The Seven Best Lighting Tips for Video

Last Updated December 21st, 2018

We’re living in an exciting technological time, but with all our advancements, it’s easy to miss our old personal connection, which makes options like BombBomb’s video communication so wonderful. While it may feel intimidating, the truth is shooting a video isn’t hard, especially with smartphones and webcams at your disposal. The best way to shoot good video is to learn some basic lighting tips. Below, we’ll show you how to shoot outside or inside like a pro. Both outdoor and indoor video shooting are simple and easy, if you have the right video lighting tips – and great looking videos will make you look both professional and sincere when it comes to your business practices.

Why it’s Important to Have the Best Lighting for Video

Sending a video does more than just give a personal touch – you’re giving your client visual access to something important, right away. That means no scheduling to meet at a location and no worries that whatever you want to show isn’t available or looks wrong due to something uncontrollable like the weather. Plus, it’s a great way to get quick feedback. Best of all, video communication rehumanizes you and shows that your a real person – instead of a collection of words on the other end of the internet, even when you’re out of the office.

It’s important to know how to get good lighting for a video since images don’t always appear on screen the way we’d like them to. Maybe your shot isn’t bright enough, or it’s too bright, or details aren’t coming through. Sometimes, the colors aren’t right or there are so many shadows that it’s hard to see what it is you’re trying to convey. Poor lighting can take away all the great advantages of video communication. The best video lighting looks like real life.

Let’s say you want to show your client a house, and the place looks uninviting on video. Your client won’t want to come to take a look. Maybe you’re selling cars and want to tease your buyers with text videos. Or, if you’re communicating from your office or a cubicle, the wrong lighting will make the place look sterile and you won’t come off as a friendly, communicative person. You want your client to love what they’re looking at; we all love looking at pleasing things, right? Good video lighting keeps your content looking sharp and professional.

To keep yourself versatile, knowing how to shoot video outside is a great skill to have. If you’ve ever seen a professional film shoot, you’ve noticed how a massive quantity of lights is set up to shoot outside, even on a bright sunny day. Don’t worry. You don’t need all these lights for video shooting. instead, there are simple and effective ways to get good lighting in videos shot outdoors, without hauling around a lot of gear. Knowing how to shoot outside will enable you to give just the right feel to keep your client engaged with your message.

How to Work With Key Lighting Outdoors

The best basic criteria for how to make good lighting for video requires the same criteria that even those big film lighting crews use: a three-light set up (Source). Every shot needs a key light, which is the main lighting source. A key light is the strongest light, and its placement determines how you’ll position the other two lighting sources. So, for shooting video outdoors, you’re going to use the most simple light source of all: the sun. Where the sun is located in the sky can have a major effect on how your video looks. A noontime sun will be the brightest and produce the strongest shadows (though they last only a short while), while a morning or afternoon sun will have softer, longer shadows. You don’t want too many shadows, particularly in the middle of the day when you’re subject to that flashlight effect.

How to Create “Fill Light” When Shooting Video Outside

It’s easy to deal with shadows at any time of day. All you need is a second light source, called a fill light. A fill’s role is to fill in the shadowed area with a softer light, which means it needs to be placed counter to your key light’s – which, in this case, would be the sun’s – position. This doesn’t mean you need to have a big heavy light you position on the ground, although you could. Most professionals don’t do this, actually. Instead, they use a “bounce.” (Source) A bounce is something that bounces light off of its surface. So a piece of white paper, or a piece of large white poster board, will work if you’re up close. You can place your bounce on the ground at an angle by putting something like your bag underneath one side. If you’re really committed, then you can purchase a portable bounce from a photography site, too. These compact nicely and you can keep one in your vehicle or in your office.

Backlight and Shooting Video Outdoors

The next light source is a backlight. It’s the dimmest light for shooting video, and it is meant to add dimension. Remember, photography captures light on a spectrum and imprints it as film or pixels, so if you don’t light something, it won’t show up–which may give the look of a black hole behind you, or a “blown out” (over-lit) background. So just put something reflective, like that white poster board, behind you on the ground to reflect the sun. The backlight is especially important if you want to show a building or an item on the street. If you don’t have poster board, again, a few sheets of white paper can work just as well. You probably won’t even have to angle the backlight, as long as it catches and reflects the sun’s rays onto the background behind where you’ll stand.

Video Lighting Basic Tips on Window Light

It’s not uncommon to communicate from the office or an indoor location. Using natural sunlight won’t work as well in this situation, of course, so you’re going to have to get creative when it comes to making lighting for your videos. In fact, it might be best to block out window light altogether. Why? Well, the sun is our greatest light source, so if you have sunlight coming through the windows behind you, that’s your backlight AND your key light. The effect? Your face will be too dark to see. In fact, whether you’re shooting indoors or outdoors, you mostly don’t want to have the sun or your key light behind you for this very reason.

How to Make Good Lighting for Videos Using Window Light

What you can do, however, is use that window light as your key light by facing the window. You can use overhead light as backlight, and then lamp light from desks as fill. You’ll probably need to play around with how many lights are on overhead. Maybe they need to be turned off, and you’ll need to move desk lights around to make sure they catch you just right.

Using Soft Light for Best Video Lighting

The closer a light is to your face, the “harder” the light is, which means you’ll have strong angles and your face will potentially be too well lit. “Soft” light comes from lighting that’s farther from you, which will make your appearance look softer. (Source) This approach does require more lights, however, so make friends with your co-workers and borrow a few lights!

If you want to go a little more pro, you can do so by getting some basic equipment. One easy DIY idea is to buy some clip lights from a hardware store. Clip lights are just that: lights that clip. You can attach one to the top of a cubicle and angle it down, to the side and angled up, or you can just hang one on a door, a cupboard or whatever’s around. The lights do need to be plugged in, however.

Clip lights are great, but you also want to add “diffusion,” which softens the light. You can buy diffusion sheets from a photography site, or you can just use wax paper. All you need are some clothespins (also available at a hardware store). Cut a sheet of diffusion or wax paper so that it can cover the light with at least an inch to spare on either side, then clip onto the light with the clothespins.

Now that you know how to make good lighting for videos, you can take BombBomb for a spin. For a two-week trial, you can play around with the lighting and figure out how to make engaging, professional videos that are sure to impress clients. Click here to get started!

Aaron Colby

Aaron Colby | About The Author

Copywriting, blogging, marketing. A storyteller with a passion for creating results through words. Background in advertising and broadcasting. Lead Writer, BombBomb. BA, Western State Colorado University. Loves to play in the mountains.