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
Depending on the way your studio lighting is set up, it can create either a positive or a negative first impression on your viewers. Film directors/Cinematographers know this, and will use different lighting 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. It 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.
Did you know that lighting can even make you look better than you do in real life? Film directors when they are working with “older” actors often use very bright lighting, which helps lessen the appearance of deep wrinkles (by filling in the shadows) making the actors look more youthful. Yes! Lighting is that powerful and good film-makers use it to full effect.
Filmmakers will use different lighting setups to manipulate viewers to feel a certain way about the characters
Get Away From the Window!
Do not film with a natural light source behind you. This is a common mistake and it can totally undermine your video presentation. Make sure any natural light sources are in front of you, not behind you – otherwise it can cast shadows over your face, or make you appear like a silhouette. If you are filming outside, you need to indirectly face the sun (think half shade). If you are filming inside, make sure there are no windows behind you with daylight streaming in.
Basic Studio Lighting Setup to Look Good On Video
For best results, you need to control the lighting. Never rely on natural light, which produces inferior results and can be highly variable. 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 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!
Never rely on natural light, which produces inferior results and can be highly variable.
There is a science behind professional studio lighting, but I don’t want to disappear down a large rabbit hole or have this be a complicated technical article. I am writing this article for the average person who wants to film themselves doing a video presentation at their desk or standing in front of a wall.
In that Case, you will Need 2 Lights
- 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 fill light is not as bright as the key light (sometimes you will see photographers use a reflector screen rather than an actual light). You 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. The purpose of the fill light is to illuminate the other side of your face to prevent shadows on your face.
- Back Light – used to separate the Presenter from their background setting – can create a subtle halo effect around the Presenters head and shoulders
- Background Light – depending on placement, can create interesting light effects against the backdrop or wall. Using several lights can create an airy “infinity” look if shooting against a white wall or backdrop.
Of course, there are a lot more nuances to studio lighting than this, but If you use the Key and Fill lights as I have outlined, you will be ahead of 90% of the other people trying to film their video presentations.
Example: Key Light and Fill Light Setup
The two additional lights (Background and Backlight) are optional and are not necessary if you are filming in a small room. The Key light and Fill light will generally be sufficient for a “standard” presentation to the camera (i.e. talking head).
My Own Studio Light Setup (as per a reader request)
I use a 2 or 3-point (i.e. 2 lights: “Key and Fill” or 3 lights: “Key” “Fill” and “Background”) for casual things like vlogging (or candid pieces to camera).
If I am shooting an episode then I’ll use a 6 piece lighting set-up because I shoot with a green-screen. Note: Green-screening requires a more advanced lighting and background set-up – see my article Green-screening your Video Presentations.
The lighting product line that I currently use is an inexpensive entry-level kit the EPhoto VL9004S3.
- 3 x Lightstand (able to extend to 6.5ft Height)
- 3 x 4 Light Sockets
- 3 x 16″ x 24″ Softbox
- 12 x 45W 5500K (perfect day light bulbs equivalent 2400W)
- 3 x Power Cords with Carrying Case
To date, I haven’t had any issues with this particular product line
- 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