How to Get the Perfect Lighting for Your Video

Perfect lighting for video production can be a real head-scratcher. The main reason for this is that the circumstances with each new location and the time of shoot just keep on changing.

That being said, perfect lighting for video is one of the most essential elements of professional video production.

Plus, there is also that drift between how lighting acts differently when it comes in contact with the camera and the naked eye.

Even the best camera lens doesn’t have the resolution of a human eye. Hence, there is a requirement for more detailed lighting.

You also have to be mindful of different types of good and bad light and shadows that accentuate or diminish your subject’s physicality.

In addition to that good lighting is instrumental in setting the mood and tone depending upon the requirements of the scene.

Two of the most important questions presents themselves regarding this:

  • What sort of gadgets and lights should you use?
  • How do you get them to produce the desired impact?

Let me take you through some of the basic steps to perfect lighting for your video.


1.   Scouting and recce

Diving in headfirst is always a bad idea. Put some time into finding a good location. Spend some time at your location.

There are several factors you need to take into account while doing a recce.

How many natural and artificial sources of lights the location already has? Is the weather subject to change soon? What backup do you have if that happens? Stuff like that.

Then there is the big one, whether or not you will need a light kit and what kind?

The answer to the first part is always yes. Always have a lighting kit at hand. Relying on natural light is a rookie mistake. Something I learned the hard way.

Sun is never a reliable source. It can go and hide behind the clouds just about any hour of the day and you can do nothing about it. It can leave a stark difference in lighting between your two consecutive shots. Now that just looks sloppy.

Always have control over lighting for your video.


2.   Lighting options and types

When it comes to choosing your lighting kit, there are several things that you have to take into account. The budget is the chief of those.

There are three different lighting options that you can go for.


Small-budget lighting for video

Lighting kits are scattered all over the affordability spectrum. If you are working in a constrained budget, you can probably go for one of those low-maintenance all-in-one lighting kits.

Here is a list of all the affordable lighting equipment you can acquire on a tight budget along with their pros and cons.

  • $10 clamp lights can be mounted in almost every way. They don’t have a dimming control that might result in harsh lighting unflattering to the subject. This can be addressed by the use of a diffuser or bouncer.
  • Fancierstudio’s three-point lighting kit with umbrella diffusers, mounting stands, and CFL bulbs comes in under $50. They are very affordable.
  • LimoStudio’s continuous lighting kit comes at roughly the same price and with all of the above-mentioned accessories with a little change in specs.
  • Neweer’s Studio lighting kit comes with LED lights and dimmers adding a soft light flattering to the subject with a mere $5 hike.
  • Limostudio LED set allows more control with its barn doors framing the light.
  • StudioPro’s two-point lighting kit for $99 with softboxes has very good reviews for quality diffusion.


Mid-range lighting for video

If you are operating on a slightly larger budget between $100-$500, your options for acquiring a lighting kit slightly expand in terms of features and durability.

You can now afford florescent lights larger in size with good quality diffusion material. The thing with lighting kits with stands included is the efficiency in the setting up process.

The switch and control panel at the back allows for more control over the mobility and output of the lights in this range.

  • StudioFX offers a very good three-point softbox lighting setup. The light heads in this model can hold up to four lightbulbs. These fluorescent bulbs come with daylight balance. With the added essentials of a boom arm and a carrying bag, this kit is the full package.
  • Stellar has a mid-end kit that is popular with the beauty industry because of its flattering shots owing to its ring lights aka Diva lights.
  • GVM three-LED panel kit has everything from diffusers to stands. It also has dimmer for adjustable lights to make your shots cool and warm as you please.


High-end lighting for video

When it comes to cinema-quality excellence, stakes are a little higher than usual. Production equipment costs the producers an arm and a leg and they don’t shy away from getting the best possible thing out there.

More often than not, people prefer building their kits by hand-picking the lights, filters, and other stuff to suit the requirements of your product.

However, getting a ready-made professional-grade kit is more time-efficient. There is an assortment of options for that.

For example, Arri’s cinema-grade kit has everything from high-power tungsten lights and barn doors to wheeled enclosing and diffuser. This kit is the best of everything.

However, the per light cost of this kit comes as close as the entire set of a mid-end lighting kit. A good idea before investing in a professional-grade lighting set is to take it on a test-drive by renting them.


3.   Three-point Lighting for video

Before we get into the artistic detail of the three-point configuration, let us break down the key elements of the three-point video lighting technique.

It is the standard technique of all filming and shooting. As evident from the name, it has three main sources of light.

lighting for videos


Key light

The key light is often the one with the most intensity and is the major light source in our shot. If you were to use only one light, it would be the key light.

The placement of the key light is right above your subject on an angle of 45 degrees. It can either be to the right or the left if the subject.


Fill light

The intensity of the key light leaves shadows on the subject’s profile. Fill light is much softer, almost half the intensity of the key light.

If you don’t have light lower in intensity than the key light, you can move the fill light away from the subject.

It is there to eliminate these shadows by throwing light from an opposite end which is essentially filling them with light.



The third light in a three-point video lighting strategy is optional. The backlight, also known as the rim light or hair light can be skipped while working on a tight budget.

Though it adds depth and texture to the shot giving the subject an outline (rim) against the glow in the background. It separates the subject from the setup.

As evident by the name, the backlight is placed at the back of the subject.

It does not let the subject fall and mix into the background. It adds a whole other dimension to your subject and does not let it look flat.



Note that lights are always positioned in front or on the back of the subject. Never below them unless you want to give a spooky effect.

While shooting indoors with lighting kits, filmmakers prefer to completely back out other sources of light like windows, etc. to completely overpower the ambiance of the room.

Even though the three-point video lighting technique emphasizes eliminating the shadows, one thing we must all bear in mind is that shadows are not all bad. They shape your subject.

Motivated lighting for video is a hack that is often used in films. This light is on-screen sources of light that justify the light coming from the backlight. It can be lamps or windows.

If you have the resources, you can get a color adjustable backlight. You can adjust the color and warmth of that light according to the motivated light source.

Also Read: Do’s and Don’ts of Live Video Production


4.   Using natural outdoor lighting for video recording

Outdoor and natural lighting is the holy grail for tight budget productions. However, they are an equal nuisance for both big-budget and small budget productions.

If you are filming a space with tons of natural lighting for video recordings like somewhere outdoors, or a room with large sun-facing windows during day-time, the natural light will do a great job at lighting up your footage.

The golden hour is a personal favorite with many filmmakers. The soft gold in those hours is very flattering and artistic. However, the window is very short so don’t keep very long scenes for this hour.

However, there is a setback to shooting with natural sunlight. You can risk hard-lit shots with sharp and harsh effects on screen.

In addition to this, the unreliability of the weather can result in inconsistency in the consecutive shots giving a very unprofessional look overall.

It is advisable to place your subject in a shaded space for shooting so that the sun is not too harsh on their profile. It will keep the subject in a consistent amount of light all through your shots.

Another way around natural hard lighting is the use of reflectors. You can position these reflecting surfaces to the configuration of a three-point video lighting system to make them act like fill light and backlight.

In the golden hour shooting, position your subject with their backs towards the sun so that it can act like the backlight giving their outlines a glow unmatched to any artificial sources.

The sun is acting like the backlight so you can use reflectors to fulfill the purposes of the key and fill lights.


5.   Soft vs hard lighting for video

Hard lighting is when the light is hitting harsh and right in the subject’s face. It has the effect of a bright and clear day.

It can either happen when you are shooting outside and the sun rays are approaching you at a weird angle or when a very high-intensity LED is pointed at your face.

Soft lighting is when the light comes onto the subject’s face and then blends from the bright spots into the shadows. It gives the effect of a slightly overcast day.

Soft lighting has a very professional cinematic touch to it. It is also instrumental in hiding wrinkles, spots, and blemishes from the skin so it is very popular in beauty product advertisements.


How to get soft lighting for your video?

There are a few ways to give your shot the seamless cinematic impact associated with cinematic impact.

  • Use a large source of video lighting. You can do that by placing a see-through screen in front of your light. A DIY hack is using a $1 shower curtain and uses it as a diffuser.
  • Place the light source closer to the subject. Which is essentially making your light source bigger by the effect.
  • Use a bouncer. It fills up the shadows. It dims the lighting because the light is losing its intensity being bounced off of stuff. So be sure to use a strong LED light source. Bouncing is a great idea while shooting with natural sunlight because it is as strong as it gets.

Tip: Adjust your white balance after you have applied either of the above-mentioned steps.

Shadows are not the only issue you can face with lighting. Below are some other issues you can have with lighting for your video. If your shot doesn’t look right, you can compare it with the image below and figure out what it resembles the most and then solve that problem.

Video lighting




6.   Color temperature

The temperature of the light is the color it gives off on the camera. You can observe the temperature with your naked eye as well.

You don’t want your shots to appear too cool or too warm on screen than they would in a natural setting. An office would have cool lighting because of florescent lighting and a snug home will have warm lights.

You don’t want the temperature to be off on screen because that could interfere with the overall feel of the scene.

Just like regular temperature, the light temperature is also measured on a Kelvin scale. Don’t try to blend different light temperatures or you could risk your footage looking unnatural.

Below is the color temperature scale for you to tally on which light effect you want in your scene.

lighting for video


7.   Avoiding glare

Be extra careful when you are shooting with talent that wears glasses or other objects in the shot that could reflect like metallic surfaces.

You can end up with substantial glare that can not only ruin the aesthetic of your shot but also reflect the camera or the lights.

If you have lights with large diffusion boxes, that can be a problem. One way around this is setting your lights up higher on the stands.

You can also move your key and fill light away from the subject until you can see that there is no more glare.

It is always good to accommodate your subjects but try to have them and the set to the limitations like glare like asking them if they are comfortable removing glasses or shiny accessories.

Now that you have laid the ground to achieve the perfect lighting for video, you can always experiment and find out what suits your shot the best.

Reach out to us for more insights about achieving the perfect lighting while shooting.


Schedule a free consultation call with our video strategist


Posted by Fatima Najeeb

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