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Video lighting techniques and tips

video lighting


Bright videos look glossy and professional. Dark or over exposed videos are unattractive and unprofessional. Any ambitious brand wants to be seen in their best light and finding or creating the best light on a video shoot takes a level of skill and insider knowledge. Thankfully video lighting techniques can be learnt and having a good understanding of them will ensure your next video’s lighting looks great. Read on to discover our best advice and tips on how to set up lighting for video.


Great lighting in video is important


When you have great lighting in a video everything will look pretty or the best it can look, and when things look great we can’t help but watch. Great lighting complements everything in a scene from the actors to the props. Without great lighting the overall look and feel of your video will be dull and unappealing, if the viewer can’t see clearly what is happening they are probably not going to watch more than a few seconds of the video and all that effort you put into creating your video will be wasted.


Video lighting techniques


Experimentation and learning how to critically look at a shot to see where it needs a touch more light is a skill learned over time. Creating the best light for your next video shoot is essentially a matter of taste, it’s up to you and your videographer to define the look you want to achieve. To get you started on your quest for video lighting perfection in the next few sections we will discuss the different types of video lighting techniques and how to work with them.


Soft light in video


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Soft or ambient light is one of the most popular and sought after lighting styles in videos. Why? It’s extremely flattering. The softer the light, the more flattering the result. In soft light shadows have soft edges or no edges at all and as a result shadows are barely visible.


One of the best ways to get started with soft video lighting is to use a very large light source, as the larger the light the softer the light. However, diffusing any light source creates a soft light and the simplest example of this is putting a sheet of paper between the subject and the light, the glow from the light will be much softer and more flattering. When shooting indoors we recommend using fluorescent bulbs as they’re typically softer than LED.


Hard light in video


As you can guess hard light is the opposite of soft, it’s harsh and creates shadows with sharp edges which can be very unflattering if not used skilfully. The light source is small and often not diffused so that there is a high contrast between the subject and the shadow. Hard light can look great in editorial or dramatic video contexts such as superhero movies like Batman!


Natural light is great for video


The best source of light when shooting a video is natural sunlight, whether that is through a large window or outdoors. However, try to schedule your filming during the morning or late afternoon when the light is softer and more flattering, midday sunshine tends to be very bright and harsh as the light shines down from overhead. If you do shoot in the middle of the day try to find a partly shaded area for that softer light effect.


Creating good lighting for video indoors


Creating good light for filming video indoors takes a little more skill as you will need to use artificial lights and position them well. It is possible to create enough light using a large bright, fluorescent lamp or two if you are shooting a simple scene E.g. talking heads to camera or a selfie video. Practise manoeuvring your light source so that you cast zero or minimal shadows on your subject, this will make your video feel bright, open and professional.


Always position your light source higher than the subject’s eyeline if you are filming a person. Never position a light directly above a person’s or object as it will cast very unflattering shadows and make your video look unprofessional. Equally, lighting a subject from below is deeply unflattering and scary!


During your video shoot setup, start casting the light(s) straight above the camera and then manoeuvre into the perfect position from there, having two light sources at either side of the camera will create less shadows and a more professional looking video.


The 3 point lighting setup


video lighting technique


A popular lighting technique for videographers is the three-point lighting setup. As the name suggests the video lighting in this arrangement is derived from three light sources positioned at 45 degrees angles around the subject:


1. The key light is the biggest and brightest light source either from sunlight or an artificial light.


2. The fill light is less intense than the key light and eliminates the shadows caused by it. The light intensity should never match otherwise you’ll get a flat looking shot.


3. The back light is there to create depth in your shot by separating the subject from the background. Your backlight can be hard light (no diffusion), as it won’t create shadows visible to the camera on the subject’s face.


Managing colour temperature


To create a great, well lit video it’s important to match the colour temperature of your shooting environment with the colour temperature of the lights you choose to use. This means telling your camera how to deal with the lighting environment; daylight (shooting outside) or tungsten (shooting inside), so that it can obtain the most realistic and quality representation of your shot. 


Balancing the colour temperatures during shooting will minimise the amount of time you will spend doing colour correction in post-production. Unfortunately, you can’t just turn your camera on and expect it to know what to do, and you should never shoot a video with your camera set to auto white balance.


Video shoot temperature


Video shoots can get hot quickly due to the intensity of the lighting. Be mindful of this when selecting lights for your shoot, try to use LED and fluorescent lights that stay cool to the touch. Your video production team and actors will be very grateful.


Recommended equipment for video lighting


When your business is ready, has a specific requirement for video or the budget available you can partner with an experienced creative video team to produce a video with the ‘wow’ factor. One of the benefits of working with a video production company is that they will have the best video equipment on the market and know exactly how to use it.


However, if you want to shoot your own professional looking video it is certainly possible. In terms of video lighting equipment always remember that the bigger the light source the softer the light. We recommend starting your video lighting setup with 3 fluorescent lamps and use as per the 3 point setup, or try a fluorescent ring light. The latter is great for creating a flattering, soft light which removes shadows, wrinkles and blemishes, making it perfect for interviews.


When contemplating how to effectively light your next video on a budget remember that it’s down to the placement of the light source and execution, rather than the brand or type of lighting equipment.


Practise your video lighting set up


Creating great lighting for video takes lots of time and patience. Always allow plenty of time to perfect your new video lighting skills to ensure that every video shoot you do is well lit and looking professional. Film a few test shots to check that the subject and scene looks vibrant and attractive, if it’s not perfect keep tweaking your video lighting until it is. This process will become easier with time, trust us!


Tips for filming people with glasses


Filmingpeoplewithglasses


Shooting people who wear glasses in a video can be challenging as you often capture glare on glasses or reflective surfaces. The best way to eliminate this is to use UV-coated or anti-glare glasses, move the glasses further down the nose or manoeuvre your lighting higher and further apart from the camera.


Expand your videography knowledge


Think you’re ready to shoot your own video or just curious about how to do it? As a savvy marketer or business owner it’s useful to know how smaller companies or individuals can shoot professional looking videos inhouse or by themselves. Discover our top videography tips to help you shoot a professional video on a small budget and then you can decide if making your own video content is the right next step for your brand.


Common video lighting issues


Never let any shadows fall on a person’s face in a video, they are unflattering and distract viewers attention from what the person is doing or saying as they can’t see clearly. Never cast light directly from above or below unless you want your subject to look scary!


It’s so important to get your video lighting just right. Be critical when setting up your shot. Does your subject look over exposed and the lighting too bright? Are they underexposed or too dark because the lighting is too low? Don’t start shooting your video until you are totally happy with your video lighting as you will end up spending hours fixing it in post-production.


Let’s create a professional video


Prefer to work with creative video experts to create a standout video for your brand? Let’s work together! Fresh Cut are a leading video production company helping brands tell their stories on TV and online since 2006. With studios in Leeds, Manchester and London we are proud to work with brands and budgets of all sizes. Take a look inside our fantastic portfolio of creative video content and get in touch with our talented team to discuss your next video project.