your head and shoulders
- Background Light – depending on placement, it can create interesting light effects against the backdrop or wall. Using several background lights can create an airy “infinity” look if shooting against a white wall or backdrop.
The two additional lights (Background and Back Light) are optional and aren’t necessary if you are filming in a small room. The Key light and Fill light is sufficient for a “standard” presenting-piece-to-camera aka a talking-head video format.
Of course, there are many nuances to studio lighting, but if you stick with a Key and Fill light – you’ll be way ahead of the vast majority of people who don’t in terms of production value, look, and feel.
In-house Studio Gear
For my own studio set up, I use a 2 or 3-point set up:
- 2 lights: “Key and Fill” or
- 3 lights: “Key” “Fill” and “Background”) for casual things like vlogging or candid pieces to camera.
If I’m shooting an episode, then I’ll use a 6 piece lighting set-up because I shoot with a green-screen.
The lighting product line that I currently use is an inexpensive entry-level kit the EPhoto VL9004S3 via Amazon.
This kit comes with:
- 3 x Lightstand (able to extend to 6.5ft Height)
- 3 x 4 Light Sockets
- 3 x 16″ x 24″ Soft-box
- 12 x 45W 5500K (perfect daylight bulbs equivalent 2400W)
- 3 x Power Cords with Carrying Case
- I haven’t had any issues with this particular product line (had this set since 2010)
- The bulbs are readily available online
- Lighting units are audio friendly (they don’t make any humming or buzzing sounds while on)
- They do produce some heat but not enough to feel uncomfortable
- On one shoot I had the lights running for close to 12-hours (not best practice) but experienced no issues/flickering etc
- The square softboxes do take up a lot of space in my studio
- These do not travel well
- They take a long time to assemble or tear down
Below is an example of the results, I can achieve with this entry-level lighting kit.
Behind the Scenes – Keying Test
Portable Studio Gear
If I’m travelling to and from client shoots – I’ll use panel lights and a ring light (optional). These Panel lights offer convenience (you don’t have to assemble them unlike soft-boxes), they take up less space, are portable, and travel well.
The slim build offers you more lighting options in small spaces or odd filming conditions.
They are ideal for lighting products or specific elements. But in my experience, they aren’t ideal for lighting large or wide-open spaces/studios.
Remember to keep your filming day easy, light, and fun with proper planning. It will make for a better onscreen experience (for you as the presenter) but more importantly, it makes for a better viewing experience for your audience.
If you have a question or you what me to cover a topic for you let me know. I’m always listening!
You can also book a time with me to troubleshoot your video creation or a production challenge. See below for details.
Keep creating and putting your best out into the world!
Established in 2006 Bianca Te Rito, founder of STEBIAN.com provides an exclusive, consulting service helping business thought leaders, speakers, award-winning authors & VIPs productize their thought leadership and present themselves, their products, services, or brand message to their target audience in the most effective way possible on video. Get the tailored expertise from a real-world operator with over 20 years of TV/Film industry experience working in front of and behind the camera. Learn more about our custom offers here.