We lift the lid on lighting for YouTube.
– Eliminating Shadows
When filming your YouTube video, it’s very important you keep in mind the power and effects of lighting a video. With so much content online, well-lit videos stand out from the clutter and chaos. Creating and incorporating good lighting technique isn’t difficult—in fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to give your video a professional look without spending a lot of money or going through too much of a hassle.
Preferably, shoot your video in an area with a window, which gives your location natural light. Position your actors directly opposite the window, so the light brightens their complexion.
If positioning the person is too difficult, then consider using a reflector to bounce the daylight onto the person’s face. This will remove as many shadows as you can.
Photographic reflectors can be easily created using a white piece of cardboard attached to a stand. For larger budgets and more professional quality shoots, a proper reflector, like that of a Lastolite, will cost around a £50.
A common mistake is to not create enough space between the subject and the back wall or set pieces. This is imperative for isolating your speaker in the frame. Allow a metre or more between the presenter and the background. This will typically erase annoying harsh shadows cast on the back wall which could take away from its content.
Even if the subject is far from the background, make sure they are properly lit with the window or with reflectors.
If you lack space and you must film with the speaker very close to the wall, then one solution is to hide the shadows with background props. Strategically placed lighting can also remove the dark places.
Start by introducing some light into the area the shadow is hitting. Consider shining a light up at the wall—a common yellow tungsten light will do—to diffuse the effect of any dark spaces produced by the subject. The tungsten light will warm the back of the scene with its yellowish hue.
Another way to make the most of a small space is to shoot diagonally into a corner, so the corner is behind the speaker. This lighting technique produces perspective and depth in the frame, which make shadows look more natural.
Be sure that the background is not too cluttered, or else the lines of the walls could disturb the look and feel of the shot. Props and back lighting also help minimize shadows in the scene.
Filming in a location without natural daylight of course requires you do set up your own lights. A ring light is one of the most cost-effective lights that also mimics daylight.
For this setup, one light is placed directly in front of the talking head, with the lens of the camera peaking out the hole in the centre of the ring. Ring lights had their origins in fashion photography, but now are used for a myriad of purposes. You might expect to pay around £80 – £250 (for a kit).
A scene filmed with multiple cameras will require multiple light sources. This keeps each angle consistent in quality. Most professional situations use a central light, the key light, and a secondary light, the fill light.
The key light—this could be your ring light on the main camera—shines evenly across the whole face.
The fill light, which is set lower than your key light, then fills in excess shadows on the subject or adds definition, depending on its angle.
A simple shoot requiring a presenter to talk into the camera probably won’t need many lights. As a minimum, you can probably get away with one or two 1×1 LED lamps.You should soften the white light of the lamps by covering them with a diffuser.
Lighting kits almost always come with soft boxes that allow the light to spread evenly and to not shine as harshly. However, you can also make your own soft boxes by putting your lamps through a hole cut out in a white plastic bin. Then fixing translucent material (such as wax paper) over the bulb.
Lighting a video doesn’t have to be a pain—and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Whether you are in a location with natural daylight or you need to create your own light, with any luck our advice has helped you create a great, professional, and high-quality YouTube video. Hopefully this short article has enlightened you as a content creator!
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