Quality video lighting (not to mention audio) is as crucial to a successful vlog as quality content is. A good vlog lighting setup doesn’t just make you or your talent look good on screen. It also adds the production value necessary to distinguish your output from others’, impress your audience and keep them watching – or better yet, subscribing.
There are so many video lighting kits and products to choose from, and so many ways in which to use them. But which vlog lighting setup is best for you?
To help elevate your content creation, here’s a rundown of the main types of lights for vlogging, their pros and cons, and how to best set them up.
Image credit: Martin Pechy
Used well, natural light delivers natural, attractive illumination both indoors and out, with little fuss or cost.
Natural light is highly changeable, however, making it tricky to film at certain locations or times of day – not to mention get consistent results.
The key is knowing how to harness natural light properly.
Natural Light Features
Low to no cost
Most natural-looking option
Highly changeable, so can restrict where and when you can film
Large windows often provide beautifully soft, even lighting that’s perfect for YouTube videos. (North- or south-facing windows are often ideal. If your window faces east or west, you may get harsh, direct lighting in the morning or afternoon, which won’t look good on camera.)
For an incredibly simple yet effective vlog lighting setup, position yourself or your talent quite close to the window.
Facing your subject towards the window will produce flatter lighting with fewer shadows. For a more three-dimensional look, position your subject side-on to the window, as below. (Placing a reflectoron the opposite side will help brighten any shadows and produce a softer-looking result.)
Window Light Only
Window Light with a Reflector
Bright, direct sunlight typically isn’t ideal for vlogs or other videos. It tends to result in harsh highlights, unflattering shadows, and a squinting subject.
For best results try filming on a cloudy day, during Golden Hour (the hour after sunrise or before sunset) or in open (but not dappled) shade. This will deliver softer, more even lighting that’s sure to make you or your talent look good.
What happens if you can’t find the right kind of lighting in the right spot? You can always soften direct sunlight using a diffuser, and use a reflector or LED panel (see below) to softly brighten any shadows.
Soften sunlight with a diffuser
Fill in shadows with a reflector or LED panel
Image credit: Aditya Wardhana
Featuring hundreds of tiny LED bulbs, LED panels are some of the most popular and versatile lights for vlogging. As well as being portable and easy to set up, these LED lights deliver consistent and high quality lighting to suit many video recording scenarios. This makes LED panels great for on-the-go vlogging.
LED panels come in a variety of sizes ranging from pocket-sized models that can be mounted on your camera, to much larger and more powerful options. Most are dimmable and include some kind of diffusion panel to help soften the light. Many also have adjustable colour settings allowing you to easily match the ambient light or create a particular mood.
LED Panel Features
Portable – ideal for on-the-go vlogging
Compact – handy for vlogging in small spaces
Quick and easy to set up
Create relatively soft lighting
Often colour adjustable (warm to cool, or RGB)
Can’t really produce a hard light source
May require further accessories (e.g. large diffuser to further soften the light, or flagging to control light spill) to create the effect you’re after
Example Vlog Lighting Setups Using LED Panels
2-point Lighting Setup: Place your brightest or key light at roughly 45° to your subject, then place a second, less powerful fill light (such as a reflector or another LED panel) on your subject’s other side.
3-point Lighting Setup: Follow the steps for 2-point lighting, then add a back light to help (a) define the edge of your subject or (b) add interest to your backdrop.
Compared to other lighting types, point-source or chip on-board (COB) lights offer superior power, precision and creative flexibility – not only for vlogs, but video and photography in general.
Unlike an LED panel, a point-source LED light consists of a single, large LED bulb. This can be left unmodified to produce a hard light source – useful for creating a more intense look, or effects like a ray of light. Point-source lights can also be softened, shaped or directed to your liking using a wide range of modifiers such as softboxes. This makes it possible to create exactly the lighting effect you have in mind.
Not all point-source lights have built-in colour adjustment, so you may need gels if you want to change your light’s colour temperature.
Point-Source Light Features
Compatible with many popular light modifiers
Can be shaped and directed very precisely
Can be used without modifiers to create a hard light source
Bulkier than LED panels
May require gels to adjust colour temperature
Example Vlog Lighting Setups Using Point-Source Lights
2-point Lighting Setup: Attach your point-source light to a suitable modifier (like a softbox) and position it with at roughly 45° to your subject. This will act as your key light. On your subject’s other side place a second, less powerful fill light (such as a reflector or LED panel).
3-point Lighting Setup: Copy the 2-point lighting setup, but use a third light as a back light to either define the edge of your subject or add interest to your background.
LED ring lights are amazingly simple solutions that are perfect for head shots – particularly beauty videos. Designed to prevent light from concentrating in the middle of the face, a ring light flatters and softly contours the face while producing minimal shadows. Ring lights also produce distinctive, ring-shaped catchlights in subjects’ eyes.
Like LED panels, ring lights come in various sizes and often include dimming and colour temperature control, along with stands and carry cases. Some models are foldable, and some feature mirrors and smartphone holders to assist with posing and mobile content creation.
Ring Light Features
Ideal for beauty videos and other head shots
Very easy to use
Flatters and contours facial features while minimising shadows
Creates ring-shaped catchlights
Not as versatile as other types of light
Not ideal for using at a distance
Example Ring Light Setup for Vlogging
Ring lights are traditionally designed to sit around the camera, level with your subject’s face. Using ring lights this way keeps facial shadows to a minimum.
You can, however, get nice results by using your ring light from an angle, like you would with an LED panel (see above).
Soft light is preferred for most video and photography because it’s more forgiving than hard light. Soft light makes skin look smoother, reducing the appearance of pores, wrinkles and other imperfections.
The larger your light source relative to your subject, the softer the light will be. You can enlarge your light source by moving your light closer to the subject, and/or placing a diffusion panel over the light.
Avoid ‘mixed’ lighting
Whenever you shoot video, be careful when combining light sources of different colour temperatures (e.g. daylight or an LED light set to 5500K combined with a tungsten and/or a fluorescent lamp).
Mixed lighting can make your subject look ill or result in distracting colour shifts, which take a lot of time to fix in post-production. For consistency it’s best to use common light sources, match one light source to another using gels or (if your light has them) colour-changing dials, or match your camera’s white balance (WB) to the main light source.
Does your talent wear glasses? If so, are they reflecting your lights? To make sure your subject’s eyes aren’t obscured by glare, try raising your lights a little or moving them slightly further away from your subject.
Watch your backlight
Is your subject’s face too dark (underexposed)? This may happen if your camera is in auto exposure (AE) mode and there’s a strong light source (e.g. a bright window, lamp or TV screen) behind your subject.
Dimming, covering, redirecting, or turning off the backlight can solve this. Alternatively, you could try changing your camera’s exposure metering mode to centre-weighted.(For instructions on how to do this, check your manual or ask one of our team).
It doesn’t matter whether you use one or multiple lights, or mix and match daylight with an LED panel, point-source light, or all three. With the right lighting setup, it’s surprisingly easy to take your vlog to the next level. It also frees you up to focus on creating content, confident that it will look consistently good.
The vlog lighting setups we’ve detailed here are great starting points. But you can always experiment with different lights, modifiers and layouts to create various looks and keep your content fresh and engaging.
Want to know more about lighting for recording video? Feel free toget in touch or message us in the comments below.