Live Video Lighting 101: Brighten Up Your Productions

Feb 6, 2019 12:00:00 PM

Let’s face it: If a video doesn’t look great, you tune out. Good lighting is one of the key components to creating better-looking video. If you shoot without thinking about lighting, the end result can be full of contrasting colors, shadows, and a range of other lighting problems.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here is what Switcher's studio looks like before and after we add lights:Before and after adding additional lightingWant to improve the lighting in your own videos? Check out these tips and products to help brighten up your video productions:

Avoid windows behind the subject

If there is a bright window behind your subject, the camera will have a hard time balancing the light. If the camera thinks the image behind the subject (the window) is too bright, it will attempt to fix this by darkening the video. As a result, the picture of your subject will be very dark and full of shadows.

Here are a few way to fix this:

  1. Make sure to close blinds or curtains so less light will come through the window.
  2. Switch your shot around so the subject is facing the window, creating more natural light on their face.
  3. Get a powerful light to brighten up the subject in your foreground, overpowering the light from the window.

This principle also applies to outdoor videography. Just as in photography, you want the sun to be in front of the subject, not behind the subject. You can’t exactly turn off the sun, so make sure to position your camera and subject accordingly.

Try a small on-camera light

I recommend using this Manfrotto on-camera light, which iOgrapher sells.


Manfrotto on-camera light
These lights are great for quick, on-the-go shots. They have a hot shoe adapter on the bottom and can connect to the top of the device you are creating video with.

They provide an easy way to brighten your video and crush the shadows that appear on your subject.

Two of these on-camera lights are all we used for a production at the NAB conference a few years ago. To see how they performed, check out this video we created with postPerspective during the conference:

Try a ring light

A small camera light is great for on-the-go productions, but if you want a more polished look with minimal additional effort, check out a ring light.

With a ring light, you start getting lighting from multiple angles. This will give your video a more complete look.

When using only one on-camera light or something similar, you are stuck with one angle of lighting. By raising a ring light above your subject and aiming it downwards, on the other hand, you will get lighting from multiple angles and get rid of the most shadows.


Ring light for live video

Invest in a studio light kit

For the most complete setup, grab a studio light kit. This should include at least two or three lights with light stands.

If you're shooting with two lights, position them diagonally across from each other. This will give you the most range of light without creating more shadows. Just as with the ring lights, studio lights will help distribute the light even better if you raise them.

Adding a diffuser or softbox will also distribute the light nicely. If you do not want to purchase these, a cheap solution is to use wax paper to diffuse the light a little.

If you have a third light, place it between the two lights facing straight toward your subject. This is the best way to eliminate all unwanted shadows on your subject.

One last thing to consider when you're using more than one light: Make sure they are all the same light type. There are many different types of light sources out there: incandescent bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, halogen bulbs, LEDs, etc. These will each give off a slightly different tone of light. Using more than one type of light at the same time can cause some weird color effects in your video. It is best to find the light tone/color you like best and stick to that. 

If you want to learn more about the lighting setup we use in our studio, check out this video from our YouTube channel:

 


To learn more about livestreaming how-tos and strategy, subscribe to the Switcher Studio blog, and follow us on Facebook to see our own weekly live show, #StreamSquad.

Dan Petrik

Written by Dan Petrik

Switcher Studio Customer Success Manager and Co-Founder