How to set up the best video lighting for virtual conferences

For a camera to pick up a quality image, you need to have light. In many ways, the lights you use and the way they are set up is more important than the camera you use. This includes professional film cameras and even the camera on your smartphone or laptop. Many more people are meeting on video calls now, so it’s important to know how to get the lighting right.

Cameras are similar to the human eye. For the camera to see an image clearly, it needs good lighting. If the lighting setup isn’t done right, the overall image quality will go down. If you want to have professional, quality video calls, here’s how to do it:

Face a light source

It's important to get the right amount of light in the room
Image courtesy: Eyeson

First things first, you want to light your face. Really think about where you’re facing in regards to your primary light source. If it is a window, you want to be facing the window. Don’t sit with your back to the window with no other light source. You will get a silhouette effect and look like a villain in a movie.

Always face your primary light source during a video call. This will ensure your face will always be lit and visible to everyone in the call.

Use the right amount of light

While you can have too little light, too much light can be just as detrimental to a video call’s image quality. You do want to make sure there is a lot of light in the room you’re using for the call. However, you can have too much light. For instance, if you’re shooting by a window and the light outside is too bright, the image will be overexposed and brightly-lit parts of the frame will turn solid white. The best way to avoid overexposure is to either dim the light or step back from it.

To avoid too little light, it’s best to use multiple light sources. Light the room as best as you can as well. While lighting yourself is very important, you don’t want to be surrounded by darkness in the background.

Make use of natural light

Whenever you can, use natural light. Oftentimes, natural daylight will create a very pleasing look on your face. It is also great at accurately lighting skin tones for the camera. Other colors will also be rendered more accurately as well. To utilize natural light, try setting up your video conference in a room full of windows. You’ll be able to accurately capture the color of the setting and light everything pleasantly.

Get soft directional light

While any light is better than no light in video, try to avoid any hard lighting. Use lampshades or a diffuser to reduce the harshness of any light you’re using. It’s best to achieve a soft transition from lights to darks. If a light is still too harsh on you, try bringing it closer. While you might think pulling the light further away from you will reduce the harshness of the light, it will actually make the light harsher.

You can also invest in some lights that are designed to give off soft light. While you can use a bulb with a lampshade, if you want to up the quality of the conferences, it might be best to invest in some soft light. For instance, ring lights are a great option. Many beauty vloggers use ring lights because they softly light the face, giving the subject a pleasant look. There are other soft lights you can use as well. Check out our lights buyer’s guide if you want some help looking for video lights.

Rig lights cast soft light
Many online beauty content creators use ring light because they cast a soft light. Image courtesy: Spectrum

Set up a three-point lighting setup

The best way to get professional-looking lighting is to use a three-point lighting setup. It’s the gold standard for many video productions. It consists of a key light, fill light and back light. Think of this setup light as a triangle. The key light is your primary source of light and is placed facing either the left or right side of the face. The fill light is placed on the other side of the face to fill in any harsh shadows cast by the key light. As for the back light, it’s placed behind the subject to cast a rim around the outline of the subject. Back lights are great at separating the subject from the background. This setup is one of the oldest lighting techniques and will make your video calls look very professional.

To come off as prepared and professional, it is essential that you get the lighting for your video calls right. Look over these tips and apply them to your video calls. Even just sitting in front of a window will dramatically improve your video call’s quality.

Image courtesy: Paul Comaroto

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's managing editor.

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