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Lighting 101 for Videos. The difference Between Hard and Soft Light, and How to Get a Great Lighting Setup for Under $100

Updated: Jan 23


A photo for a blog on how use cheap lighting options for your brand or your business, taught by a professional videographer who works with businesses in barrie, orillia, muskoka and toronto

I’m going to go ahead and use a cliché phrase I’m sure you’ve heard a million times before. Lighting is everything. Sorry to have to reiterate, but it’s just the simplest, most truest truth.

 

If you have poor quality light, then your video is going to look like garbage, just saying. And when your video looks like garbage (unless it’s intentional – and it’s pretty clear that it’s intentional) then it’s going to turn potential clients off in a big way.

 

Now, what kind of videos am I talking here? I’m referring mostly to talking head, interview style videos. The ones where it’s a person on screen, speaking their truth – and they’re doing it indoors.


This is lighting 101 for videos.

 

The best kind of light you can get is natural light – but there’s going to be a few instances where using it is simply impossible. Those two instances being if you don’t have access to a window for obvious reasons, as well as if it’s a variable sun and cloud kind of day for a plethora of reasons.

 

If you can picture it – you’re filming yourself in front of a big window, it’s a nice look and the clouds outside are keeping the light soft on your face. Out of nowhere the sun peeks its face out from behind those suckers and blinds you and makes the camera sad.

 

And then this continues on and off for the duration of the video. Imagine trying to watch a movie, and someone just stands at the light switch in the living room “ON. OFF. ON. OFF” for the entire thing. I do believe, unless you’re the Dalai Lama, you’d get up and walk away after about 1 minute of this. Or you’d throw your shoe at the person. Depends where your patience levels are at.

 

Varying sun and cloud days affect the exposure in the camera as well as the colour temperature. It’ll look balanced and cool, and then bright and warm, and on and on.

 

As content creators, this is the last thing that we want.

 

So, what you can do it pick yourself up some reasonably priced video lights. And no, I’m not talking about a ring light, you little TikTok star, you. What I’m referring to is a cheaper version of my pro level video lights with soft box attachments.

 

If you know what a soft box is, then feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs.

 

A soft box is big rectangular or octagonal shaped object made out of black material, with a soft translucent white filter usually attached with Velcro to the opening. This is then attached to a light and a light stand.

 

But how to obtain one? Well, with the magic of Amazon. Go to the search bar and type in “cheap video light with soft box”. Go ahead and pick which one looks best to you. They usually come in pairs, which is awesome – and they’re under $100 for the most part.

 

And don’t forget the light stands! Make sure your lights come with them – otherwise, make sure to add them to your order.

 

So, awesome. You’ve acquired the lights, they’ve come in the mail and you’re ready to go – but now what?

 

I’m going to walk you through what’s called a 2 point lighting setup. Well, some people call it loop lighting, or maybe something else. Lighting is one of those funny things where everyone has different names for everything. I’m going to go ahead and use the terms that I’ve always used. Correct me if you wish.


Anyways, when we’re setting these video lights up – we’re always thinking about lines and angles. You want your main light (the one in front of the subject, lighting up the face) to be up above the head, pointing down on a 45 degree angle, and also off to the side slightly.

 

Putting the main light just a little bit to the side helps to cast a subtle shadow on the subject, and helps the video to appear more 3D.

 

Once you have this light set, you can get your hair light set up. The hair light goes on the opposite side of the main light, facing the back of the subjects head. So If you’re looking at the subject from an aerial view, the main light will be in the bottom left corner, and the hair light will be in the top right.

 

Please note: it doesn’t matter which sides the lights go on – go by eye and personal preference.

 

The main light makes the face appear nice, bright and professional looking. The hair light will effectively cut the subject out from the background.

 

And there you have it! Now that we have our lighting set up, we need to make sure our exposure looks right. This is always a feel thing – there is no right or wrong answer. If you’re by yourself, you can just film individual clips of yourself to serve as tests, but it’s always best to have a test subject.

 

Put the test subject in the frame and turn on the lights. Now, be really honest with yourself and trust you gut. Does it look good? Is it too bright? Too dark? Adjust the brightness of the individual lights accordingly. Usually a video light will have a brightness control knob on it.

 

If it doesn’t, then simply move the light closer to or further away from your subject (or yourself).

 

And that’s it! By investing in some relatively cheap lighting solutions, you can really take the videos for your business to the next level. Other than sound, lighting is one of the best ways to give your content more of a pro level flare.

 

As always, if you live in Barrie, Orillia, Muskoka, Toronto or any of the surrounding areas, four32 MEDIA is a videography company who can help with content creation for your business or personal brand. Reach out today to have a conversation about your needs and goals.

 

To Your Success,

Jay Ashcroft

four32 MEDIA



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